Is there a market for fun, catchy music that doesn't demean women?
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Tap, tap, tap.
You can’t help yourself; inadvertently you start to bob your head, tap your fingers on the closest surface. You turn up the volume.
What an awesome song you think, the beat just makes you want to dance. You quickly shazam it to check the name and the artist.
And then the inevitable happens; you begin paying attention to the lyrics and you’re not impressed (and that’s putting it lightly). You know what lyrics I’m talking about – they’re usually some variation on the typical “hey baby, I know you want it, I’m gonna give it to ya”.
They seem to exist on a scale of the typical sexism and objectification of women most women face on a daily basis (think street harassment), to downright violent and misogynistic.
I listened to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” properly for the first time this week, and watched the video. I have yet to see Justin Timberlake’s latest video – but from what I’ve read I’ll be avoiding it at all costs. I couldn't even get through one song on Kanye’s latest album because I just don’t want to listen to songs where women are constantly referred to as b*****s.
And I’m really angry. I’m angry because we live in a ridiculous world in which women continue to be second-class citizens. And I’m angry because many of these songs are catchy, their beats make me want to dance, and I like dancing and I like music and I want to dance along with everyone else without feeling angry.
So I want to know, is there really no market for fun, catchy music that doesn't demean women? And before you answer that question I actually don’t believe economics should have any role to play in this – we’re talking about the human right to gender/sex equality and dignity. But seeing as we have a long road ahead of us in dismantling patriarchy, I turn my eyes to market forces, perhaps out of pragmatism, perhaps out of exasperation.
I’d like to think that I’m not wrong in saying that the majority of people would have enjoyed Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” if it was called something completely different and the lyrics had nothing to do with his (or his songwriter’s) dodgy views on consent. On one side of this camp would be those like me – who are demanding this change in music – but I also think that the more apathetic, who don’t seem to care either way, would still buy this music.
One piece of evidence that suggests this is possible is the very positive public reaction to the rappers and musicians who are tackling homophobia in their songs. Although I feel that the objectification of women is so normalized that most people simply don’t seem to notice, and many of those who do, just shrug their shoulders.
Is the mainstream music we hear, the music that cleans up at the awards shows, simply a reflection of the wider problem in society, or could it play a role in doing away with sexist attitudes?