One girl who doesn’t want to lick your lollipop: Misogyny in today’s top 40 musicDec 10th, 2008 | By Colleen McKie | Category: Society
All Those Years Ago
I just don’t understand the appeal of most of today’s music. I fear this could be because, as someone in her mid-30s, I just don’t “get” what the kids are listening to. Echoing my parents’ sentiments, I seem to be hearkening back to my day when music was “good” and “meant something.” Okay, so maybe the 80s isn’t well known for it’s deep lyrics, but at least parent didn’t have to censor what their kids were listening to. The raciest stuff we had was Samantha Fox’s “Touch Me” and thankfully she was a one- hit wonder. In the days of Debbie Gibson and Tiffany there was decent pop music out there and suitable female role models. Madonna was a bit of a concern, what with her trying to convince us all she was “like a virgin,” and Cyndi Lauper was encouraging us to “she bop”, but even these songs were tame in comparison with today’s offerings.
Now, don’t get me wrong: there is still some great music being made today with some great female role models out there. Singer song writers such as the UK’s Duffy and Adele, R&B songsters Devine Brown, Jully Black, and Jill Scott and country music’s Taylor Swift are producing great albums with catchy songs that aren’t selling sex. Another wonderful young artist is Colbie Caillat who’s summer hit “Bubbly” was a sweet soulful song with nary a curse word in it.
Some of these songstresses are going one step further and actively speaking out against the current popular image of woman in song and video, particularly the portrayal of black women. In 2006, Jill Scott vocalized her dissatisfaction with misogynist music, urging music buyers to boycott music that is sexist in nature. Scott, along with actor Shemar Moore and former video dancer Karrine Steffans took part in a panel entitled, “Who You Calling A Ho? Sisters, Take Back Our Sex!” as part of the Essence Music Festival in Houston Texas. Not mincing words, Jill called music that is sexist, “… dirty, inappropriate, inadequate, unhealthy and polluted.” I couldn’t have said it better.
But unfortunately, artists like Scott seem to be more the exception than the rule when it comes to popular music.
Light My Fire
My concern is with the Top 40 music that most kids listen to, in particular the way women are portrayed in song and video. While I realize that the image of woman in music has been an on going concern since video killed the radio star, but it seems to me that the negative portrayal of women has exploded over the past few years. More and more videos are based on sex, with women appearing as sex toys and stage props.
And you know, it not only concerns me, it ticks me off. Artists, managers, promoters, and concert venues are making big bucks off of this music that, as far as I can see, is nothing but a promotion of hatred towards woman. No one in the money-making music industry is taking into consideration the damage that this music is doing to young girls. A report release by the American Psychological Association (APA) in February of 2007 stated that;“ the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harmful to girls’ self-image and healthy development.” This includes images in music videos and song lyrics.
Back in 2004, tolerance.org, a project of the southern poverty law center that is devoted to the teaching of tolerance, did a four part series on misogyny and music. As part of that series, a group of teens were interviewed about their opinions in relation to music and women. Their answers were very telling, and made obvious the fact that what teens are listening to and watching has a direct affect on them. One 16- year- old girl had this to say when asked the question Do you think any of these messages [have an impact on] the way girls your age see themselves, or the way others see them?
I’d say it [has an impact on] the way every female sees herself. Like they may think, ‘I don’t look or act like that, so am I good enough?’ I think it drops a lot of girls’ self esteem by giving them this standard of beautiful that is almost impossible to reach.
If you know me, then you have most likely been witness to one of my rants about the many artists I have issues with. This past year and a half, unfortunately, the music industry has given me plenty of fuel for my fire.
Mr. Big Stuff (Who do you think you are?)
Lil’ Wayne hit the charts this past summer with his smash hit “Lollipop.” Despite the artist recently being awarded the songwriter of the year award at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) awards AND being named Entertainment Weekly’s number 6 entertainer of the year (excuse me while I scream), I find Lil’ Wayne and his music not only repulsive, but highly offensive and dangerous.
I would include the lyrics to “Lollipop” here, but this is a family-friendly magazine and most of the lyrics make me blush. The song isn’t just sexual: it’s pornographic in nature. The song is basically about a girl who likes to lick “it” like a lollipop. And while I am by no means a prude, I am against introducing young children to pornographic material and some of Lil’ Wayne’s fans are very young.
I wasn’t familiar with any of Lil’ Wayne’s other songs, so for the fairness of the article I did some research into his other lyrics. I discovered that “Lollipop” is not only par for the course, it’s actually tame compared to some of his other songs. I had a hard time finding lyrics that were not pornographic or laced with cursing, but here is just a small sample of the hatefulness and misogyny that is all over Lil’ Wayne’s music. The lyrics are from his song, “Drop it like it’s hot”:
Get it twisted, I’ll slam you like Shawn Kemp girl
I know my neck get it hot like a lighter girl
I just slap you a couple of times, never fight it girl
That’s cause I likes it girl
And let me tell you somethin’ girl, I am a player girl
So don’t you try to play me cause I never save a girl
What message is he giving to young girls and boys? That it’s okay to smack a woman around, use her for sex, and then ignore her? All of his lyrics are full of anti-women sentiment that he is trying to market as sexy. Well, they aren’t. They are offensive and dangerous. My particular favorite is a little ditty called “Dick Pleaser.” Needless to say there isn’t a whole lot of subtly going on with Lil’ Wayne’s lyrics. And he’s making big bucks off of his hate, something I don’t understand when his lyrics and videos are so blatantly hateful. The only reason I can think of is that when the videos and songs are played on mainstream stations, about 90 percent of the lyrics are bleeped due to content, so kids are only hearing the beat of the song and seeing a load of scantily dress women, which is the norm these days.
But Lil’ Wayne isn’t the only artist out there right now helping to spread a negative image of women: he is just one of the more obvious ones. Unfortunately, some other current artists also promote objectivity of women in their songs and videos, just in a less obvious way. And, sadly, these artists are females.
The Pussycat Dolls and Girlicious are two current groups that make my blood boil. Formulated and marketed as the latest version of “Girl Power,” they are anything but. Most, if not all, of their songs are touted as being sexy and empowering when in reality they are skanky and demeaning. And, really, their names say it all, exuding sex and what they are trying to tout as “femaleness,” narrowing even further our societal views of what is sexy.
I know sex sells, but when the target market is 12—15-year-old girls, it strikes me as irresponsible to be sexing up these groups. During the Girlicious reality show, they had a segment where the competing girls performed for a small sample of their target audience. The kids looked like they ranged in age from 8 to 13. At a delicate time in a girl’s life when they are starting to deal with body and self-image issues, should we really be bombarding them with singing groups consisting of stick- thin girls barely dressed? Do we really want the next generation of girls going around singing, “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?”
Some conservative artists have even reinvented themselves and hopped on the over-sexed band wagon in order to sell CDs and make money. Canada’s Nelly Furtado, once a funky, folky artist, introduced a new style and sound with her latest releases, “Loose” and its first single “Promiscuous.” A duet with Timbaland, (who hasn’t done a duet with Timbaland?), it was a smash hit with its sexy video and suggestive lyrics: (T stands for Timbaland, N for Nelly)
[T:] Promiscuous girl
, Wherever you are,
I’m all alone,
And it’s you that I want.
[N:] Promiscuous boy . You already know, That I’m all yours, What you waiting for?
[T:] Promiscuous girl . You’re teasing me . You know what I want, And I got what you need.
[N:] Promiscuous boy . Let’s get to the point, Cause we’re on a roll, Are you ready?
While these lyrics may not be as racy as some, the overuse of the word promiscuous and the fact that Nelly is basically a back-up dancer in her own video underlines the fact that this popular tune only adds to the catalog of anti- omen songs.
But people seemed to love the new sexy Nelly. I, however, was so disappointed I actually cried when I saw the video for the first time. Professionally, But the changed worked, she is now an international star. Once an artist who made distinctive music and was an excellent role model for young girls, Nelly is now easily confused with the Fergies and Nicole Scherzingers of the music world.
(I did it) My Way
In my eyes, not all sexy songs are sexist. Katy Perry’s breakout hit “I Kissed a Girl” is a tongue-in-cheek look at a growing phenomenon: drunken girls kissing each other. The song is catchy and well written, and the video is filled with wonderful puns such as Katy petting a cat and eating cherries off of a cake. Yes, there is a massive pillow fight with scantily clad women, but taken in context with the rest of the video and the song, I did not find it sexist at all.
Is the song sexual? Yes. Is it sexist? No. In its own way, it pokes fun at girl groups and artists such as Girlicious and Fergie, therefore taking some of the power away from them. Katy’s look is sexy, yet classy—throwback to the days of the pin- up girl.
As a woman and a music lover, I find the popularity of misogynist music and videos very frustrating and disappointing. There are so many amazing artists out there who don’t use sex to sell, but because of this very fact, they may not be getting the fan base that they deserve. I recently attended a concert by Halifax singer-songwriter Norma MacDonald, and was really upset by the meager turnout to hear this wonderfully talented artist. It made me wonder how many other worthy artists out there aren’t getting the attention that they deserve because they are being true to themselves and their art.
All I can hope for is that this tide of misogynistic music will turn and we can return to a time where an artist’s success is based on talent, not sex.
*All lyrics from Lyrics.com
Teaching Tolerance: A project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Misogyny in Music: What Teens Think
Sexualization of Girls is Linked to Common Mental Health Problems in Girls and Women—Eating Disorders, Low Self-Esteem, and Depression: An APA Task Force Reports. American Psychological Association. Press Release.
Singer decries ‘degrading’ images of black women in music. CBC. July 5, 2006.