It is no secret that music is often a tool to empower and uplift people. From protest songs like “Fuck the Police” by N.W.A., to girl power anthems such as “Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves” by Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin, music can be a great source of empowerment. This, however, does not mean all songs are made equal, and there are many popular songs that have seen immense success that are also deeply misogynistic. People often think of Hip Hop as the home of misogyny in music, but this is far from the case. While rap music has a long history of graphic and often sexist lyrics, it is unfair to pin musical misogyny exclusively on the shoulders of the Hip Hop genre. Sexism can be found in every corner of the industry, below are simply 5 sexist songs that come to mind when thinking of misogyny in music.
5. Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne
Starting with, “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne. Released in 2007, this song has been praised by some, over the years as a feminist anthem. At first listen the song exhales the empowerment of a woman going after what she wants. However, “Girlfriend” plays on a trope that occurs in music all too often, the “I’m better than her and I’m not like other girls” narrative. Other songs from this era that do this are “Misery Business” by Paramore and “Better than Revenge” by Taylor Swift. All of these songs share the identical trait of pitting women against one another. Feminist music doesn’t tell us there is one correct way to be a woman and the slut shaming in these songs is hurtful. More so, when you know you relate more to the girls that are being hated on in these songs, rather than their supposed protagonists.
4. Stupid Girls by P!nk
Second is, “Stupid Girls” by Pink, which follows the same tune as “Girlfriend” and its ilk. Pink crafted this tune back in 2006, which not only says she isn’t like other girls but explains that the girls she hates only act the way they do for male validation. In the song she sings, “maybe if I act like that, that guy will call me back”, which translates as, if I act dumb men will like me more. Pink has been an icon for many women, but this song, satirical or not, just reinforced a common idea at the time that girls need to play dumb and dress up for male attention. This is not the message we need to send to our girls, even when the point of the song is to say you shouldn’t do that. We don’t slate or mock women for their intellect or appearance, especially in 2023.
3. Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke
In third place, we have “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell. This is without a doubt the most sexist song to hit number 1 in 2013. Concerningly so, as it is a song about excusing sexual assault and belittling women. In the song, Thicke tells us how she is a “good girl” and how he knows “she wants it”. It normalises ignoring or downplaying women’s boundaries and their consent. It praises masculine men who ‘domesticate’ women and don’t respect the meaning of “no”. If it is any consolation, Thicke’s then-wife, Paula, divorced him and even after writing an album named after her to get her back, she understandably, didn’t want anything to do with the king of rape anthems. He was also handed the ‘Sexist of the Year’ award by the End Violence Against Women Coalition and faced backlash for his behaviour.
2. Kim by Eminem
The next sexist song is undoubted, “Kim” by Eminem. Eminem is one of the most controversial yet highly respected and praised artists in recent history, but his music is littered with sexism and homophobia. “Kim” is probably the most disturbing release in his discography, as he talks about his fantasy of violently murdering his actual ex-wife who is named after the song. In the song, Eminem talks about how this “bitch did him so wrong” and how she deserves to be beaten up for it. Eminem has covered domestic violence a number of times in his music, and normally it is done in a way that tells a story, not a twisted fantasy like in “Kim”. But with cases of domestic violence being a dominating worldwide issue, the last thing we need is mainstream artists idealising hurting women and encouraging brutality.
1. Ain’t No Fun by Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Warren G and Kurupt
The final sexist song ending our top 5 is, “Ain’t No Fun” by Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Warren G, and Kurupt. Now, I am aware I did say that we can’t blame Hip Hop single-handedly for misogyny in music, and I still stand by that, but this doesn’t mean that there isn’t sexism in Hip Hop. “Ain’t No Fun” is one of the worst offenders for glorifying gang sexual violence against women. The song’s message is that sexual relations aren’t enjoyable if there isn’t a train of men behind you to follow up on your advances. I am aware that group sex is not inherently violent or is it fundamentally wrong if consent is involved, but the message in this song doesn’t exactly scream ‘let’s do this consensually with all partners equally involved and interested’. This song is one of countless that treat women like vessels of sexual gratification instead of partners with desires, feelings, and limits of their own. It is, for this reason, it rounds off this brief dive into the misogyny that exists in the music industry and why it is just as crucial to be conscious of what songs you choose to listen to.