For one of my classes I was asked to write a term-long paper about something I wanted to argue was an issue in society. To start thinking of topics, I asked myself, “Self, what bugs you?” Things like Uggs, when my blankets are messed up in my bed and slow drivers all made the list but what really hit me was what I wrote down about music. Like most of you, I hold music very close to my heart because it has been there for me in good times and bad. But there has been something within the music industry, that I’ve noticed more and more in the past few months, which has really bothered me. We as a society don’t have the same standards for male and female artists, creating inequality in the music industry. In 2014, it seems a little messed up to me that this is the case but after doing a lot of research, it’s scary to see how prevalent this problem really is.
As a solo artist, Beyoncé has sold over 13 million albums in the US alone but her accomplishments don’t stop there. She has been named by Billboard as one of the “Top Female Artist” of this decade, has won over 17 Grammys and sold out back-to-back world tours; they don’t call her ‘Queen B’ for nothing. The artist shocked the world on December 13, 2013 when she released a visual album, Beyoncé, which included 14 tracks, each accompanied by a music video. Prior to its release date, the album intentionally had zero promotional stunts or hype to get people to buy it and still managed to sell 617,000 digital copies in three days. But the backlash she received is something not even Queen B herself could have anticipated. The self-titled album, received backlash for having lyrics that are too sexually driven with music videos that are seen more like ‘soft porn’ rather than art. Specifically look at her song, “Partition”, which was apparently “so offensive” that it caught the attention of Bill O’Reilly on The O’Reilly Factor. The video shows Beyoncè dancing for a man who is her husband, Jay Z, with lyrics that depict her desire to have sex with him. The republican talk-show host got all hot and bothered on his broadcast on FOX News saying, “She puts out a new album with a video that glorifies having sex in the back of a limousine. Teenage girls look up to Beyoncé, particularly girls of color,” followed up by, “Why on Earth would this woman do that? Why would she do it when she knows the devastation of unwanted pregnancies and fractured families”. (Insert hand to face motion.) Not like I normally tune into The O’Reilly Factor for music advice… but really? If we are going to start putting blame on Beyoncé for teen pregnancy then we better start blaming rappers for drug use and violence, pop singers for why we don’t have world peace and country artists for drunk drivers. We as a society let Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines”, a song about rape, sit in the number one spot for 12 weeks straight with almost no backlash. Am I the only one who thinks this is fucked up? As a twenty-one year old woman, society is telling me it isn’t okay for me to express sexual desire but it’s okay for a man to tell me that I want to have sex with him… WHAT? Doesn’t seem fair if you ask me. This is why I think it is so important that we as society start examining the lyrics and messages of both male and female artist, instead of getting caught up in how catchy the beat is.
The second artist I would like to look at is Miley Cyrus. While Cyrus has moved far away from her Hannah Montana image, she has managed to make quite the impression on the industry not only with her record sales but also with her twerking. Cyrus has also been very open about the discrimination she faces in the industry for being a woman. In an interview with Huffington Post, she says, “I still don’t think we’re there 100 percent. I mean, guy rappers grab their crotch all f*cking day and have hoes around them, but no one talks about it. But if I grab my crotch and I have hot model bitches around me, I’m degrading women? I’m a woman — I should be able to have girls around me! But I’m part of the evolution of that. I hope.” Her desire to be treated as an equal was shown in her 2013 VMA performance, where she preformed a medley of, “We Can’t Stop” and “Blurred Lines” with Robin Thicke. After those two songs were performed, Thicke took over the stage to continue the performance of “Give It 2 U” with 2Chainz. Where Cyrus received the most criticism was for “sexually objectifying” herself and for twerking on Thicke. In an article released by eonline.com, The Parent Television Council expressed their disapproval of the performance saying, “MTV has once again succeeded in marketing sexually charged messages to young children using former child stars and condom commercials—while falsely rating this program as appropriate for kids as young as 14.” But lets take a moment to reflect on aspects of the performance that the media doesn’t ridicule during Thicke and 2Chainz’s performance. This featured woman dancers dressed provocatively and twerking while Thicke was getting a little too handsy with many of the dancers. So lets get this straight… Cyrus, the only female performer, should be heavily criticized for sexually objectifying herself but when the male performers objectify the dancers sexually, it’s okay? It seems our society says it is okay because they are ‘putting on a show.’ Males can have female dancers dance on or around them in their music videos or during live performances but when woman performers dance suggestively with themselves in the same situation, they are being ‘inappropriate’ or sending a bad message to the youth of America, specifically girls. As a society, we need to stop portraying that girls can or should act a certain way but then criticizing them for doing such. We can’t continue ridiculing female performers for dancing suggestively but then not say anything about female dancers who are used as a prop for male performances. The double standard has got to go.
My final artist I would like to bring up is Meghan Trainor. Her song, “All About That Bass”, has been on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 8 weeks now and is currently in the number two spot. Despite the song’s popularity, it has received backlash for ‘skinny shaming’ girls. In a country that tells woman how important it is to be being skinny, example the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, I don’t think these are valid points to make against the song, especially when Trainor isn’t doing that at all. If people were to actually read the lyrics instead of picking one line of the entire song and running with it, they would see that Trainor sends the same messages to skinny girls as she does curvy girls. The lyrics read, “go ahead and tell them skinny bitches no, I’m just playing I know you think you’re fat but I’m here to tell you that every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.” While she could have gone without calling them “skinny girls bitches”, she is acknowledging that even ‘skinny’ girls can be self conscious about their bodies. The problem here is when a woman artist comes out and says, “I like my size, my body and my booty” its ‘skinny shaming’ but I didn’t hear anyone complain when Sir Mix-A-Lot expressed his love for the booty. When a male artist comes out and says that he likes woman with large butts, it’s the best party song of all time. This song is yet another example of how we as a society need to put male and female artist on the same playing field.
The music industry has demanded that we fight for equality in society… but when do we as a society start fighting for equality within this industry?