I’m Muslim, and with that comes the stereotype that I’m a prude. Oftentimes, I’ll listen to song rhythms and beats that I’ll love, and I’ll start jamming out to such songs. But then I’ll hear something disgusting and turn it off.
And it’s not because of there being swearing or dirty talk in it that primarily affects my decision. It’s not even the fear of sinning for listening to “bad” words and cuss words that make me steer way from such music.
It’s the way that women are addressed, portrayed and disrespected. Regardless of religion, as a woman— as a human being— I am disgusted and disturbed.
I hate how common– and even expected it is– for men to objectify women and reduce them to their body parts in popular culture. Several male singers are no exception.
I can’t bring myself to listen to several pieces of music that are popularly adored and played everywhere. These music lyrics talk about sex and have lots of smut in them. Now, I’m not saying that sex is bad or that these music lyrics should be condemned for talking about sex. It’s not even the sex or the smut that bother me. What I am saying is that–depending on the song– I am absolutely disgusted at the lyrics that call women “b*tches” and “h**s” and “sluts” and whatever other derogatory, dehumanizing terms when describing sexual encounters from a male point of view. What bothers me is the sexual objectification and general objectification of women that are not only accepted, but promoted and celebrated by these songs.
And I know there are men– and women, even– who will think that I’m being too sensitive for being so uncomfortable with singers and rappers and with whoever else is using these terms to describe women. They might say that “it’s not that deep” or that “it’s just a joke” or that “everyone else is doing it so it’s not like that.” Or they may even say that I’m too much of a prude and that I need to lighten up a little.
First of all, it is that deep. Using these words in music and rap lyrics LITERALLY carries a negative connotation against women and there is no separating the gender-based degradation of women– these slurs are gender-based. For instance, the gendered slurs of “bitches,” “hoes” and “sluts” automatically assumes that any of the women being described in sexual encounters with the men singing or rapping are worthy of being less than because they decide to have sex with these men.
This messed up ideology preaches that women having sex with these men are to be disrespected– that disrespect is expected toward women when it comes to sex.
These lyrics teach men– young and old– that they are expected to disrespect women in the bedroom– and even outside of the bedroom. And it’s not just men that are listening to these songs– it’s boys. Boys who learn from a young age that it is normal, okay and even good to treat girls and women with little to no respect. And it’s women and girls, who are taught they they are to tolerate such disrespect and degradation in order to please men.
In relation, much of these songs also describe women that these men have sex with in the plural. For instance, many lyrics talk about having sex with multiple women, referring to these women as the gendered slurs described above. These lyrics present women as disposable. And especially when that goes in addition to the lyrics making humor and light out of how these women get “attached” to these men who are only using them for their bodies, referring that in addition to how these men artists– if I should even call them artists– have a long line of women waiting for them to give them their self-declared honor of having sex with them.
There’s a deep sense of male entitlement reflected in these songs– the verbal expressions assume the men to have a superior position to the woman or women they are having sex with. And there is the notion that men have the right and expectation to disrespect the women they have sex with or show interest in and there is the notion that they have the right to treat them without human dignity.
Also expressed is the entitlement for these men to analyze, objectify and actively lust and chase after any woman that they desire sexually– regardless of how she feels. They look at a woman they find attractive and immediately start describing her breasts, butt and other body parts in a way that reflects their thoughts and opinions– as if their opinions on another woman are so important and noteworthy and valuable. Not only is this objectification disgusting, but it is also extremely violating. Who are these men to look at a woman and ponder over and fantasize over her and her body parts? Who are they to make comments and have the intention to use her to fulfill their sexual desires, as if the woman is something off of a market that they are trying to decide on purchasing or trying to purchase through the currency of their smooth talk and bribery?
It’s implied and promoted that disrespecting women is part of the package of male pleasure and power.
There is the promotion of using women to fulfill male pleasure without considering the personhood of the women. Instead, her personhood is meshed with and made synonymous to her body and what her body could do for men’s sexual pleasure.
There is the promotion of the idea that women are free to use by men to whatever extent men will be able to “use” her. If a woman says no to sex, then a man will “at least” already have the entitlement ability to roam over her with his eyes– whether or not that makes the woman uncomfortable. In accordance with these songs, men still feel the entitlement to pester a woman no matter how many times she says no to their unwanted attention.
In accordance with these songs, men feel entitled to taking whatever pleasure they can from a woman regardless of her consent.
The use of derogatory language against women that promotes and reinforces such disgusting parts of society is not a joke.
Men continue disrespecting women in real life. Rape and sexual assault cases exist in high, shocking but sadly not so surprising numbers– and that’s in addition to cases that are never reported. I know that there are arguments to this saying that rape is not relevant to the songs because the sex between the two parties from these song lyrics are consensual. To that, I argue that in sexual activity that is consensual versus sexual assault and rape, there is the common sharing of the sexual objectification of women alongside the simultaneous upholding of male entitlement to taking pleasure from women regardless of their consent and will– which is a direct element of sexual assault and rape..
In rape and sexual assault where a man assaults a woman, there is the dehumanization of the woman preyed on in which her personhood is disregarded and deemed irrelevant and unimportant to a man’s entitlement to fulfilling his sexual desires. What is claimed by the rapist is the woman’s body– showing how the woman is reduced to her body parts in a way that serves male entitlement to pleasure. Similarly, in the sex described in these songs, consensual or not, male entitlement to pleasure from taking ownership of a woman’s body is still freaking apparent– even if the woman is assumed to say yes in the situation described in the song lyrics, the notion that the man using her for her body owns her body and has rights to it is still there. There is no escaping that fact– the entitlement and objectification used in assault begins before any sexual encounters or sexual assault takes place. How is there any room to escape these disturbing concepts?
It is this entitlement that contributes to rape culture– where a man’s desire for a woman’s body is used as justification for him to disrespect her in forms of harassment and assault– like I said, the disrespect and grounds for harassment and assault begin as a man begins sizing a woman up as he considers if or how she will serve him.
Even with sexual activities that are consensual between both a woman and a man, women are often belittled and ridiculed for “catching feelings” or being “attached” to the men they have sex with. And they are shamed with the gendered slurs described above for wanting to have casual sex while the men who engage in these casual sexual encounters are glorified.
Again, it comes down to the promotion and reinforcement of women being there for men to use and trample on in the way that best suits men’s convenience and pleasure.
Not just that, but what kind of people are these kinds of objectifying music pushing men to be?
I don’t give a damn if half of the human population on this earth are promoting content and ideologies that promote the objectification of women or if it’s just a few people that are– objectifying women, and any human being, is downright disgusting and wrong no matter how many people are or aren’t doing it and no matter who is doing it.
With the men responsible for these songs being worshipped by fans, people often minimize and disregard the brevity of the messages and impact their music content has on society. In addition, while these fans are so busy worshipping these famous figures, they strive to defend them rather than hold them accountable. Unconditional idolization is not only disappointing, but dangerous.
One doesn’t rise high by stepping over others. Men don’t rise high by stepping over women– they sink to the lowest of the low. Not only are the messages from such derogatory music detrimental for women in the ways that men treat them disrespectfully and inhumanely from its influence, but they are also detrimental for how women may be influenced to view themselves– as objects of desire to serve men, for men to take from.
And these song lyrics are detrimental to men’s wellbeing as well– they are taught to demascluinize vulnerability and romantic feelings, and they are influenced to devalue genuine relationships with women, romantic or platonic.
Just overall, these song lyrics are a detriment to society. We need to do better and hold these singers and rappers accountable, and be careful about not idolizing them.
Their fame should not grant them immunity from promoting the dehumanization of the women of this world, and their fame should not allow them to be excused from their contributions to rape culture.
This post specifically focuses on the prevailing objectification of women by men and their audiences in the music industry, but of course gender-based objectification is not only limited to men objectifying women. Women objectify men, too, which I will address in a future post.