Misogyny in the music world reached new levels of weird this month with ‘Blurred Lines’; the rapey offerings of UK Top 40 newcomer Robin Thicke and his pals Pharrell Williams and T.I.
nothing quite like perpetuating a rape myth to the sound of a bestselling beat
Nude and semi-nude models prance about awkwardly like dolls for the pleasure of the fully-clothed Thicke and co as they sing about how she wants it, but won’t admit it (to summarise, she’s saying no, but she really means yes). Ah, nothing quite like perpetuating a rape myth to the sound of a bestselling beat, eh?
Hip hop and rap have long been taking the flak for music’s misogynist offerings, but the truth of the matter is that casual sexism to the sound of music exists across the charts’ smash hits in all their variety – which means it’s selling, and we’re buying it. Thicke’s creepy lyrics are admittedly a prime example: ‘You the hottest bitch in this place,’ he croons, followed by T.I.’s ‘I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two’.
Yes, quite charming; but by no means the worst example of aggressive innuendo flanked by a bassline to meet with record-selling success. It’s almost subtle when compared with Eminem’s ‘Kill You’, which went like this: ‘Slut, you think I won’t choke no whore/till the vocal chords in her throat don’t work no more’ while Manic Street Preachers’ ‘It’s So Easy’ features the line ‘turn around bitch, I got a use for you’.
Put it all together and the charts become a musical articulation of male privilege made okay by the ‘creative expression’ claim – sexually aggressive lyrics accompanied by videos that depict men as studs and women as sluts, to be degraded, dehumanised and objectified, all in the name of making music.
responsibility for the problem probably doesn’t lie with the singers and songwriters alone. They’re slaves to an industry that’s already decided sex(ism) sells
But let’s be clear, responsibility for the problem probably doesn’t lie with the singers and songwriters alone. They’re slaves to an industry that’s already decided sex(ism) sells: women, whether featuring alongside male recording artists or as stars in their own right, are reduced to the sum of their body parts.
This much is clear: side boob, stilettos and being sexy shifts records. If it’s not Kanye West rapping about putting his dick in a girl’s mouth (from ‘On Sight’) then it’s Nicki Minaj on about ‘stupid hoes’ again and Rihanna on the front cover of a magazine in her underwear. The result isn’t liberation, and it certainly isn’t empowerment – especially when it’s considered that Chris Brown, the misogynist woman-beater convicted of assaulting her, responsible for ‘I super soak that hoe/ show ‘em no love/ throw ‘em a towel’, continues to make chart-topping music.
The silent message is that women must be sexy to get approval; and when they are, they’re hoes anyway. Clearly it’s not just all about the lyrics – they’re merely a symptom of the sickness.
No one’s necessarily doubting that these artists are talented (perhaps with the exception of Brown, whose barrage of ridiculous songs about ‘hoes’ and being in the ’hood’ just keep on coming even after he attacked Rihanna) and at least they’re making music people apparently want to buy, with Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ one of the fastest selling singles of the year. What’s sad is that these songs, full of derogatory terms reserved purely for women, lyrics that appear to glorify violence towards women and present them only as objects for sex, are what we call popular music.
They’re played in clubs and hailed as summer anthems by music channels – and we’re supposed to think this music is cool, fun and sexy. It might be, but you can only separate the words from the music for so long. Essentially, the lyrics do the talking, and the talking stinks of sexism – just because the tune’s cool, doesn’t mean the message is.
So far the Blurred Lines music video has had 92 million+ hits.