With all of the buzz about Jennifer Lawrence's letter last week; sexism, gender inequality and the wage gap have been weighing heavy on my mind. I support J-Law and agree wholeheartedly with the case she's making - and the statistics back it up across multiple industries (check out this McKinsey report, yo). In line with this theme, I want to address something that I feel rarely gets discussed when we analyze sexism.
Over the past year of living in Los Angeles, I have fallen deeply, irrevocably in love with....Country Music. It's that windows down, screaming the lyrics, laughing-cos-I-don't-care-if-I-embarrass-myself-because-I-feel-so-completely-whole-and-true-right-now kind of love.
And we're not talking old school Dolly Parton country -- that stuff is respectable. No, I'm talking "Florida Georgia Line feat. Nelly" style country. Sam Hunt. Cole Swindell. Kelsey Ballerini. Dierks Bentley. POP Country. It's so bad that I requested to listen to it while shooting new headshots yesterday, but when the Make Up Artist audibly groaned, I had to laugh and say: "just kidding - JUST kidding!... Let's go with 'Louis Armstrong and Ella FitzGerald'...I'm a classy gal!"
Anyway, my personal lack of taste aside, as I continue to listen to this music and find myself knowing a disturbing number of the lyrics...I am starting to realize the alarming sexism in many of them. I realize that this probably won't surprise many of you - after all this is a genre that prides itself on reinforcing gender stereotypes and "family values" with each unabashed twang and yeehaw! However, what got me thinking was the fact that we spend so much time as a society focusing on the explicit misogyny in rap music, yet I never see an angry tweet or interesting Broadly article about the sexism in popular country...and I'm wondering why? I know I ain't the only one cluttering up my home and car listening to it, so isn't it worthy of our scrutiny, time and agony?!
I am, of course, being partially facetious. Not all country is like this - but it's a size-able chunk. I'm genuinely concerned about the sheer number of country songs where men describe women as "pretty thang" or tell us to "shake it for me!" (but, Sir, what if I want to shake it for my friend Melanie?! or just for myself?) or "girl you tearin' that dance floor up, lemme see ya do it in the bed of my truck" - Dude, what about the fact that I am a good dancer makes you think I wanna lie down in the bed of your truck humping on top of dried deer blood from your last hunt? (ok, that was stereotyping on my end...but hopefully you get my point).
And it's not just an obsession with women's physicality that's inherent in the lyrics. There is an overwhelming need to tell young men that they have to find a trophy wife who makes them wanna stop wielding their weiner at every blonde in cowboy boots they see and redirect its attention to making babies. Once those babies have safely popped out, then the men should go back to drinkin', huntin' and providin' (in that order) and the women should sit on the porch smilin' at their brood with joy (not before making a homecooked dinner and some sweet tea though, duh).
There are songs that describe things as "A Girl and Boy Thing" where we're told that "boys hate dumb tea parties, girls won't climb a tree, she'll start wearing make-up, he'll start noticin' her curves...that's how it's supposed to be" Um, I'm pretty sure I spent most of my childhood in a tree...any other ladies out there? Plus, there are many songs like "All-American Girl" where the father really wants a baby boy and is first disappointed to have a girl but then falls so in love with her because she's SO sweet and adorably cute looking that he's actually happy and says he'd ask for a girl child if asked again. I'M SORRY - I didn't know that 2015 America was actually just one child policy era China!?! My bad.
There's nothing wrong with wanting and enjoying being a sexy woman or man and wanting and loving sex or enjoying certain activities that we associate with being "feminine" or "masculine". What I take issue with, is the fact that rap music and other aspects of our society are so incredibly scrutinized while plenty of country allows for the intense objectification of women and the need for them to be either:
1) the young, hot girl that's an easy lay or a tease
2) the perfect, wholesome wife whose sole purpose is to re-affirm her husband's masculinity and make him proud by birthing and raising awesome babies
Both of these are valid and real components of being a woman...however, they are not the ONLY parts of being a woman that have value and substance. Nor are you any less of a woman if you don't express interest in being either of these two options. Nor are they the only things that deserve to be sung about.
I believe it is dangerous to analyze every aspect of our society, yet not bat an eyelid at country songs that reinforce narrow ideas of what it means to be a woman or man, and more importantly, downplay the amazing multi-faceted people that women are! How's that for one hell of an Amen? - that's right, Brantley Gilbert, I'm lookin' at you .