Each generation is defined by the music that they listen to. Music has the power to inspire and create new ideas and thoughts. Music, as an art form, is powerful. The popular music that many high-school students listen to today, however, has become degrading to women and pushes back gender equality. Songs like these have obscene lyrics that seem to be accepted by today’s society.
“Not many women can refuse this pimpin’/ I’m a nice guy, but don’t get it if you get with me.” These lyrics from Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” exemplify the problem with today’s popular music; it sexualizes women and makes them puppets of desire rather than people. Songs like Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” are ubiquitous. In 2005, there was a study done by Brian Primack on Degrading and Non-Degrading Sex in Popular Music, and the study used Billboard magazine to find the most popular songs. Out of the 279 songs found, 103 (36.9 percent) songs incorporated references to sexual activity. Out of these songs, rap music had 64.2 percent of degrading references to sex. The study also mentioned that current popular music contains more references to sexual activity than any other entertainment medium. Sexual content degrading women in songs has only increased since that study.
Many popular songs have at least one line that objectifies a woman. For example, Drake’s “Versace” says, “Money my mission, two bitches, they kissin’.” Referring to a woman as a “bitch” weakens women and makes them out to be defenseless creatures, degradation which is unfortunate considering the hard work many feminists have done to increase the value of a woman. By using such words to objectify women, artists demean women and forget about their intellect. By calling women “bitches,” these artists are teaching everyone from young children to old people that it is okay to use that word to describe women. The Social Learning Theory, which says that young children learn through observing behavior, suggests that when artists objectify women, they are teaching children to take on these roles of sex-driven males and submissive females as well.
These popular songs are reinforcing such gender stereotypes. The Billboard Top 20 Best of 2013 list has several songs that sexualize women. Songs like Pusha T’s “Numbers on the Boards” and Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night” are considered the best. In Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night,” the woman suggested in the song looks hot and hands him beers. Even songs by the top female artists—Ke$ha, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus—contain lyrics that reduce the standard of a woman. For example, Rihanna’s “What’s My Name” contains this line: “I need a boy to take it over/ Looking for a guy to put in work.” Although this line may not be as blatantly degrading as some of the other songs, it insinuates that a woman is too weak to take care of herself and needs to be looked after.
How can our society progress when songs like these are considered “good music”? Although the tune may be catchy, songs that emphasize a woman’s sexuality in a perverse way should not be the popular songs of our generation. They should not be the songs that define us. Instead of creating an even bigger gender gap, we should focus on closing the gap that those songs have created.
—Padmanabhan, a senior, is a Copy Editor.