Friday, July 26, 2013

What we can learn from empowerment through degrading music

Chelsea Fagan recently wrote an article on Thought Catalog about how she is empowered by music that degrades women.  I could totally relate to the article, however, I still respectfully disagree with many of her arguments.  What I noticed first and foremost was that most her arguments surrounded on dancing at a club scene and she actually says that she never pays attention to the lyrics.  Key phrase their she never pays attention to the lyrics

I felt particularly compelled to write this post because after I wrote my own piece on "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke, I had a few ladies ask me to write about feeling conflicted.  I love music and often times the music that I feel compelled to dance to, especially while in college had tons of vulgarity.  Fagan could definitely relate, as one her arguments stated this as almost like a celebration of the female form.
These songs, the ones we grow up dancing to, whose vulgar lyrics we barely even pay attention to, are an almost circus-like celebration of the hypnotic beauty of the female form. In that moment, so many of the girls on the dance floor were laughing and dancing together, feeling like the “sexy bitch” in the song and not finding it the least bit insulting.
I would ask Fagan to explore that concept further.  Why are these young women not insulted?  Why do we keep dancing to music that not only degrades women but is found to be acceptable?  I think it all surrounds that idea of what is and is not acceptable.  What attracted me to the song, "Blurred Lines" was the beat.  It's incredibly catchy and does a great job of disguising lines like T.I.'s third verse which contains violent, sexual language.  Similar concepts are found all throughout society.  In shopping for things for my bestie's Bachelorette Party, I came across so many things that were labeled "Bachelorette Bitches," "Bachelorette Sluts," "Bachelorette Teases."  As a celebration about women  before getting married, I found it very misleading.  I don't want to put too much judgment here but I don't think that's ok.  In college, you could find me and my sorority sisters chanting "here are my bitches" all of the time, usually under the influence of alcohol.  However, why did I find this ok?  I suppose women find it as a way to empower themselves in a culture that was created by men.  Now you might directly say this is why I say x, y, and z, but when you hear it enough and change the tone everything seems okay.  Typically "bitch," "cunt," "slut," etc. are used as a way to smack a girl down verbally.  It's not a term of endearment yet as a way to empower ourselves, you can hear numerous girls using it on the daily. 

I do think that Fagan is onto something with her reference of dancing to this music as a "circus-like celebration of the hypnotic beauty of the female form."  However, would we feel just as sensual and sexy without words like "bitch" and phrases like "tear that ass," interwoven throughout verses?  I would argue yes, we would feel just as sensual and seductive without degrading terminology.  In fact we would own it because my argument is that regardless of the music playing, if a woman feels confident in herself, she'll work it.  What Fagan doesn't explore is the violence and history behind these words.  As much as I want to applaud women for feeling sexy regardless of the environment or what music, media, magazines, etc. presents them, I think this is actually problematic.  To me it seems like Fagan is providing a cop out.  Regardless of how inappropriate music artists are with their song lyrics, we should still dance because dancing makes us feel sexy.  What?
The points of incoherence to which our sexuality and femininity can drive musicians and artists is simply astounding, and the songs which portray men as completely stupefied by the booty shaking in front of them, seem to reflect more poorly on the men for whom they speak than anything else. To take the lyrics in this song, to own them completely and say to oneself as a woman, “Yes, we are sexy and appealing. You do wish you could be with us. And maybe, if you play your cards right and we decide we like you, we’ll let it happen” is an experience that I and I believe many other women find incredibly empowering.
Something about this just doesn't sit right with me.  I'll try my best to explain why but I think it's just the concept that seems like it's straight from the 50s.  A theme of men are sexual hunters and women need to control themselves because men simply can't.  Nothing about this sits well me and this thought process still remains today.  What I found particularly amusing is that Fagan changes the lyrics.  No where are you going to find a rap artist that says she is sexually appealing and you're most definitely not seeing lyrics that say if I play my cards right and there is consent, we might have the opportunity to spend more time together.  When pigs fly Fagan, that's not what music artists are saying.  It's usually quite violent or calling women a multitude of names. 

In the comments, I saw over and over again people using the argument that people who aren't comfortable with themselves or their sexuality are the only ones who find this as a problem.  I couldn't help but laugh.  I'm incredible comfortable with myself as a woman and with my sexuality.  I'm a staunch feminist who is an advocate for open-minded and open-conversation sexual health education.  So when I hear that argument, all that keeps running in my mind is that you as a person are excusing a violent and demeaning use of lyrics as acceptable.  When a young girl is growing up in a society, she should have the choice to embrace her individual sexuality.  Maybe she feels empowered by the word cunt or maybe she feels empowered when she feels like a goddess.  Regardless, she shouldn't feel that being called a bitch or a slut should be equated to her being in charge of her sexuality.  Words that are used over and over again to demean women shouldn't be seen as a term of endearment when they're still used in violence against women. 

I'm all for women embracing their sexuality, I think it's an important aspect for life.  But I honestly feel like Fagan's article is showing how people choose to ignorant towards greater societal issues because ignorance is bliss.

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1 comment :

  1. Yes! This is the type of dialogue that I'm interested in having, linking up about and ultimately being an effective change agent in. As an advisor to college women, this crazy "acceptable" standard made it very difficult for me to enjoy my work because I wanted so much more for the collegians and it seemed they were poisoned under a haze of alcohol and untruths about their worth, beauty and purpose. Whew! I'm getting heated here. A great documentary, if you haven't seen it, is "Miss Representation", I'd be willing to send you my copy if you don't know anyone locally that has a copy. I strongly feel that every woman (and man) ought to watch it and be prepared to take a stand against this low standard of the value of women. And as far as ignorance being bliss, another lie - ignorance is just that...ignorant.