Essay: Why Is so Much Modern Pop Music Sexist?

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Pop Music

One glance at the MTV Website reveals a stunning revelation about gender in popular music. Of the 66 music videos featured on MTV.com, 46 (about 70%) are of male artists. Of the 20 female artists that are featured, more than half have long blonde hair. Gender, to a large degree, determines visibility and success in the pop music industry. Moreover, women are often pigeon-holed into specific social roles when they are depicted in music videos. Granted, the men featured in music videos are also relatively homogenous in terms of their physical appearance and are also stereotyped. Therefore, the root cause of sexism in popular music can be traced to deeper cultural norms related to proscribed gender roles and proscribed sexuality.

Women are often featured as eye candy in roles in pop music videos. They lyrics to popular songs reflect the view that women are used for decoration purposes only. For instance, in Timbaland's video for "Carry Out" featuring Justin Timberlake, images of women are everywhere -- so long as the women are exotic dancers or wait staff. The women in the video are projected into stereotypical roles as servile beings. "You're looking fine," is the first thing that is said directly to the females in the video.

An analysis of the lyrics to "Carry Out" reveals an even more disturbing form of sexism. "I'll take you home, let you keep me company" suggests that women are like take-out food. "I'll take you home" is a phrase clearly suggesting that the women are viewed as nothing more than pieces of property or like pets. They will be "taken home" like a stray dog. Then, the phrase, "let you keep me company" reveals patriarchy in startling ways. The male vocalist proclaims that he will "let" as in "allow" the woman to keep him company. The woman in this case has no self-determination. She is bound by whatever the man says. If he wants to take her home, he will. If he let's her keep him company, she should feel grateful.

Many of the hip-hop videos are guilty of sexist imagery that panders to male soft pornographic fantasies. Ludacris's "How Low" features a male fantasy of a girl's pajama party -- two friends dancing low in front of the mirror with each other. The vocalist sings to them, about their dancing and "how low" they can go. Lyrics refer to how great it is to voyeuristically watch the women as they look at themselves in the mirror. It is as if the women are performing for the men. Even when they look into the mirror, their reflection is not of themselves but of Ludacris looking at them. Ludacris stalks the women at the pajama party, and the video disintegrates into imagery that nearly suggests rape. Thus, some of the sexism in pop music video can be considered extreme.

"If you come to my crib I might show you girls a thing or two," the lyrics go. As with the Timbaland video, Ludacris's "How Low" depicts women as objects that can be carried home at will, and against their will. Women have no sense of personal boundaries in the music videos. Men do what they feel with and to the females around them. Furthermore, it is rarely just one woman that is featured. Usually a harem of females features in hip-hop videos. This ostensibly shows the male as an alpha dog, the leader of the pack who is attractive enough to gather a whole harem around him. Women are shown to be status symbols, as a sheik might use his harem to show off his wealth and power. In fact, the lyrics state "Show me what you're working with, I'll show you some of this bank roll." This lyric not only has Ludacris in the position of a patriarchal king or sultan but it also suggests prostitution. If the women "work it," they might… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Why Is so Much Modern Pop Music Sexist?.  (2010, April 3).  Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/modern-pop-music-sexist/9375767

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"Why Is so Much Modern Pop Music Sexist?."  Essaytown.com.  April 3, 2010.  Accessed July 17, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/modern-pop-music-sexist/9375767.