I live my life for lazy Saturday mornings. They’re lounge days, designed around sitting in bed with a cup of coffee, or reading a book on the couch while sipping coffee, or relaxing in the tub with hot coffee, or basically doing close to nothing while drinking too much coffee.
On this particular lazy Saturday, I opted for option three: a hot bath and a cup of coffee. Perhaps because of the coffee, I was in a peppy mood so I decided to click on the Katy Perry Pandora station.
Note: The Katy Perry Pandora station is not recommended listening for feminists who’re just trying to relax.
And, while not a day goes by that I’m not affronted by some oppressive aspect of the world in which I and my ovaries live, I try to hang up the cape every once in a while. One of those “whiles” is definitely when I’m in the bathtub; that’s me time, not we shall overcome time.
However, within the first 30 seconds of my Pandora listening, my feminist feelers were tingling to attention. 2016 pop music, it turns out, is KIND OF super morally offensive. At least, if your moral compass points toward the silly notion that women are human beings.
Now, I get that expecting pop artists to use their medium to incite change is just a ridiculous, unprecedented expectation, but I was (maybe naively) shocked by how negatively women and their emotions were represented within these songs.
For instance, in Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason,” which was the first track to excite my rage, the assumed boyfriend (crooned by Fun.’s Nate Ruess) seeks to sooth the girlfriend’s anxiety about the relationship by saying “It’s all in your mind.”
As a lady about town, I’ve heard that one before… from friends (male or female), boyfriends, coworkers, doctors. It’s not at all condescending and doesn’t make me feel helpless or invisible at all, so I’m glad Pink is encouraging that reaction from anyone who finds themselves at the opposite end of a woman’s emotions.
Pandora’s algorithm decided that Akon’s “Beautiful” should be next. Okay, I know, I shouldn’t have been shocked by this one; Akon is never going to win any awards for his work in feminist activism. But in this alleged love song, he promises to treat the woman to whom this song is addressed “not like a hooker, but more like a princess.” But definitely not like, y’know, herself. Because that wouldn’t be erotic.
Let’s make sure that we really drive home the point that women can only be sexually enticing when they’re being anything BUT a grown woman performing sexual acts. Like, a princess! A secretary! A school girl! A toddler! A Ford F150! Who cares.
The station delivered on it’s title by next producing a track from its namesake: Katy Perry. Had I been marinating I in a less critical bathtub, I would have been relieved when “Part of Me” came on. After all, Perry isn’t singing about love, or men, or… wait, yes she is. She’s empowering, sure, but empowering through a reaction to being hurt by someone else. Like, you’re so strong because you survived! Or, parts of you. Parts. So, not only do you need to have been broken by a dude, but we all know that you’re not going to come out of that whole – because, really, what woman could?
The tipping point of my bathtub rage, and the moment at which it went from Something I was Thinking About to Something I Had to Write About was when Megan Trainor’s “All About that Bass” came up. In this disastrously popular 2014 hit Trainor declares to women everywhere that “every inch of you is perfect…” unless, of course, you’re one of the “skinny bitches.” Because reverse body shaming is okay.
Here’s a thought! Megan Trainor – and the rest of the world – stop saying ANYTHING about ANY body type. Because bodies, like the humans who live in them, are actually a whole lot more than one “type” or the other.
I could go on like this; every subsequent song was likewise garbage. However, I think that aspect of my point has been made. And, again, I acknowledge that expecting to be legitimately empowered by top 40 hits is stupid and unrealistic but here’s how I see it: if our pop music illustrates misogynistic, oppressive social norms and expectations, then our society is going to sustain those values. What is right might not always be popular, but what is popular is pretty much always accepted to be right.
Before you call me a feminazi , let’s talk about how Katy Perry, Pink, and even Megan “Shut the Hell Up Already” Trainor are something worse… femi-not-sees. All three of these women have been recognized and embraced by the younger generation of girls as women to look up to for their fearlessness, their progressiveness, their not-giving-a-hot-damn-about-gender-and-social-restraints-ness.
But these role models are ignorant, maybe consciously and maybe not, to the fact that they’re perpetuating the exact stereotypes they’re credited with shattering. A few pretty smart people throughout history and at high school anti-bullying presentations have alluded to the idea that not helping to fix a situation that you know is broken is the same as helping break it even more.
It’s not that big of a deal, though. This is America. We’re resilient.
I mean, we eat food that’s processed with dangerous chemicals every day and it’s not like our country has an obesity epidemic, or a cancer epidemic, or fertility issues, widespread anxiety and depression, whatever. Because that would imply some kind of need for reform, which clearly we don’t.
So, I guess we don’t really need to do anything about the negative conception of women in our pop music, either. I’m sure it’s all just in my head. It’s better if I just soak in the tub and think about something like how badly I need a pedicure, or whether I should straighten my hair or let it dry naturally.