In August, I got an iPhone. It was primarily because I now have a job for which I need my email to be accessible as often as possible, as well as my poor sense of direction causing me to constantly get lost. One of most random yet significant benefits, however, is that it has allowed me to listen to the radio. I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and, among other stupid neuroticisms, get extremely stressed out if I have to listen to music where I don’t know the words. Due to Shazam being the best app ever (it allows you to identify songs being played using your phone), I have been able to discover lots of new artists and songs that I would not have otherwise. However, I have also found that I enjoy a lot of artists whose lyrics and lives I find somewhat deplorable. I genuinely enjoy some sexist music, and I’m having a hard time trying to reconcile that.
Via the wonderful world of Shazam, I realized I liked a Justin Bieber song. Actually, this wasn’t sexist or conflicting so much as a little “?!” on my part, but I very quickly accepted it because who cares, right? I also realized I have a huge soft spot for Ke$ha; while I think she is just so bizarre and sometimes her voice makes my stomach feel strange, I admittedly played, “Die Young” on New Year’s Eve like seven times because it’s goddamn catchy. But then…then I realized I liked several Chris Brown songs. And that, for lack of a better expression, confused the shit out of me.
First off, I absolutely consider myself a feminist. I don’t think there needs to be a cool, new, fresh way of calling myself that, nor do I think that we’ve somehow moved past the need for it. The first tattoo I ever got with a feminist symbol because I knew it was an ideal I would not and could not (barring any brain transplant or some sort of serious disassociative disorder) outgrow and leave behind. I want for people of all genders to be treated and seen as equals. Insert peace signs and tie-dye shirts.
So how is it that somebody who identifies as a feminist can enjoy music written by a known woman abuser, misogynist and overall childish douchebag? I have no idea.
For a while, I thought it was because I have always loved dancing and while doing so, it’s rare that you wind up listening to lyrics word-for-word and keeping track of their societal value. Then, of course, I had to ruin this by paying attention to the actual words of some of the songs I was regularly out dancing to. For example, Brown’s “Look At Me Now,” which my old roommates and I used to listen to on repeat regularly:
Better cuff your chick if you with her, I can get her
And she accidentally slip and fall on my dick
Oops, I said on my dick
I ain’t really mean to say on my dick
But since we talking about my dick
All of you haters say hi to it, I’m done.
He’s no William Carlos Williams. I know. There are no tasty plums. Just dicks. SO MANY DICKS. But I know all those words, and that is confusing, and I feel like an asshole because of it.
I have friends, some of whom call themselves feminist and some who do not (both of which are fine, so long as you still believe in gender equality and, yes, I am judging people do not), who absolutely hate this type of music. They think it is garbage and terrible and full of gross, unpleasant lyrics that reduce women to “bitches,” “sluts” and sex objects. When I’ve driven with people and put on Lil Wayne, Chris Brown and most pop music, for that matter, I have almost always received looks of confusion and protests of, “Wait, seriously?”
I usually don’t know how to defend myself about this topic; it is sort of difficult to say, “Hell yes, I love this song that talks about women’s throats and vaginas like they were garbage disposals.” I find the actual lyrics abhorrent, but what does that mean for me and my personality that I still find myself enjoying the songs themselves?
Well, I have come to the conclusion that it means very little — hopefully. I can still think Chris Brown is a shitty person because of his behavior towards other people. I do not need to pretend I hate his music just because I dislike him. I can still be opposed to artists who do unpleasant, terrible things without forcing myself to pretend their music is bad. I do not need to tweet about how awesome it would be to have Brown punch me in the face or defend his actions when people criticize him because his personal life is a completely separate topic.
As much as I would love to say that all of my music taste follows along the same vein as how I feel about humanity and what’s right versus wrong, I would be lying if I did. I am not always (or even often) an excellent moral role model, and neither is my Last.FM. I want to be, and I really try to uphold my beliefs in how I behave, but I can’t help what music I wind up liking.
I love Savage’s “Swing.” I love several Chris Brown songs. I love Big Sean/Nicki Minaj’s “Dance (A$$) and Duke Dumont’s “Street Walker” (which isn’t really sexist but the music video is rather ridiculous) and and Manic Street Preacher’s (despite their cover art) sometimes even a little John Mayer when I’m nostalgic for middle school. I feel weird admitting this all online because I’m pretty sure more than one of you is shaking your said thinking, “You hypocritical idiot with bad taste in music, I think I hate you a little bit,” but there it is.
That said, I still feel very guilty. I wish the lyrics were different. Music is a means by which certain beliefs are spread and, as evidenced in the Killing Us Softly documentaries, music videos have had a hugely negative impact on how young people (both male and female) see women. The more that sexist music and lyrics are circulated, the more people find that type of mindset socially acceptable, and that’s not okay. Unfortunately, separating your beliefs from your taste is like trying to separate an egg yolk and continuously getting shell in it; it really just depends on how much moral obligation we see ourselves as having with regard to what we choose to listen to and enjoy.
Yes, I am definitely a feminist. And I am definitely into pop music. Can those live side-by-side in my life? They already are, I think, but I’m still not sure what that says about me: am I indecisive? Hypocritical? Probably. But I am also trying to be as honest as I possibly can, as I think that that’s the best (albeit only) way to figure out how and why we feel the way we do.
Pictures supplied by WENN.