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.
Best 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 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 boyfriend––that 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.”
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.