Besides the way certain music videos visually portray women and men alike, like the ones below, what about the words behind the music? Yes, both men and women are objectified in music videos. But for the most part, when it comes to the lyrics of songs, there is a certain kind of message being sent to girls and women. Earlier this year, my roommate and I decided that we would be truly badass. We would start a female hip-hop/rap group, and would be the envy and awe of all our peers when we presented how BAMF we were. This is not a joke. We took this endeavor extremely seriously, even signing up for a break-dancing and hip-hop course, to show how hard-core about this we were. (This course, by the way, is still rocking our socks, and everyone who can, should definitely try to hip-hop/break dancing!!!) We proudly told our friends about our new goal, but they just laughed and shook their heads.
First, we decided we would learn the lyrics to some already existing rap/hip-hop songs, to get a feel for the rhythm and performing. At the time my roommate was obsessed with the song “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem and Rihanna. I was fairly familiar with the song, and liked the beat and chorus of it, so I was ready to learn the song with her. This was the first time we both had actually paid attention to the lyrics. But, not until we had gotten to the last verse did the words “Next time I’m pissed I’ll lay my fist at the drywall” and “I know I’m a liar if she ever tries to fuckin’ leave again I’ma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire” slap us both in the face. The song “Love the Way You Lie” isn’t just about simple relationship problems, it is about violence in relationships.
I was horrified that we had spent the last three hours memorizing the first half of the lyrics of this song, never mind the fact that we had heard this song numerous times before without having had caught its subliminal message. I do think the intent behind the song may have been good, as the song certainly does draw attention to the issue of violence against women who are in abusive relationships. Yet, the way in which it does so is, in my opinion, completely inappropriate. If you focus on what the lyrics are literally saying, what kind of message does this song send? Besides the repeated, “I love the way you lie,” Rihanna also sings “I like the way it hurts.” So basically, the message to me as a woman, or even to men, is that it is acceptable to abuse and hurt women repeatedly, because they love the way men lie and like the way it hurts. This is a form of victim blaming—no normal women thoroughly enjoys being lied to or hurt, especially by someone they love. The song is telling me, and other women, to submit to men, and shows us an example where the woman doesn’t stand up for herself. Furthermore, the music video makes sexual abuse appear…sexy? Either way, this girl does NOT love the way the media lies to females about what role they should play in society. Who is to say women can’t be empowered??
Aren’t convinced? Take for instance the song “Just the way you are” by Bruno Mars. While I will admit that in this song Mars does, on the surface, sing empowering words of praise and support directed at women ( i.e.‘Cause you’re amazing/ Just the way you are’), at the same time, do women really need someone to tell them that they are amazing? Are women so insecure that we require a man’s reassurance? How many times have you heard a girl ask if she looks fat? A boy? For those of you who are now thinking that I am being too harsh on Mars, and that he really just wanted to sing a nice song: do you hear many songs from a female singer telling a man how amazing and beautiful he is? Just the way he is?? Or does that sound a little ridiculous to you? Why don’t men need reassurance as well? The truth is because women also DON’T need reassurance. We don’t need the media, or anyone to influence our self-esteem—so why let the media continue to lie to us?
A few days ago, my roommate again was telling me about how much she dreads the upcoming Valentine’s Day. She isn’t the first one to tell me how inadequate she feels because she doesn’t have a boyfriend. But why should anyone be made to feel worth less than what they actually are? No Hallmark holiday should influence a person’s sense of self-worth. Yet, it’s come to this, hasn’t it?
I don’t have a solution. And, I obviously can’t control the media. But there is still a choice for all of the women out there, isn’t there? You can certainly sing along with your friends to a catchy song, ignoring the lyrics. But, you can also take a stand, and call out the lies the media perpetuates. Don’t let others determine who you are for you.
And please, if nothing else, stop second-guessing yourself!! If someone compliments you, don’t hesitate for even a second to accept it! Girl, you ARE amazing, so stop acting like it might be otherwise!
What do you think? Do you know of other songs like this?