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How the Mainstream Music and Film Industries Impedes the Growth of Gender Equality and Progresses the Patriarchy
As a big supporter of independent musicians and films, I already have enough morality disputes with the “mainstream” media industries because of my opinions on the lacking quality and individuality that’s exists within them. However, when a little bit of light is shone on these industries, it also becomes very obvious that the content they’re releasing often hinders the progress of gender equality within mainstream society.
I tend not to listen to the radio during my free time- I find all my music online or by going to cheap concerts around my hometown, Calgary. I’ve come to realize that there are hundreds of independent musicians within the city and the area around me that showcase insane talent and originality within their music styles and lyrics. Now my iTunes library consists of 50% old bluegrass, folk, and rock music that my parents have been sharing with me since I was a baby, and 50% varied genres of music created by countless independent or small-label artists all over the world, mostly from around Canada. This has made it pretty hard for me to listen to any sort of current ‘mainstream’ music within the pop or hip hop categories- I tend to really analyze the lyrics and try to understand what sort of thought or underlying messages went into the production of the song. I’m no expert, as the only times I listen to these songs are when they play on the radio when I’m in public or at my places of work, but I’ve noticed that at least half of the songs that play on various mainstream radio stations seem to objectify women (deems women to be merely decorations or trophies created for the use of men), heighten society’s gender ‘norms’ or stereotypes, and/or increase the societal acceptance or familiarity of a patriarchal lifestyle (a social system in which a male plays the dominant role within a group/family).
Some common songs that have been condemned by forward-thinking people for being sexist- but are still played incessantly on mainstream radio stations, include:
1. Blurred Lines - Robin Thicke
This song is just blatantly promoting rape culture/glorifying the idea of having sex with a “good girl” who is too intoxicated for it to be remotely consensual. Some lines from the song are: “You the hottest bitch in this place,” “And that’s why I’m gonna take a good girl, I know you want it,” “Do it like it hurt,” and “He don’t smack that ass and pull your hair like that, so I just watch and wait for you to salute” The music video for this song is basically just a bunch of young naked women dancing around Robin, who is fully dressed. It’s extra creepy when you realize Thicke is a 37-year-old man with a wife and child.
2. E.T. – Katy Perry
Maybe it seems like a cool, sensual song about Katy Perry having sex with an alien (which is actually pretty weird anyway, in my opinion) but if you really listen to the lyrics, it starts get a whole lot creepier. Notice how the chorus is: “Take me, take me, wanna be a victim, ready for abduction.” And Kanye later adds on: “Imma disrobe you, then Imma probe you. See, I abducted you, so I tell you what to do.” Is this song really about a weird alien role-play rape? It sure sounds a lot less sexy if you pay attention to the lyrics.
3. Talk Dirty – Jason Derulo
This R&B/pop song highlights the idea that women have no purpose on earth other than for sex. The lines: “All I really need to understand is when you talk dirty to me,” “Our conversations ain’t long, but you know what is” and the fact that he rhymes “big booty” with another “big booty” are proof that this song was written and produced for the sole purpose of objectifying and degrading women. Yet this song topped the charts for months after Derulo released it… it really shows how easily mainstream music producers can manipulate the public and get them to pay money for “music” that blatantly degrades 50% of humanity.
4. Single Ladies – Beyoncé
Beyoncé may publicly call herself a feminist, but in my opinion, actions (or song lyrics) speak louder than carefully crafted words in interviews. The song “Single Ladies” is around 6 years old, and is still incredibly popular, regardless of the fact that the only message of the song is that men should claim women as their property, by “putting a ring on it” Yes, the word “it” is used to describe the female race.
5. Do What You Want - Lady Gaga
Just by reading the title or listening to approximately 3 seconds of the chorus of this song, it is clear that the (not-so) underlying message of this song is that a woman’s body is basically just a sex-toy for a man to use and abuse to his heart’s content.
6. Anything by Taylor Swift
I’m no expert on Taylor Swift, but if I go back in time about 6 years to when I was just a pre-teen and didn’t know much about music, I am brought back to the days when Swift’s Fearless album played in my CD player daily. Even just by looking at the titles of the songs, I have deduced that ultimately every song she writes offers a single life lesson to young girls everywhere: that meeting a boy and falling in love is simply all that matters. Song titles from the album include: “Love Story,” “Hey Stephen,” “You Belong With Me,” “You’re Not Sorry,” “The Way I Loved You,” and “Forever and Always.” Obviously there are a lot of songs out there about love and heartbreak, but if that’s really the only message that comes out of an entire discography of music, then maybe stop writing music that influences millions of young people all over the world.
7. Rude- Magic
This song is written about an all around outdated idea that a man should have to ask his girlfriend’s father for permission to marry her, as if one man must hand off ‘his woman’ to another man. When the father says no, Magic goes on with a catchy, manipulative chorus: “I’m gonna marry her anyway!” The girl apparently has no say in the matter at all. It’s a blatantly sexist song topic, yet people everywhere are blasting it on their radios and celebrating patriarchy! This is the definition of the mainstream music industry’s manipulation and the music-listeners’ gullibility/ignorance.
When asked if Miley Cyrus considers herself a feminist, she said this:
“I still don’t think we’re there 100 percent. I mean, guy rappers grab their crotch all f–king day and have hos around them, but no one talks about it. But if I grab my crotch and I have hot model bitches around me, I’m degrading women? I’m a woman—I should be able to have girls around me! But I’m part of the evolution of that. I hope.”
So she says she believes in equality, and she’s part of the revolution- it must be true right? Taking in the fact that she managed to say both “ho” and “hot model bitches” in a 10 second response on feminism proves that she doesn’t really know much about the topic.
Focusing in on typical ‘Hollywood’ comedy/romance/”chick flic” type movies, it’s no secret that women often play submissive characters who really only exist for the purpose of the male protagonist. The following is me paraphrasing some conversations I’ve had with family and friends about the typical role of women in ‘Hollywood’ style films.
- The classic female protagonist is a socially deemed-‘attractive’ woman looking for love. She’ll meet a guy and fall in love- maybe they’ll breakup somewhere around the ¾ point of the film. Just in time for the end credits, the man and woman will fall back in love and end up happily ever after together. There are hundreds upon hundreds of films that follow this storyline- and seem to imply a similar moral lesson every time- that all a woman needs is a man to love, and she will be eternally satisfied. This is clearly a ridiculous statement, and an incredibly depressing lesson to teach young girls worldwide. Boys might grow up dreaming of becoming the Prime Minister, or a rocket scientist, or an astronaut… but the general media often portrays little girls growing up dreaming of their wedding day. This is not a message we want to spread to the next generation- we want all the little humans playing in jungle gyms imagining the day they get their university degree, or get their first promotions at a job.
- The second type of female character is the boss/leader-figure. This character is initially not interested in the male character, and for this, is essentially portrayed as a cruel antagonistic character. In many films, this strong-willed character eventually breaks down and falls for the male figure. Then proceeds the ‘happily ever after.’
Generally, movies that don’t follow one of these two plots are based on a male characters non-female-related adventures or dilemmas. But you’ll know as soon as a ‘pretty’ girl is shown on camera, the main character is going to end up with her.
A test created by Alison Bechdel, an American cartoonist, called the “Bechdel Test” really shed some light on this issue. This test involves a list of 3 requirements that films must have to ‘pass’ the test. The requirements are:
1) The film must have at least two women in it.
2) They must talk to each other.
3) They must talk about something other than a man.
On www.bechdeltest.com, around 4500 mainstream, top-grossing films have been tested, and only around half of the films pass all 3 requirements. Check out this website- you would be surprised by the number of incredibly popular films that have failed this simple test.
So if I had any advice to give, I’d say don’t just listen to a song because it’s catchy. Over time, if you continue to identify and demote sexism in your daily life, it will become second nature for you to roll your eyes every time you hear the word ‘booty’ in a song playing on the radio in your car. Think about the people and ideologies you support when you buy a song from an artist, or pay to watch a film at a cinema. And think for yourself; analyze the lyrics you hear or the plot of a movie you see or book you read. Just because Beyoncé and Miley Cyrus say they’re feminists, it doesn’t mean they really are- first, listen to the ideas demonstrated in the content they put out (the content that, in return, delivers obscene wealth to their front door) not what they say in magazine interviews. Actions speak louder than words- although some words are spoken pretty damn loudly.-