I previously wrote about how I can’t listen to the radio these days because of the overtly sexual and misogynist lyrics sung by men. But I want to acknowledge the flipside of this as well.
The radio is also filled with songs sung by women that promote the very thing that they complain about. If women don’t want to be viewed as objects by men, the first step is to stop promoting their own objectification. There are many examples across all genres of music, from country to rock to hip-hop. I’ve picked a few that have been on the radio Top 40 and that I’ve hear all the time.
Beyoncé sings in “Check On It”:
Ohh, boy you looking like you like what you see/
Won’t you come over and check up on it/
I’m gone let you work up on it
Ladies let em check up on it/
Watch it while he check up on it…
If you got it, flaunt it, boy I know you want it/
While I turn around you watch me check up on it/
Ooh, you watchin’ me shake it, I see it in ya face/
Ya can’t take it, it’s blazin, you watch me in amazement.
Britney Spears sings in “Oops! I Did It Again”:
I played with your heart, got lost in the game/
Oh baby, baby/
Oops! You think I’m in love/
That I’m sent from above/
I’m not that innocent.
Ke$ha in “Blah Blah Blah”:
“I don’t really care where you live at/
Just turn around, boy, let me hit that/
Don’t be a little bitch with your chit chat/
Just show me where your dick’s at.
The Pussycat Dolls in “Don’t Cha”:
I know you like me/
I know you do/
That’s why whenever I come around/
She’s all over you/
I know you want it/
It’s easy to see/
And in the back of your mind/
I know you should be on with me/
Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?
Again, like “Blurred Lines,” I will play these songs in my car and dance around all day long. They’re catchy, fun and overall JAMS. I’ve seen Beyoncé and Britney in concert and I WOULD AGAIN, SHUT UP, OK?
But my brain also knows that these lyrics are not “helping the cause,” so to speak. If this isn’t okay when guys do it, then it’s not okay when woman do it. Period.
I have had this argument in the past with many women and I know it’s a touchy one. I have heard the argument that, “If men can do it, so can women,” or that women are simply “taking back the power and redefining gender roles and norms.” I understand that argument. I just don’t agree with it.
I don’t agree with it because it just contributes to the normalization that this type of environment is okay to begin with. And it’s not. It’s a double standard and it’s not right.
If a dude thinks that all women in the club/bar/campus/world who “act like that”/”dress like that”/like this music are open to objectification, then that’s not okay. Men have to take some personal responsibility here.
But ladies: we do have to take some personal responsibility in this, too.
Dave Chappelle has a comedy bit that I like on the subject:
Now, I know this pisses a lot of people off, but I get what he’s saying. And I’ve gotten into it with some female friends who simply disagree. They’ve said, “Hold up, so he’s saying that men are just animals who can’t control themselves and it’s the woman’s fault for getting harassed because of how she dresses?” I don’t believe he’s saying that. He does emphasize, “Gentlemen, that is true, just because they dress a certain way doesn’t mean they are a certain way, don’t ever forget it.”
But: he does have a point. Yes, a woman can dress any way she wants. She can walk down the street in a burka or in a bikini, that’s her legal right. My point is, is it the smartest thing to do given our reality, which this music and pop culture has had a hand in shaping?
Hell, if your boobs are out, I’m gonna look at them, because well, boobs! I’ve just objectified you, sorry about that.
I’ve argued with many feminist friends about this topic and know it’s a touchy one. I subscribe to the line of feminism as defined as: “men and women should have equal rights, treatment and access to resources.” Under that definition, you’d be hard pressed to find a woman or man these days who wouldn’t define themselves as a feminist (except maybe some of those radical “Men’s Liberationists” or far right-wing religious nuts).
I think the argument comes down to two very different ideologies. There are people who live their lives based in how they believe the world should be ideally. And there are those who live their lives based on how they believe the world is in reality. And those are often two very different things. My heart tells me that I want to live in a world that I can wear whatever I want and be unbothered and safe. My head tells me that this unfortunately just isn’t always our reality. How we wish society was isn’t necessarily how society actually is.
I want to walk down the street in a bad neighborhood at 1:00 A.M. with a bunch of jewelry on, openly counting my wads of cash and expect that no one would mug me. But that’s probably not reality, so I avoid doing that.
What I am not saying:
1. Women are at fault or deserve to be raped or harassed because of how they choose to dress. Or say. Or act. Or ANYTHING FOR ANY REASON, EVER.
2. That some women never want to be objectified and hit on. There are women reading this who will think, “Well I’m not some ‘uptight feminist!’ I like dressing sexy! I like getting attention from guys!” I get that. I get that sometimes it is fun to get dressed up all sexy and shake it to some Robin Thicke. That’s reality.
Ideally, women en masse would all realize that the reason we all now find this fun to begin with is due to the normalization of sexual objectification via pop culture, like music featuring the lyrics like the ones mentioned here, and that we’d all collectively agree to stop fucking douche bags. I AM ALL ABOUT THIS.
But I also know that that is not likely to happen. So in reality, if a dude with this objectification mentality happens upon a woman with this same mentality, he checks her out and objectifies her, she wants to be checked out and objectified, he hits on her, she wants to be hit on, she hits on him back, then fantastic! That worked out well for everyone, right? What do you care, they’re doing their thing, leave them alone.
But then you have to acknowledge the double standard that is in play when it happens on a day that “you’re just not feeling it.” Or if it happens to your sister or your best friend who wasn’t ever into it.
So while we’re singing, “If you got it, flaunt it, boy I know you want it,” and then get mad at a dude when a he hollers at us, we need to think about the mixed messages we’re sending. I am not saying to necessarily boycott all pop culture and music. What I am saying is that society has moved to a place where women have also oblivious to how their music, words and actions can contribute to their own objectification.