Pop music dominates American culture, but we are often too focused on beat-drops to really consider the meaning behind popular hits. As a result, misogyny persists in music, and offensive lyrics often go unnoticed.
After all the speakers who have come to campus to address gender-based violence and sexism, female students still suffocate from continuous oppression and misogyny. This problem does not come from our school; our administration and students have worked tirelessly to promote equality and respect on campus. Instead, the demeaning portrayals and treatment of women in the entertainment industry have the largest impact on Andover.
In the rap genre especially, female stereotyping has become a fundamental component. For example, in his song “Norf Norf,” Vince Staples says, “Where the ladies at? Where the hoes? Where the bitches?” He uses these gendered terms to classify and portray women as one-dimensional entities that exist solely for mens’ pleasure. Somewhere along the lines of edgy lyrics and provocative music videos, the dehumanization of women became appealing to male rappers as an assertion of hypermasculinity.
This misogyny is not unique to rap. Robin Thicke’s R&B single “Blurred Lines” topped the charts for 12 weeks in 2013 despite its romanticization of rape culture. When artists promote gender-based violence, female objectification, and stereotyping in their music, they justify and perpetuate sexism in the minds of their listeners. We are all victims of the music industry.
Hollywood deserves an equal portion of the blame. Movies and TV shows also have the power to shape our social constructs. And unfortunately, we regularly see harmful portrayals of women on the big screen. We know the stereotypes all too well: the perfect love interests are innocent, submissive, and beautiful; and their antagonistic counterparts are bossy, petty, and “bitchy.”
Although these female antagonists are often designed without harmful intentions, they support the notion that good women should only be compliant sidekicks, while powerful women should be despised or mocked. Take Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada.” She is the powerful editor-in-chief of a prominent fashion magazine, yet Hollywood portrays her as the stoic, demeaning, and “bitchy” antagonist. The negative tone surrounding Priestly in the movie supports the sexist idea that women should care more about being likeable than assertive.
Even female superheroes, who should be powerful and unapologetic, are unable to break Hollywood’s glass ceiling. The Black Widow of “The Avengers” is not only sexualized in her low-cut catsuit and heels, but she also has comparatively fewer fight scenes than her male counterparts. According to Axel Alonso, the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, “It’s impossible not to sexualize [comic] characters.”
In recent years, female celebrities have lashed out against the misogyny in the entertainment industries. Popular artists like Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj have started focusing on empowering women and preaching feminist ideals in their songs. Similarly, stronger, so-called “bitchy” female protagonists are appearing onscreen under female writers and directors. We see actresses like Viola Davis in “How to Get Away with Murder,” Robin Wright in “House of Cards,” and Emilia Clarke in “Game of Thrones” asserting themselves as powerful female figures in the landscape of popular television. Yet even though these artists and actresses serve as great inspiration for female empowerment, they cannot erase the sexism that prevails.
Our lives are shaped by popular culture. When watching TV or turning up the car radio, young girls and boys absorb the misogynistic labels being projected onto women. Andover has been making steps in the right direction to combat sexism and gender-based violence – but Hollywood is outside our community’s control. However, as consumers and fans, we have power. We must be conscious of the underrepresentation and oversexualization of women in certain roles on television and refuse to support the producers and directors who are stereotyping women.