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Last week I published an article titled Music, Misogyny and Rape Culture. In it, I discussed instances of misogyny, objectification of women and reasons why these aspects of some popular musics contribute to a rape culture.

Often, these are regarded as women’s issues or – even worse – feminist issues. However, while gender inequality is certainly most disadvantageous to women, it also affects men. This happens very much in the same way as it does with women; promotion of stereotypes, gender roles and misrepresentations. Take this musical example from 2009;

This David Guetta hit, imaginatively titled Sexy Bitch, was an international success and UK number one. Although, what the song achieved in sales quantity, it seriously lacked of in artistic quality. More specifically, lyrical quality. Here’s the first verse;

Yes I can see her
Cause every girl in here wanna be her
Oh shes a diva
I feel the same and I wanna meet her

They say she low down
Its just a rumor and I don’t believe em
They say she needs to slow down
The baddest thing around town

Okay, the usual cliche’s and a bit of regular old misogyny – nothing to see here. The male narrator is merely an observer at the moment – the female is the focus – so we don’t know much about him. In the chorus though, some personality shines through;

She’s nothing like a girl you’ve ever seen before
Nothing you can compare to your neighborhood girl
I’m tryna find the words to describe this girl without being disrespectful
The way that booty movin’ I can’t take no more
Have to stop what I’m doin so I can pull her close
I’m tryna find the words to describe this girl without being disrespectful

As you may be thinking, when I said ‘personality shines through’, I should’ve added ‘ to reveal an empty vessel’. Well, at least we know a wee bit more about this guy;

1. he enjoys watching that booty movin’.

and 2. He has a very limited vocabulary.

Seriously, if you can’t think of the words to describe someone without being disrespectful, I need no longer argue. Nevertheless, for this article’s sake (i.e. my own pleasure), I will continue.

‘I can’t take no more’ is a bit of a cliche. It’s also very animalistic in this context – as if the man cannot control his lustful urge to ‘pull her close’ and, presumably, dance with his subject. He even has to ‘STOP WHAT [HE’S] DOING!’  – he can’t be tamed!

Jason Derulo’s Talk Dirty is a similarly bleak example that depicts the male as a nut-brained, single minded imbecile;

Been around the world, don’t speak the language
But your booty don’t need explaining
All I really need to understand is
When you talk dirty to me
Talk dirty to me
Talk dirty to me

Right, I realise that looking for high quality literature within a pop song is a bit like watching the X-Factor for talented musicians. But, however pointless these endeavours may be, the unashamed blandness of these examples do well to illuminate the dilution of our culture with their tedious depictions of humanity.

It should be clear that this stereotypical portrayal of men, like that of women, is not unique to modern pop music. Def Leppard’s 1987 single Animal encapsulates this lustful hysteria in a particularly overt manner;

                                                        I gotta feel it in my blood                                                       whoa oh
                                          I need your touch don’t need your love                                    whoa oh

                                                                     And I want                                                                      and I need
                                                                     and I lust                                                                       animal

The interesting thing about expressions of lust and animalistic comparisons in popular music is that they often seem to define masculinity. In Pink Floyd’s Young Lust, the narrator needs a ‘dirty woman’ to make him ‘feel like a real man.’ The heavy riffage of Nickelback’s Animals emulates the revving of a car engine – gaining extra points in manliness – and provides the background to the story of a late-night rendezvous between the narrator and his companion. It even contains the ever-old signifier of male one-up-manship and naughtiness – hiding from her dad;

 ‘I guess they knew that she was missing as I tried to tell her dad it was her mouth that I was kissing.’ 

(Pearl Jam’s Animalin which Eddie Vedder proclaims ‘I’d rather be with an animal’, is perhaps a seperate matter.)

The insatiable temptation displayed by the protagonist of these songs would be fine, I suppose, if it didn’t provide the man with a sense of entitlement – but, of course, it does. Their want and need for sexual pleasure defines them as men, and women (as we all know) are there only to satisfy them. As Jarune Uwujaren writes, ‘All of these normal behaviors seem harmless when looked at individually, but they are symptoms of a larger cultural attitude that overvalues male sexuality and expects female sexuality to exist for male pleasure.’

The picture of masculinity painted in these songs is that of a sociopathic and underdeveloped pseudo-human being, lacking in empathy, introspect and free will. The male is defined by the explicit nature of his sexuality.

Sorry to bring up Robin Thicke again, but I feel it is relevant to mention his website which describes his 2009 album Sex Therapy as ‘an album that created a fantasy world of eroticism, while still dealing with the honest struggle a man has with seduction, loneliness and betrayal.’

The honest struggle a man has with seduction. Mirroring the previous examples, this paints the male as an easily enticed neanderthal who has failed to evolve. He is unable to suppress his own egotistical desires. There’s a part of me that is tempted to believe that is true, honestly. Though, considering the misrepresentation of women in all aspects of the media, it is entirely plausible to believe that these traits are also based on mainstream media falsehoods. And who tries to seduce you more than the mainstream media?

In a lecture last year, Dr. Gail Dines explained the social construction of masculinity and – speaking to her male audience – opened with the following statement;

‘Feminists are your best friends. We are the only group that really believes in your humanity. The feminists are the only group who believe that you are not born rapists, you are not born Johns, you are not born pimps or batterers – in fact, we believe you are born with the full human capacity that women are born with. And we believe, unlike the pornographers, that you are not life support systems for erect penises.’

Dines’ comments are refreshing when compared to the usual depictions of men I have discussed in this article. It is welcomed now, particularly – at a time when this satirical Daily Mash article could actually be believed. Furthermore, I support Dines’ statement and attest that all who are willing to evaluate and bring light to our cultural prejudices and misrepresentations should be given thoughtful consideration.

I know many are dismissive of the influence popular culture can have on our society. And I know many are perfectly satisfied by the gender roles placed upon us by others. However, I believe the rejection of stereotypes and the production of truly representative music is beneficial to all. So, maybe we should, at least, start listening.

David Jolly

@davidjolly52

What’s your opinion? Should we accept these stereotypical gender roles? How do they impact you? Please let me know below!

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One thought on “Animals: (Mis)Representations of Men in Popular Music

  1. Yes because the way Beyonce, Demi Lavato, and other numerous female “artists” who portray men as lowlife, good for nothing ATM machines are clearly the ones helping the situation.

    Seriously do not even get me started on “Ring on it” or “To the left” or “Heart Attack”. Those three songs perfectly encapsulate why artists like Akon sing about bitches and ho’s.

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