Many aspects of our society have been rightfully scrutinised and criticised for propagating sexist and misogynist attitudes and opinions. Amongst these are the fashion industry, printed media, advertising and certain genres of music.
In this context I have recently thought a lot about the influence media has on people’s attitudes to women and to violence against women. Having listened to a lot of rock and heavy metal whilst growing up, I specifically thought a lot about what kind of attitudes these music genres convey to listeners (who are often male). Much to my shame, I only recently started to realise (retrospectively) how depictions of women in these music genres are often very violent, hateful, degrading, spiteful, inhumane and horrible.
I feel that in this day and age it has become a cliché to point to hip-hop and rap artists for their offensive and misogynist lyrics and music videos and give everything else “the green light”. I think the problem is more widespread than rap and hip-hop and that patriarchy leaves its sexist, misogynist trail in all kinds of music. Just take a look at a few sample lyrics of some well-known and “cult” bands of the rock and heavy metal genres:
*TRIGGER WARNING* – graphic descriptions sex, sexual violence, rape, murder, objectification, sexism and racism
what a teenage queen
she lookin' so clean,
especially down in between"
Wang Dang sweet poon-tang – Ted Nugent (1976)
"White girls they're pretty funny, sometimes they drive me mad
Black girls just wanna get fucked all night, I just don't have that much jam
Chinese girls are so gentle, they're really such a tease
You never know quite what they're cookin', inside those silky sleeves"
Some Girls – Rolling Stones (1978)
"She take you down easy
Going down to her knees
Going down to the devil
Down down at ninety degrees
she blowing me crazy
'Til my ammunition is dry...
...On she's no Mona Lisa
No she's no playboy star
But she'll send you to heaven
Then explode you to Mars
She's using her head again...
I'm justa giving the dog a bone”
Givin' the dog a bone – AC/DC (1980)
"Coming back to London on a 747
stewardess made me feel like I'm in heaven
looking up the aisle to see what I could see
she leaned over said; Give it to me
white apron, brown leather shoes
the nurse at the clinic left my heart all bruised
gave me a massage, sprained my right
now she takes my temperature every night"
Women in Uniform – Iron Maiden (1980)
"My cat is purring
and scratches my skin
so what is wrong
with another sin
the bitch is hungry
she needs to tell
so give her inches
and feed her well"
Rock you like a hurricane – Scorpions (1984)
"Panties 'round your knees
with your ass in debris
doin' that grind with a push and squeeze
tied up, tied down, up against the wall
be my rubbermade baby
and we can do it all"
Anything goes – Guns N Roses (1987)
"Yankee girls ya just can't beat
but they're the best
when they're off their feet"
Girls, Girls, Girls – Motley Crue (1987)
"She is waiting to kiss my hand
but she will wait for my command
my chains and collar brought her
to her knees,
she now is free to please
woman, be my slave
that's your reason to live"
Pleasure Slave – ManoWar (1988)
an object of animation
a subjective mannequin
beaten into submission
raping again and again
shackled my princess
dangling in distress
here to discipline
my sole purpose never ends
bleeding on your knees
my satisfaction is what I need
the urge to take my fist
and violate every orifice”
Sex. Murder, Art. – Slayer (1994)
"I feel her heart beating
my knife deep inside
her crotch is bleeding
she liked the way it felt inside
fucking her, harder, harder"
Fucked with a knife - Cannibal Corpse (1994)
"Cutting with the knife
blood is spilling everywhere
she will be my wife...
her beauty so illogical
the beast come gliding in
stripped down to her skin"
Helena – The Misfits (1999)
"Ass up high
make a motherfucker cry
it's so good that I could die
help me stay alive
the time is right
I wanna feel if you're tight
I'm down to do this all night
I'm gonna beat it up right
we're going on a ride
I'm gonna turn you inside-out, upside down
don't try to run and hide
yes it's true what they say about my kind
are you ready for a good pounding baby?
are you ready to get it on?
don't pretend you're not fucking freaky baby
I will spank that ass just for fun"
Beat it upright – Korn (2002)
"I like your pants around your feet
I like the dirt that's on your knees
and I like the way you still say please
while you're looking up at me...
and I love the way you pass the check
and I love the good times that you wreck
and I love your lack of self respect
while you're passed out on the deck
I love my hands around your neck”
Figured you out – Nickelback (2003)
"Hey you, Mrs. too-good-to-look-my-way and
that's cool you want nothing at all to do with me.
but I want you, ain't nothing wrong with wanting you
cause I'm a man and I can think what the hell I want,
you got that straight?
no doubt that (no doubt) I'd love to (I'd love)
sniff on them panties now....
I’d eat you alive!! - I'd eat you alive....."
Eat you alive – Limp Bizkit (2003)
"Crawlin' 'cross the floor
at the Holiday Inn motel
saw that girl that my swamp bone
knew so well”
Alley-Gator – ZZ Top (2003)
"I wanna fuck you like a foreign film
and there’s no subtitles to get you through this
and I’m a country you don’t ever ever ever ever
want to visit again...
I want to kill you like they do in the movies
but don’t worry there’s another one just
just like you in line"
I Want to Kill You Like They Do in the Movies – Marilyn Manson (2009)
These songs are clearly sexist and misogynistic (whilst Some Girls is also racist), with some glorifying violence against women, specifically the rape and murder of women. Sure, there will be people who say that these lyrics should not be taken seriously, that they are in fact a “joke” or that these are “just fantasies”. But where do these so-called jokes and fantasies originate? What makes these men feel like this is OK to think, record and sell content like this as entertainment?
Surely these thoughts and feelings stem from societies that approves the domination, submission, degradation and hatred of womankind, which are then reinforced, perpetuated and communicated to wider audiences through the medium of music. But what messages do these lyrics give young boys and men? How does it affect their relationships with women and their view of the world?
I am glad to see that the Home Office (2010) published a review of the sexualisation of young people in February, that addresses some of these points. The report recommends a watershed for music videos on TV and songs on the radio. A good idea, but ultimately, I think there also need to be age restriction certificates for music, like we have for films. Songs such as the ones by Cannibal Corpse, Slayer and Marilyn Manson especially need to have an 18 certificate at least – or ideally they should be prohibited from being sold.
I know people will respond with fears of censorship and will quote “freedom of speech”. And believe me, I used to be one of those people. Now, I would definitely be up for having a discussion about this however. I think that ultimately songs like the ones I quoted above show how rife sexism and misogyny is and I I think the attitudes these songs promote do a lot of harm. I don’t think a CD featuring a song like “Fucked with a knife” would be available to purchase on Amazon or any music store HMV if it the violence it depicted was race-based rather than sex-based – something I find hypocritical. We are all human beings and it should not matter what the context of a song is – be it race, sexuality, disability or sex. Right is right and wrong is wrong. Hopefully, reports such as the one by the Home Office (2010) will lead to government and the general public to become more aware of the wide-ranging issues at play when it comes to violence against women and we will start protecting women more.
Home Office (2010) Sexualisation of Young People. Available at: https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20100408115835/http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/Sexualisation-young-people.html [Accessed 17 March 2021]
Note: This article was originally posted on http://wakeuptopatriarchy.wordpress.com. Reprinted with permission.