Who is Pop Music’s Good Girl?
Written By Maddy Crehan
I’m not going to lie, I absolutely loved Drake’s new song Hotline Bling when I first heard it. But the more I listened to it the more I began to hear the underlying sexism hidden within the catchy-ness. Misogyny in music is nothing new – it’s been happening in numerous genres for decades. Today, the the most obvious example of blatant sexism exists within rap and hip hop music. The descriptions of women, and the name-calling in these genres is so demeaning, but what frightens me more, is the subtle sexism in pop music that often goes unnoticed.
The easy-listening nature of pop music allows it to hide layers of inappropriate undertones, making it one of the more common forms of everyday sexism in our society. While many rappers, like Kanye West, are criticised for offensive lyrics like, “one good girl is worth a thousand bitches”, Drake’s continuous use of the term “good girl” is often viewed as harmless. Even if this phrase isn’t followed up by a sexist insult it is still incredibly demeaning because of the implied meaning behind each word:
‘Good’ in this context is commonly referring to a woman’s virtue and sexuality. It implies that a woman is only worthy of respect and love if she is pure. This is such an out-dated belief.
We are women – not girls. I cannot think of a more condescending term to call a grown woman. It is an attempt to exercise power and authority over us, implying we are weak and vulnerable and in need of protection.
Drake’s idea of a ‘good girl’ is a woman who “always stay[s] at home”, who has “been raised right” and is being “patient” (aka not sexually active while she waits for Drake to come rescue her). Music like this (and music in general) has become a tool for telling women how they should dress and behave in order to earn respect.Most male artists who use the term ‘good girl’, usually also sing about their extensive sexual history, bragging about all the ‘bitches’ and ‘hoes’ they’ve been with. But don’t worry – these women are bad, so it’s okay to ta;l about them like that (sigh). Eventually the self-proclaimed ‘hero’ will end up with the damsel in distress – the good girl. Does anyone else see the double standard here?
In Drake’s latest hit Hotline Bling, the story goes like this: he leaves his former girlfriend (presumably to be with various other women), and then comes back to town, shocked to find she’s moved on with her life. He then attempts to hide his jealousy by slut-shaming, and dictating her every move. Apparently “wearing less and going out more” is warrant for a petty revenge song (how dare she actually enjoy her life without Drake?!). To be fair, in an earlier song he did sing, “When I’m done with bad bitches, I’m coming straight to you good girl” so she really should learn to be more patient for Saint Drake.
Okay enough Drake-hating; he’s not alone in this game of who can sell the most records by degrading women. Here’s a list of seemingly innocent pop stars who use subtle sexism:
Justin Bieber in Favourite Girl: “My prize possession…You’re my special little lady”
Justin Timberlake in Like I Love You: “You’re a good girl and that’s what makes me trust ya”
Robin Thicke in Blurred Lines: “I know you want it. You’re a good girl”
One Direction in Little White Lies: “You say you’re a good girl, but I know you would girl, ‘cause you’ve been telling me all night, with your little white lies”
5 Seconds of Summer in Good Girl: “She’s a good girl, she’s daddy’s favourite”
Cobra Starship in Good Girls Go Bad: “I make them good girls go bad…I know your type, you’re daddy’s lil’ girl”
These lyrics are just outright creepy. But sexism is so entrenched in our society that we barely even notice it being reinforced, not only in music, but in the media as well. Every day we hear about women judged on their looks. Whether it’s a female politician being described as having sex appeal, a sports player or actress being asked about her appearance rather than her performance, or a female contestant on a talent show being told she has to be sexy, women are consistently being told that their social value is directly ties to their sexual appeal. And we are taught that from a young age. We have to learn to be sexy, without being sexual.
But the main reason sexism in pop music is so frightening is because of the amount of influence it has on young people, and their attitude towards women. In 2010, when asked about his song ‘I Wanna F**k Every Girl In The World’, Drake said “There’s a fine line between demeaning…and fun”. Similarly, Robin Thicke said in an interview, “We tried to do everything that was taboo…and everything that is completely derogatory towards women. Because all three of us are happily married with children, we were like, ‘We’re the perfect guys to make fun of this.'” Um sorry Rob, but your marital status only adds to the creepiness and inappropriateness of the song.
It might seem like a bit of harmless entertainment, but it’s not. Studies have shown that being exposed to images and lyrics that objectify women actually makes people more tolerant of violence against women. Even if these songs are so-called ‘jokes’, they also send the message that it is okay to make fun of the sexism and discrimination women face. Singing songs about ‘blurred lines’ trivialises the importance of consent. Lyrics which police women’s sexual activity, is a blatant and condescending attempt at authority. And the term ‘good girl’ over-simplifies, objectifies and disrespects the value of a woman. We’re not ‘good girls’ or ‘bad girls’. We’re people.
Maddy regularly writes for Rosie, and is passionate about music, history, art and gender equality.
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