Misogyny in the Music Industry

By: Jordan Martin

Misogyny is deeply rooted into many parts of our culture. Many women and young girls are afraid to admit to liking things that are traditionally considered feminine such as the color pink, glittery items, makeup, and more because they fear they will be looked down upon. Some types of music also fall into the “things girls like” category making it receive more disapproval or be taken less seriously. Music that has predominantly female listeners or that is created by a woman is negatively analyzed in ways that other music is not. Female artists have to fight to be taken seriously. They are much more likely to be asked if they write their own music than male artists. There is more emphasis on their character, how athletic their performances are, what they’re wearing, who they’re dating, what their bodies look like, and if they’ve had cosmetic procedures done. A prime example of a woman in the music industry who has endured sexism throughout her career is Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift writes about her harshest heartbreaks and greatest love stories. This is something that music has been dedicated to for centuries, and something that is written about by most, if not all, artists. However, Taylor is criticized for it. When women write about these things, they are deemed as whiney and dramatic, while their male counterparts are seen as heartfelt and relatable. It’s not just men who will hate on Taylor Swift. Women will also join in and hate on her to feel cooler or “not like other girls”. Of course, the simple preference of not liking her music is not participating in misogynistic trends, but many will make fun of her to be seen as less mainstream or more authentic. I wonder why Taylor is harassed on talk shows about how many men she has dated or written songs about while artists like Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, Niall Horan, and more are not. I wonder why listening to a breakup song by Taylor Swift is less genuine than one written by Frank Ocean. 

I also think it is important to speak on the controversy surrounding Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s 2020 summer hit single, WAP. The song is about women owning their sexuality and contains terms frequently used against women. The discussion around the song made me think a lot about the policing of women’s sexuality. Women in the media are expected to cater to the male gaze, while simultaneously being shamed for displaying their own sexuality. If you are a fan of American rap music you know that the lyrics are often very explicit. This is perfectly fine for male artists, but when Cardi and Megan use those words in their songs it is outrageous and they’re bad role models. Many listeners want to know why male rappers’ explicit, sexual, and violent lyrics are not torn apart like the lyrics from WAP. 

Alongside female artists, primarily female fan bases are also often not respected. Fans of artists such as Taylor Swift, Megan Thee Stallion, and One Direction are stereotyped and looked down upon. The most popular judgment to hit One Direction was that their music was enjoyed by young women. It is suggested that just because the band’s fans are mainly teen girls that ensures that they lack substance. The Beatles are a great illustration of how public perception of a band shifts to be more positive when their fan demographic shifts from female to male. Similarly to One Direction, it was mainly teenage girls that launched them into fame in the 1960’s. Without those young women, The Beatles would have never taken off and become the icons they are today. Back in the 60’s, their young female fans were looked at in the same negative light that fangirls are looked at today. Fast forward to 2021, The Beatles have more male fans than they used to, and therefore it is cooler to be a fan. Their music has not changed, their behavior has not changed, the only thing that has changed is the gender of their fans. It is by how many male fans an artist has that defines how worthy their music is of being listened to. And with people taking these artists more seriously because of their percentage of male listeners, people will doubt female listeners’ knowledge of the band’s songs or motives for listening. Triviality is assumed in female music fans. It was young women that gave The Beatles their fame, and yet there are still young women whose interest in the music is something to be proved rather than accepted.  

Misogyny lives in almost every piece of our culture and defines a lot of the music industry. Pop music is not respected as a genre because of its perceived femininity, female artists are torn to pieces in the media, and female fans experience sexism frequently. This is not something that will just disappear. We need to be calling out men and women who perpetuate the hate on femininity, and start lifting up women in the music industry. It is time we stop portraying women like Taylor Swift as crazy, expecting female rappers to be better role models than male rappers, hating on artists with female fanbases, and disrespecting female fans. It is time that we start having open conversations about this issue, and working to get women in music the respect they deserve.

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