Yes I do the cooking
Yes I do the cleaning
Yes I keep the nana real sweet for your eating
Yes you be the boss yes I be respecting
Whatever that you tell me 'cause it's game you be spitting
-"Hey Mama" by David Guetta (ft Nikki Minaj, Afrojack, and Bebe Rexha)
I'll be sleeping on the left side of the bed (hey)
Open doors for me and you might get some kisses
Don't have a dirty mind
Just be a classy guy
Buy me a ring
-"Dear Future Husband" by Meghan Trainor
Baby I'm preying on you tonight
Hunt you down eat you alive
Just like animals
-"Animals" by Maroon 5
I'll be honest in saying that not many things possess the ability to make me upset. I try to be a fairly relaxed person, and keep my battles to a minimum. I was never the child in high school that sought drama (unless studying the family problems of the Tudor Dynasty counts), and I like the feeling of being happy-go-lucky.However, there is one thing that leaves my blood boiling, my eyeliner crooked, and my rants ready: socially established gender roles.
While society has come impressively far in the last decade in the struggle for gender equality, something greatly impeding social progress is the continuation and encouragement of sexist songs seeping into the bloodline of humanity. Not only do their record sales continue to surge, but their reactionary attitudes towards both genders are leaving people subject to irrelevant and hasty gender roles. Music was once an outlet for creative expression and emotional freedom, but is now manipulated as justification to entrap individuals in the belief that their fulfillment is found in their relationship status, waistline measurements, or sexual history.
But it's just a song, they tell me. You shouldn't read so heavily into everything. Yet, isn't analyzing the minute details what led to revolutions, social change, and inevitably progression of the human race? I bet Upton Sinclair was ridiculed when he wrote The Jungle, told to tame his voice because this was something considered "normal", and changing factory conditions was not something a thirty-something year old from Baltimore could do. Yet, with his voice, the inspiration behind the Pure Food and Drug Act was fueled, and millions of people became aware of the social conditions that voiceless people passively endured prior. People probably told Malala Yousafzai to back down, that girls ought to be quiet and sit down instead of making fusses about getting an education - but with her bravery, she's given millions of girls my age the opportunity to obtain an education and empower a future greater than caring for a household. By no means am I saying these phenomenal changemakers are comparable to a teen from a town where more horses than people exist, but they demonstrate that caring (and speaking about!) the little things fuels the path for greater social progress. It's time to stop belittling something as significant to the next generation like the music we listen to, and begin to look more carefully into what we decide to put in our ear.
These artists make money by posing as the "voice for our generation", but I truly don't think that we as the millennials are known for perpetuating tradition of any kind. We're the generation that's infamous for thinking differently, abolishing conventionality, and innovating new solutions to long-lasting problems. We've proven that teens can be more than self-obsessed mindless souls, but rather can write books, develop organizations, and stand for causes greater than ourselves. We're the ones working towards change for gender equality, yet these songs that play on the radio, in the stores and in our own school teach us that it's socially acceptable to treat men and women as objects.
I'm no musical artist, but if your song is so good, you don't need sexism to sell it. For once, I'd like a singer to tell me more than my worth is based on how big my butt is, how much I'm willing to give to them, or how many kids I'll raise with them. For once, I'd like my guy friends to know that their validity is not found in their physicality, or their ability to fight, to get the girl, or to remain stiff when their emotions want to overtake them. Lyrics are a reflection of what's going on in someone's cosmic cerebrum, and a manifestation of what our society values as a holistic body. If we want to see our society progress as a collective force that values the individual and their rights, then it's time to stand up for the things that misrepresent the identity we seek to portray.
As a teen, I find my identity in music. My Spotify, although filled with songs from all across the genre spectrum, is a expression of the memories I long to remember, the occurrences I wish to forget, and the infamous teen angst in between. The lyrics I tweet are only fragments of the stories, people and places I valued in my eighteen years of living, giving me a voice when words fail to articulate the innumerable sensations one moment can bring. For all other teens like me, who memorize song lyrics faster than SAT vocabulary words, run to their headphones when they had a long day, or feel a completion of themselves when they find a new song they love, artists are severely disappointing us. What's more disheartening is that many of them are still teens, yet somehow their paycheck has become more important than using their amplified sound as medicine for teens to feel security and solstice in their words.
I'm not saying to end the creation of songs honoring romanticism or the intoxication that comes with being in a relationship, but there's a fine line where artists are using their influence to justify sexist and discriminatory gender roles. We're living in a world where the very definition of gender is being constantly changed. It's no longer about what sexual organs you are born with; it's an opportunity to pave your own future based on what you choose to identify under. Our women are not objects to be taken advantage of: they are beautiful (regardless of body shape), intelligent (regardless of educational opportunities) and capable (regardless of socioeconomic background). Our men are not statues to pass through the motions by, only seeking fulfillment when they score a woman. They are respectable (regardless of testosterone levels), kind (regardless of social implications), and courageous (regardless of their abundance or lack of muscles).
Now, let's take a moment to appreciate the artists who have stood up for gender equality instead of capitalizing on the insecurities of their younger fans. Rachel Platten, your "Fight Song" was what got me through finals week, and encouraged me to find the little fight left in me. To The 1975, you helped me through one of my darkest moments because of your inability to sugarcoat anything. You used your voice to be the voice for the struggling, the lost, and the misunderstood, and for that I'm forever grateful. Nate Ruess's song, "The Great Big Storm", showed me that I am more than the struggles and circumstances I face, and when hardships come, I am strong enough as a woman to overcome them. To Sam Smith, showing the world that men can be emotional as well, and the natural emotion is a beautiful thing. You all rock my world, and you can bet I'll be front row at your concerts (you know, once I'm not a broke college student). But darlings, we have so much work left to do.
Should I ever be fortunate enough to bear a child, I hope he or she grows up in a world where the song lyrics create opportunity, not oppression, for them. I hope he or she feels empowered, instead of annoyed, at the notions pop cultures encourage. There's a song that's quickly going out of tune, and its name is Sexism.