Feminist Friday: I Refuse to Sing Along to Misogyny

Hot damn it

Your booty like two planets
Go head, and go ham sandwich
Whoa, I can’t stand it

‘Cause you know what to do with that big fat butt

Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle

Damn, baby, you got a bright future behind you

-Jason Derulo, “Wiggle”

When we talk about representation of women in the media, often we’re talking about the lack of women in TV and movies where their (often straight and white) male counterparts dominate.

In music, however, I’m not as concerned about the number of women in the field. While men still dominate the rap and country genres, there are plenty of women in pop music. During this decade, female pop artists have commanded the Billboard Hot 100 charts, both in number of #1 singles and weeks spent at #1.

Until this year.

2015 has not been kind to women in music. Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” spent just one week at the top of the charts, and every other #1 single has been from a male artist.

Even more importantly : 2015 hasn’t been kind to women in its lyrics, either.

nicki minaj hey mamaBest believe that, when you need that
I’ll provide that, you will always have it
I’ll be on deck, keep it in check
When you need that, I’m a let you have it

Yes I do the cooking
Yes I do the cleaning
Plus I keep the na-na real sweet for your eating
Yes you be the boss and yes I be respecting
Whatever that you tell me cause it’s game you be spitting

Make sure I’m on my toes, on my knees
Keep him pleased, rub him down
Be a lady and a freak

-“Hey Mama” by David Guetta ft. Nicki Minaj & Afroman

Not that misogynistic song lyrics are a new phenomenon in the slightest. Rap songs are known for being full of objectification, and many pop, rock, and country songs discuss women in a reductive way too.

Descriptions often refer to a whole person with just one body part or item of clothing. Pet names are common, especially infantilizing or proprietary ones. Lyrics sometimes even include storylines about cheating on or using women for sex.

I’ve sort of gotten used to misogyny on the radio. And that scares me.

Like the Manic Pixie Dream Girl in movies, I shudder at songs that portray a woman’s only purpose as serving a man’s needs, whether those are domestic, romantic, sexual, or otherwise.

She is always in my corner
cheerleader videoRight there when I want her

She walks like a model
She grants my wishes
Like a genie in a bottle

All these other girls are tempting
But I’m empty when you’re gone
And they say:
Do you need me?
Do you think I’m pretty?
Do I make you feel like cheating?
I’m like no, not really ’cause

Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader
She is always right there when I need her

-“Cheerleader” by OMI

For example, OMI’s “Cheerleader”–which had the second-highest sales levels this year, proving its ubiquity–shows that the narrator fixates on a woman because she “grants his wishes” and she’s always there for him…but only when he wants her.

And the song is catchy, so kids and teenagers and adults sing along, subtly internalizing that an ideal woman revolves her life around her boyfriendthat being his “cheerleader,” even when he’s tempted by other women, is the way to make him “pop the question.”

Another repeated trope in 2015’s pop music is the tempted male proudly turning down sexually aggressive women. “Cheerleader” is a good example of that, but the most despicable example to me is Andy Grammer’s “Honey, I’m Good.”

honey I'm goodIt’s been a long night here, and a long night there
And these long long legs are damn near everywhere
(hold up now)

You look good, I will not lie
But if you ask where I’m staying tonight
I gotta be like oh, baby, no, baby, you got me all wrong, baby
My baby’s already got all of my love

-“Honey, I’m Good” by Andy Grammer

While I am a bit uncomfortable with the lyric about checking out a woman’s legs, I’m completely bothered by the overarching theme of this song. He essentially asks the listener to praise him for staying faithful in a relationship–something that should be a given when you commit to someone else.

In the words of my friend Bee, “He’s doing everything but actually cheating and then patting himself on the back.”

She paraphrases the song’s message as “I’d normally say yes, have another drink, and go home with you, but I found the one woman I’m not gonna cheat on. AWARD ME ALL THE MEDALS.”

I’m not sure which is worse: songs where men unashamedly cheat on their significant others, or songs where men boast about how great they are for having basic human decency.

Either way, there’s a reason I don’t listen to the radio much anymore.

I refuse to sing along to misogyny.


Want more Feminist Friday? Visit Alison’s piece about representation of women in musicals from last week and tune into Holly’s post about rage-inducing soft sexism next week!

 

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19 thoughts on “Feminist Friday: I Refuse to Sing Along to Misogyny

  1. I’m gonna defend “Honey I’m Good” a bit. Two observations: 1) the waitress isn’t being sexually aggressive. The line is “IF you ask where I’m staying tonight”. She’s offering him beer, not sex. 2) Have you seen the video? It’s one of the most unabashedly pro-marriage things I’ve ever seen. I see this song as less “praise me for doing the minimum!” and more of a recognition that marriage requires attention and work and occasionally patrolling your own stupid impulses. Granted, there are better ways to say that then “I’m not going to have more beer, because if I do I might cheat,” but I’m so tired of the negative portrayal of marriage in pop culture that I’ll take anything that says keeping yours strong and alive is a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

      • By the same token, you could argue that it reinforces stereotypes about men having a huge sex drive and getting to go out in the world and drink and party and women and wives having less interest in sex and staying in.

        I usually judge “soft misogyny” in songs by “if I sang this to my girlfriend, would she want to puke, feel moved, or laugh?”

        Like

          • “Now better men than me have failed
            Drinking from that unholy grail
            Now check it out, I’ve got her and she got me
            And you’ve got that ass, but I kindly gotta be like…”

            I really don’t know how to tell het men how to “be like,” though. He seems to be blaming the women for having asses, but maybe I just don’t get this whole monogamous monosexual thing, despite being monogamous by preference, not by cultural decree.

            Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure the woman in the song is a waitress–I imagined it more of some girl he’s chatting with in a bar. It’s not explicit about her role. I’ll give you the “if” but it’s implied that she will.
      I have seen the video, but it gives me some cognitive dissonance of what’s being said vs. what’s on the screen. It feels like a video for a different song to me.
      Agreed with you on how marriage is portrayed negatively in pop culture, as if something is being taken away from you. There are some recent (in the last 5 years) pop songs that do praise marriage, though, and I think that’s a good trend.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Mildly off topic, but if you’re looking for a catchy, women-positive and bi-aware song and music video, may I suggest “Girls Like Girls”? It is A++.

    Thanks for the great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ugh. “Cheerleader” is SO CATCHY and I hate it SO MUCH. It has been a bad year for song lyrics.

    I don’t mind “Honey I’m Good,” although I hear it more as a one-time kind of “story song” rather than a “pattern of behavior” type song without narrative, the “I’m always up in the club like…” type song. But I see your point, and many problematic things are most problematic in the aggregate rather than each specific example that might be okay if it was the ONLY example.

    Like

  4. I agree with you – I turn on the radio when I’m driving around the 12 year old I “babysit” and she knows these songs and I’m like…wait…that’s not something I want this impressionable girl listening to. So we switch from pop to country (which I L.O.V.E.), but then we are singing along to guys who are talking about how he took a girl out and she just went along for the ride he had planned..while wearing daisy dukes. Don’t get me wrong, I like a gentleman and a well-planned date, but COME ON! Forget the Cinderella/Ariel/Sleeping Beauty stories where love is the end goal and we go with the flow of a man’s plan and what they think a woman should be (sexy, quiet, a good home-maker)…bring on the Meridas where we win our own hearts with how powerful we feel, just being us. (sorry not sorry for the Disney reference). I just think we need some music women can be proud of.

    Like

  5. The songs that you just quoted are all commercial ones. Which only want high sales but at the end of which they will be forgotten in less than six months.

    I don’t even remember cheerleader and you are wrong, that song is not even slightly catchy. I found it rubbish because I thought it was a Brazilian styled music and it was something else entirely.

    Listen to better songs. Not all of them are misogynistic, and anyways Adele is back!

    Like

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