Misogyny manifests itself across all genres of music; from rock & roll, to country music, to rap and hip hop, to folk, indie music, and more. Sexism, violence towards women, objectification, and treating women as objects are just a few of the common themes you’ll hear when singing along to the radio today. The songs that we all proudly blast from our stereos are misogynistic in many forms, and reinforce the inescapable message that women aren’t equals. According to popular music we listen to today women are lesser than, women don’t matter. Yet young women, young men, children, and adults alike download and dance too these popular beats. If we’re not careful, this’ll be the sound that defines our era.
Creative freedom is important. Being able to express yourself however you see fit is almost a basic human right – almost. There’s a thin line between expressing yourself freely and creatively, and eliciting violence and disrespecting women in your song lyrics. Is it necessary as a musician to encourage misogyny? Is this what artistic license is all about? Lyrics that hide behind a catchy beat, that refer to women as “bitches”, “ho’s”, “cheaters”, and “gold-diggers” glorify bad behaviour – it’s this said behaviour that’s plaguing the music industry. The denial of misogyny in music has to make you wonder if disrespecting and demeaning women is part of the marketing strategy, part of the appeal? And if so, why is this what sells?
I grew up with rap and hip hop, it’s my guilty pleasure. Sometimes not so guilty, I happily sing along to the offensive and degrading lyrics and am a huge fan of this music and what’s it done for black culture. But I still question, how have we as a society come to accept these distasteful messages to be the new normal? What has made it acceptable for women to be generalised and sexualised in such a way? As a woman, am I part of the problem if I continue to listen and sing along? I’m not sure why I carry on happily listening to misogynistic music, it could be due to the fact that society has become so desensitised to it that it’s never viewed as a problem. The perpetual cycle of men treating women as objects persists.
Nobody’s perfect, and nobody ever will be. The society we live in was built on misogyny, unravelling hundreds of years of chauvinistic behaviour won’t happen overnight. At a time when our world leaders seem to be reversing the social strides we’ve made in the last few decades, it’s important that we challenge sexist ways as they obstruct the advancement of gender equality. My personal enjoyment of misogynistic music isn’t going to fade away anytime soon unfortunately, I’ll admit it I’m flawed. We must remember that policing sexist music isn’t the responsibility of women, especially when they’re the ones being objectified. The relationship between music, creative freedom, and bad behaviour is complex. The long winding road to gender equality was never going to be easy.
Written by J’Nae Phillips