Why are misogynistic lyrics so popular?
It's a hot summer day, and you're cruising around in your friend's car -- the windows rolled down, the breeze blowing through your hair, the stereo blasting enough bass to shake an entire neighborhood. You close your eyes and breathe in the smell of freshly cut grass. Then suddenly, you're startled by a loud, booming voice.
"Now I don't wanna hit no women when this chick's got it coming/ someone better get this bitch before she gets kicked in the stomach/ and she's pregnant, but she's egging me on, begging me to throw her/ off the steps of this porch, my only weapon is force…"
; Maybe this voice disgusts you. Maybe it terrifies you. Maybe you just listen to it "for the beat." Or maybe you know all the words and sing along.
In any case, you probably recognize these lyrics from "The Eminem Show," for which the artist received the Best Rap Album award at this year's Grammys.
This is not a meditation on Eminem, who has already received far more attention than his talents as an artist or social commentator merit. He gets plenty of flak for his woman-hating lyrics, but he is merely one of many artists in the music industry who are cashing in big on sexism and misogyny.
Consider Nelly's "Hot in Herre," in which he instructs women to take off their clothes and asks "what good is all the fame if you ain't (expletive) models?" Or West Coast rapper Nate Dogg's newest track, "I Need Me a Bitch," changed to "I Need Me a Chick" for the radio: "I need me a chick, who ain't scared to flirt/ I need me a chick, in the middle of the grocery store she'll lift up her skirt/ I need me a chick, like I need my crew/ I need me a chick to pass on to my boys as soon as I get through."
Bleeping out the dirty words doesn't hide the message: Women are objects, to be used and tossed away.
Don't get me wrong: I am a firm believer in free speech. Neither do I wish to detract from hip-hop itself as an art form -- there are many artists out there with authentic messages. What I don't understand is why huge audiences are so turned on by the glorification of violence toward women. The hip-hop artists who top the charts are consistently those who express virulent forms of sexism in their music. This music isn't created in a vacuum; it's a reflection of what our society wants and what record companies know will sell.
Ironically, when female voices emerge to challenge misogyny, it is often they who are silenced. Take, for example, the poet and activist Sarah Jones, who in 2000 released a hip-hop single called "Your Revolution." Drawing inspiration from "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" by Gil Scott Heron, she wove sexist lyrics from existing songs that get radio play to create a declaration against misogyny and to call for respect toward women in hip-hop culture. "Your Revolution" was labeled "indecent" by the FCC and banned from radio waves for nearly two years while the very same songs she criticized continued to play. After a long legal battle, the censorship was finally rescinded.
"The real revolution ain't about booty size, the Versaces you buys, or the Lexus you drives," Jones sings. "And the real revolution, when it finally comes, it's gon' be real."
I hope she's right. I've had enough.
To read more about Sarah Jones vs. the FCC -- and to hear "Your Revolution" -- visit www.sarahjonesonline.com.
Katie Assef is a senior at John Marshall High School. To respond to an opinion column, call 252-1111, category TEEN (8336); write Teen Beat, Post-Bulletin, P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903-6118 or send e-mail email@example.com.