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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Bound to top the charts

    Pop tunes are powerful symbols of our culture. They pump their infectious beats into the ears of most of the nation. Whether you get in a car, hit up the laundromat, or head to a popular bar, you’ll be sure to hear the top 40.

    When I drive to work, I often flip on pop radio so I don’t look like an idiot when people are talking about Rihanna’s new hit single. But something makes me nervous about the Top 40 lately. There’s something underneath those sensual, rhythmic, studio-clean beats. And it smells a lot like gender domination.

    I thought we’d gotten past this! In 1963 Betty Friedan wrote “”The Feminine Mystique”” and shocked the world with her portrait of the psychotically depressed “”happy housewife heroine,”” forced into domestic submission with the aid of the popular retail market. It drove women to action, rebellion and all-out revolution.

    Now women approach the idea of sex differently. And it shows in artistic expression. Masked behind sexual liberation, the top two songs on the Billboard Top 40 have freakishly violent undertones. And they’re sung by two of the most popular female artists in the U.S.

    Katy Perry’s ‘ET’

    The singer of “”I Kissed a Girl”” introduced a freaky futuristic song to No. 1 on the charts. I get it; it’s alien-themed. But lyrics like “”take me, wanna be a victim, ready for abduction””? Does anyone think, “”Oh, that is about alien abduction. It’s so great to be a victim””? Other lyrics like “”infect me with your love and fill me with your poison”” take the woman-victim metaphor even further. Masked in future-babble, these lyrics are actually quite distressing. Then there’s Kanye West’s rape-y rap: “”See, I abducted you / I tell you what to do.””

    I like to think creative expression communicates directly with what’s going on socially in a culture. If that’s true, why is Katy Perry glorifying sexual abduction? Why is violent language so hot?

    Rihanna’s ‘S&M’

    Rihanna is a powerful vocalist with a hugely successful career. And her new single “”S&M”” could be, arguably, a sexually liberating song about indulging in whatever turns you on. Rihanna definitely beats a bunch of guys in her kinky video. In fact, there’s victimization all around. She’s tied up. She straps duct tape over a terrified woman’s face. All the while, she sings, “”Sticks and stones may break my bones / But chains and whips excite me.””

    Translation: I don’t like being beaten physically. But when sex gets involved? Engaging in sexual violence is hot. Go ahead and hit me then. I enjoy pain and pleasure.

    Rihanna is promoting sexual violence on a level that not only garners a huge audience, but encompasses a massive age demographic. It wouldn’t be No. 1 on the pop charts this week if society didn’t respond positively to it.

    I am by no means rejecting or criticizing people who participate in S&M. The issue here is that Rihanna is normalizing sexually violent behavior through a medium that doesn’t give time, education or information about the issue. It sensationalizes a sexual fetish for the purpose of being edgy. And many of the people who listen to this song are younger than the legal age of consent.

    The typical club audience listening to “”S&M”” isn’t critically analyzing Rihanna’s claim about her sexual preferences. They’re hearing a catchy beat, dancing and singing along. But they’re simultaneously accepting and normalizing sexual violence in a way that they may or may not fully understand.

    I have this vision of women getting funky in the club. These songs come on … and nothing changes. The dancing continues. But everyone is suddenly engaging with music that has all the studio savvy of any of today’s top 40 hits, and lyrics that advocate victimization in sexual relationships.

    I’m not calling for censorship — that has never and will never do anything. I’m calling attention to something I find frightening in the new age of women’s liberation.

    Women are free to have sex, talk about sex, sing about sex. But in an age where everyone’s being flooded with sexual media every day, how do they make it edgier?

    They push it to the limit by looking backwards: they’re tantalizing listeners with the domination of women through sex.

    Reverse feminism? You could call it that. But in an age where women have sex when they want to, it’s so much edgier to sing about being forced to have sex.

    And that’s a scary thought, one that centers around the fact that while women have a newfound power to sexually define themselves however they choose. It’s tragic that they’re reverting to a classic symbol of victimization.

    I urge people to reject this kind of language’s popularity. But more so, I urge all women to remember people like Betty Friedan who worked so hard to allow us our freedom. Don’t play into the power structure of female submission and victimization that our fore-mothers fought to reject. It’s easy and quickly powerful, but it’s self-mutilating. Before we know it, we could be dancing to that pop music all the way back to a domestic prison.

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