Everyday misogyny is rife, often it catches you unawares - like in the form of toe-tapping, club-thumping hit singles. 💿💿We take a look and some of the misogyny behind the lyrics 🎧
If you've read Roxane Gay's Bad Feministyou'll know where the inspiration from this post came from. It was also spurred on while sat in a cafe when these lyrics entered my eardrum; 'Mama he's beating me to death, mama my arms are black and blue, mama tell me what to do'!!! It's a topic worth exploring further - how everyday misogyny creeps into our ears, often we don't even realise.
After activating the internet hive mind, 11 songs have surfaced that infer or outright celebrate non-consensual sex (read our latest blog for why that's not ok!), extreme objectification, sexual or domestic violence, or hinting at the appeal of much younger women or girls. Now as with most things in life, some of the songs sit in a grey area - and the lyrics are open for interpretation. It's already stimulated some debate over where the line is; what is acceptable, what isn't. Some songs are of their time, like number 9 for example, harbouring back to a different world. This list is by no means exhaustive either - what would you add?
We were debating whether to include embeds of the songs, as that surely would then count as an endorsement of the music? We've included some videos of the older songs as you might not be as familiar with them and those that sit on the fence. And for the overtly misogynist ones? Well instead of giving them more views, we're showcasing the fabulous @thisisaliceskinner and her feminist art around the issue of misogyny in music.
With its creepy title yet catchy rhythm, this song arguably takes the award for most mainstream misogynist song of the decade. Discuss.
Lyrics include; 'I hate these blurred lines, I know you want it'. It stirred a lot of controversy when it was released, more than 20 student unions across the UK banned it for being, as Daily Beast journalist Romano describes as, 'rapey'. And don't get us started on the music video or *that* VMA awards performance. Romano adds; "The song is about how a girl really wants crazy wild sex but doesn’t say it—positing that age-old problem where men think no means yes into a catchy, hummable song."
Gay references the lyrics in her 2015 TED talk, Confessions of a Bad Feminist; 'Make it work, with your wet t-shirt, shake it 'til your camel hurts'... real nice. She describes the song as a guilty pleasure, still loving the song even though 'the lyrics offend me to my core."
And we have to agree - we dare you not to move to at least tap your toes to this beat. If you found yourself dancing along to it - cleanse your soul by listening to Gay's TED talk:
3. Smack That - Akon ft. Eminem 2006
Akon's lyrics, in case you need reminding are; “Smack that, all on the floor. Smack that, give me some more. Smack that, ’till you get sore.” I'm putting my hand up now 🙋- I danced A LOT to this tune, it seems like it was playing non-stop at the student clubs summer of 2006. But a quick trawl through Google and you'll find no such reference to controversy or uproar over the violent nature of its chorus. Liz Funk at The Nation at the time said; "The music industry has openly embraced the lucrative aspects of these sexist tunes, and surprisingly, women haven’t expressed outrage."
Of course Eminem was going to feature more than once on this list. I was naive when trying to recall this song thinking it might have been shedding a light on domestic violence rather than celebrating it. Watching the dynamics between the two actors and even the lines Rhianna has compared to Eminem, the female role continues to be passive; "that's alright, I like the way it hurts." The line at the end sealed the deal for me: "If she ever tries to fuckin' leave again, I'ma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire." This video is a high budget portrayal of an abusive relationship, "love and violence intertwine seamlessly," says Thomas on the MTV blog with the added poignancy that both artists had been embroiled in their own personal domestic violent relationships.
The jury's out on this one - what do you think? PSA or glorifying domestic violence?
4.5 Love the way you lie part 2 - Rihanna 2010
We just discovered this one, mostly Rihanna on this tune singing about being the victim but with confusing lyrics like; "But you'll always be my hero, Even though you've lost your mind" and "So maybe I'm a masochist, I try to run but I don't wanna ever leave." *sigh*
5. Young Girls are my Weakness - The Commodores 1974
We did the math, Lionel Richie is 25 when this song came out with his group The Commodores, does that make it less creepy? The young girl still lives at home, perhaps if this had come out in this century we could factor in the rising house prices and adult children living longer in their parent's house for financial reasons. In the 1970s the median age of females leaving home in the US was between 19 and 20.5 according to Gutmann and Pullum-Piñón in their 2001 paper, do we give The Commodores the benefit of the doubt on this one? Here’s a sample of the lyrics:
Young girls are my weakness
I just like their sweetness
Young girls are really mellow
You don't believe me then just try this fellow
(I know what to say when they call me on the phone)
You call me back when your dad leaves home
For balance Kate Ceberano released a slightly reworded version in 1989 - "Young Boys are my Weakness". In my opinion with 15 years on the original this seems less acceptable than when The Commodores released their catchy hit.
6. It's So Easy - Guns n Roses - 1987
Perhaps one of the lesser known Guns N' Roses songs, this one features on their debut album alongside "Sweet Child of Mine" and "Paradise City". The music video was originally banned from MTV for being too racy, I'm now understanding that as often a cue for hyper-sexualisation and objectification of women in music videos. On the 30th anniversary of the album Appetite for Destruction this year the video was released in 4k misogynist glory. Oh and did we mention the lyrics yet?
What do the 3 minutes and 34 seconds of this catchy hit provoke in you? How overplayed it was at one point? How overflowing it is with misogyny? If you can bare to play it again you'll recall Pitbull's words:
Face down, booty up, timber
That's the way we like to–what?–timber
I'm slicker than an oil spill
She say she won't, but I bet she will, timber
In 2014 BBC Radio 2 DJ, Sara Cox spoke out about his lyrics: “Someone like Pitbull on Radio 1 makes my soul weep with the way he sings about women. I just couldn’t bear playing that.”
This song topped the UK charts for 4 weeks and has sold over a million copies - it certainly entered my consciousness as one of the catchiest tracks of the decade. But anyone who was quite young when this come out might not realise is that you've been listening to the radio edit which features *just* objectification and light sexual references. The original is very explicit and researching their back catalogue it's just the tip of the iceberg. Oh how my young innocent-self danced around to this song on a loop. I can never look at it in the same way again.🤦
The song actually goes:
"Girl your booty is so round
I just wanna lay you down
Let me take you from behind
I won't cum until it's time
But if I cannot sleep with you
Maybe I could have a taste
Put your nani on my tongue
And your booty on my face"
The next verse is worse.
For those who are looking for a clean 90s throwback - here's the radio edit complete with 90s motion graphics
8. He Hit Me (And it felt like a kiss) - The Crystals 1962
In fairness, this one was controversial during its release in 1962 - take a look at the lyrics and you'll see why:
He hit me
And it felt like a kiss
He hit me
And I knew he loved me
If he didn't care for me
I could have never made him mad
But he hit me,
And I was glad
Has your jaw dropped to the floor yet? The lyrics are accompanied by a haunting melody. The lyrics by Carol King and Gerry Goffin are based on true events; their nanny was being abused. The song was produced by Phil Spector who was widely known as a misogynist and later convicted of second degree murder of the actress Lana Clarkson in 2003. Adams, reporting for the AV Club suggests, "“He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)” represents the dark flip side of that feeling and the ugliness that Spector was uniquely capable of turning into something hauntingly listenable."
9. Young Girl - Gary Puckett and The Union Gap 1968
Again dusting down this one from the archives means we need to take it in the context of when it was released. Some fans see it as Gary doing 'the honorable thing' and sending the girl away. This song reached number 2 in the Billboard 100 in the US. The lyrics include:
The oldest song in our collection and where the idea for this piece came from. It's not a glorification of domestic violence but a daughter reporting domestic violence to her mother and her mother responding nonchalantly.
It's catchy and horrifying in equal measure.
Mama he's squeezing me to death
Mama my arms are back and blue...
[to which 'mama' responds']...That's nice...Have a piece of fruit...💪🍏🍍🍓🤔
11. Get Your Shine On - Florida Georgia Line 2012
'Bro country' a subgenre of country music that tends to focus on the 'good ol' boys doing what boys do', these songs are often littered with objectification. Dallas Observer's Amy McCarthy adds, "Misogyny in country music is a touchy subject. It has certainly existed since the inception of the genre, like every other style of music. Sometimes the misogyny is extremely overt."
She sites lyrics such in this 2012 single as just one example encouraging the girl to continue drinking moonshine:
Homemade jar of lemon drop, take a sip.
Don’t stop girl, you know I love it when you get your shine on
‘Cause you and me be rockin' all night long
McCarthy adds ,"Something tells me that Florida Georgia Line isn't talking about a guitar jam. Not to mention the fact that they're driving down what presumably is a country road, which doesn't exactly provide for many escape routes."
So there's 11 tracks for you, we could have included plenty more, let us know what you'd add to the mix.
One hopeful sign is that we struggled to find many from 2015 onwards. 2015 marked a year where consent hit the headlines, 2017 signalled the #metoo movement (although no female topped the US Billboard chart in 2017 - could we be moving towards a music industry that doesn't try to capitalise on misogyny? Cambridge Student writer, Holly MacAskill, suggests at the end of 2017: "never have the ideas of female empowerment in popular music culture been more relevant." Here's hoping. 🤞
In a future post we'll create an alternative catchy playlist for a post #metoo world, where feminism becomes mainstream.