Taking a Stand against Sexism in the Music Industry

Illustration by Austen Rodgers

Women are subject to sexualization even when they are equally qualified performers


Music is one of most powerful tools in the world. It can influence people’s minds, resonate with them, and inspire hope, peacefulness, energy, and happiness. Unfortunately, in today’s society, that power has been abused. We have become desensitized to the objectifying nature that today’s top hits entail.  In today’s music, women are too often painted as sex objects — in lyrics, and, especially, in music videos.

I have always been aware that the objectification of women in music is present, but it never truly bothered me until recently. I was sitting on my bed listening to “iSpy” by KYLE when I stopped for a second and really thought about the meaning of the lyrics I was listening to. Women were being called derogatory terms and the singer himself declared that he could have a woman because she “doesn’t get too many likes.” I stopped my music, turned to my roommate, and asked “Have you ever noticed how much women are objectified in music? It’s disgusting.” She agreed with me, which helped, and yet I couldn’t let the feeling go. Don’t we all  play into the sexualizing and objectification of women?

If I were to hear the words of today’s rap and song lyrics in the form of conversation between two people, I know I would be mortified. But, on the radio, shouted at SAC Dances, and blasting through my headphones, it seems as though I have grown up learning to accept it.

The next time I really thought about this topic was when one of my favorite songs, “I’m the One,” by DJ Khaled was initially released. I searched “I’m the One” on YouTube, and his new music video popped up. I was mortified by what I saw. In the first couple of scenes, a woman wearing only a bra and booty shorts rides up to a mansion on a horse; the next shot is a close-up of  another woman’s g-string-clad bottom. The woman turns, and DJ Khaled and Justin Bieber are standing on platforms in a pool, surrounded by dancing women. That’s when  it really hit me—these woman virtually have no part in the meaning of this song. It’s completely about glorifying the men. The sole purpose of these women is to be objects of sex. Why has society accepted this when so many feminist movements are so strong?

Songs such as “Pretty Girl” by Maggie Lindemann prove that it’s not just men contributing to sexism in music. In this song, Lindemann tries to establish herself as better than other women because she smokes and drinks. Gina Prince-Bythewood, a director who interviewed female singers about this topic for a film “Beyond the Lights,” told the Huffington Post, “I don’t think anyone envisioned themselves becoming famous and singing about, you know, getting high and drunk and sleeping with everybody. That’s not what you envision as a little girl.” She stated that the fear of failure, tied with not having a strong sense of self confidence, leads female artists to sexualize themselves unintentionally.

Sexualization in music is absolutely not a recent progression. Most people are familiar with the song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, which was climbed the charts in 2013. People did take much time to process the horrific meaning behind the song, but it continued to be popular anyway. The song goes far beyond the sexulization of women — its lyrics entail sexual assault. The chorus goes, “But you’re a good girl/ The way you grab me/ must want to get nasty… I know you want it/ I know you want it/ I know you want it… I hate these blurred lines/ I know you want it/ I know you want it/ I know you want it.” The song continues describing sexual scenes in a derogatory manner. When this song came out, I listened to it and sang its lyrics. Although I was aware of its sexual manner, I never realized what it truly meant.

Music has and continues to create amazing things, such as the recent spurt in music on the topic of black culture, demonstrated by parts of Kendrick Lamar’s new album, DAMN. I am not trying to convey that today’s music is inferior to music in the past. But the next time you turn on your workout playlist or walk into a SAC Dance, just be aware of the lyrics you are running to and shouting. Do we really want our culture to be desensitized to the objectification of women?

One Comment

  1. I am so glad you pointed out the blatant sexism in ‘Pretty Girl’. The whole song is about shaming femininity. ‘Keeping up with the guys’ does not make you a more valuable person. I feel as if you are currently only able to be respected as a woman if you act like a stereotypical man.

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