Popular music is something I do not follow closely anymore. As musicians were replaced by “beats” and poetic turns of phrase by crass, inane lyrics, my patience ran thin and I exited the pop music bandwagon. While there are still some popular groups and songs I enjoy, I no longer pay attention to most of what is happening in pop music today.
Since, however, I want to maintain some sense of the pulse and pace of my own culture, every few weeks I check the Billboard Top 100 and Apple’s iTunes charts to see what is popular with the kids these days. If you, like me, do not follow current trends in music, I recommend doing this from time to time. It’s fairly shocking, actually, and really exposes where our culture sits artistically, ideologically, and spiritually.
What struck me reading through lyrics and listening to snippets of several popular tunes last night was the consistent objectification of women. More than a dozen songs portrayed women as “bitches” or sex objects to be used by their “nigga” or some other crass term. Men were described as “players” whose sole purpose is making money, often through illegal methods, and handling their “bitches”. I apologize for the crass language here, but it drives home the point…today’s music is vulgar, rude, and describes a state of being that is unsustainable.
The #MeToo movement over the past few months purports to detest the descriptions of men and women used in popular songs today. On the surface the movement talks about empowering women and protecting them from unwanted sexual contact. But how can our culture take ourselves seriously when we talk out of both sides of our collective mouths? How can we affirm the vile descriptions of women in dozens of popular songs, elevating the “artists” who “sing” them to celebrity status, while simultaneously decrying the message their songs convey?
What we have here is a classic “chicken and the egg” scenario. Our society has created a cultural environment where women are portrayed as powerful and in control of themselves and men are portrayed as lotharios who have that “24 karat magic”. When we saturate the minds of people with this imagery, reinforce it with blockbuster films like “Fifty Shades of Grey”, and award its purveyors with trophies and money and fame, why should we be surprised when women are damaged by men who revel in messages that degrade women?
I would never advocate a return to “old school” gender roles and stereotypes because those were just as broken as today’s insanity. However, to escape future pain and conflict between men and women we would be wise to affirm positive imagery for our young people. Without delving into real or perceived differences in genders, I hope we could all agree that teaching people to realize their intrinsic value and the value inherent in others is paramount to escaping the cultural malaise reflected in today’s music and movements.
People desire to be valued, protected, and loved. Songs that degrade women, and men for that matter, and reduce them to stereotypes should not be applauded. Perhaps if we denigrated the vulgar tripe pulsing in the ears of people today, we might open people’s minds and spark their creativity and teach them kindness for others so that future #MeToo movements won’t be necessary.