Music Over Movement?

Would people still listen to Kelis’s “Milkshake” and 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” if they were actually about sugary confections and the battle against obesity? I have always questioned the reasons why people enjoy certain types of music. Do people like songs for their actual music, or for I often ask myself if people like songs for their actual music, or for their meaning and lyrics. Unfortunately, I do not have an answer to this question. I only have more questions. The idea of a person’s reasons behind liking certain music can be directly related to the current feminist movement. If certain forms of popular music degrade women, assuming all members of the Andover community are mature enough to understand this, how can those who support the feminist movement also listen to these types of music? I consider myself a feminist, though I was not quick enough to get my hands on one of those wonderful T-shirts. I do not believe in showing hostility towards those who do not support feminism, but I do believe in equal rights for women. Yet, I sometimes listen to music whose lyrics and meanings contradict my beliefs. For this, I cannot condescend those who listen to degrading music, though I can question their reasons behind it, as I question my own. Personally, I think I listen to these types of songs because I enjoy the music and disregard the lyrics. When I was younger, I did not understand most song lyrics, but still enjoyed songs that sent negative messages about gender. Before coming to Andover, I used to adhere to the American Top 40 charts religiously in order to choose my music. When I was in the fifth grade, I remember my parents’ hesitancy to let me listen to the newest, most popular song at that time: Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop.” They understood the song’s inappropriateness while I did not, telling me that it was “for bigger kids” and “not very nice to girls.” I did not understand, and continued to question my parents’ sanity as the song was clearly about lollipops. Now, despite understanding the meaning and negative connotations expressed in “Lollipop,” I still find myself listening to the clean version of the song that I coaxed my parents to let me buy. Each time I listen to songs like this, I find myself wondering, “Does this make me a hypocrite?” The answer to this question is a resounding yes. Yes, listening to music that degrades women while calling myself a feminist is hypocritical. This is only fair, as there are feminists who do not listen to degrading music, whether it is by conscious choice regarding lyrics or not. These feminists stand on a higher moral ground than those who listen to songs that put women down. But what if a feminist simply likes that type of music and ignores the lyrics? Well, they can either sacrifice their music choices or settle with their hypocrisy. Society, feminists and non-feminists alike, must learn to understand that while some songs directly degrade only certain types of women, they indirectly disrespect all women. By listening to these songs, I do not believe that people are spreading this disrespect or validating it, but they are bringing negative attention to it. I am guilty of this, and know that I must start change on a small scale, by humming rather than singing or by listening to an empowering Beyonce song after a misogynistic one. Popular songs that degrade women cannot be abolished or changed. We cannot stop people from listening to the music they enjoy, either. What can be changed is the future of music from all genres, especially hip-hop. Those who do not support the feminist movement on or off campus probably stopped reading this article after the second paragraph. But if you fall under this category and are still reading, you may continue to listen to demeaning music, after you reevaluate your beliefs. People who do care about the issue of gender inequality, including myself, can make a conscious effort to choose songs with more positive lyrics, though. If people show support to music with more feminist values, it will send a message to all musicians. The first step in any large movement should be awareness, so we, as feminists, must make the music industry aware of our discontent with degrading lyrics. Meera Patel is a two-year Lower from Andover, Mass.