I’m having a feminist dilemma. A fem-lemma, if you will.
It happens every time I turn on the radio, or listen to Spotify, or hit da club (which is an infrequent occurrence, but still a problem).
The dilemma is this: I listen to music with lyrics that, if spoken out loud without a catchy backing track, would send me into spirals of despair.
The songs I listen to are misogynistic. They’re violent. They treat women like objects. In short, they are the worst.
They’re also impossible not to sing along to.
Case in point: one of my favourite party tricks is to have a few drinks and then sing every word to Eminem’s “Love The Way You Lie” (I apologise to my friends, family and anyone else who has ever witnessed this).
As the music builds, I get right into it. The crowd goes wild. Before I know it, I'm throwing my hands in the air and screaming “IF SHE EVER TRIES TO FUCKING LEAVE AGAIN IMMA TIE HER TO THE BED AND SET THIS HOUSE ON FIRE!”
It’s a riot.
When Robin Thicke's song "Blurred Lines" was released, many of my friends actively boycotted it over the line "I'll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two." Fair enough - it's disgusting.
But damn, is that song catchy.
Recently, Kanye West made headlines for the controversial lyrics and music video of his new track "Famous".
"The way he represents female celebrities in that song is absolutely despicable," I observed, pressing play on the song for the 52nd time.
Last year, one of my very favourite songs was David Guetta and Nicki Minaj's "Hey Mama". (We can chat about my poor taste in music some other time).
The lyrics go as follows:
Yes I do the cooking
Yes I do the cleaning
Yes I keep the nana real sweet for your eating
Yes you be the boss yes I be respecting
Whatever that you tell me cause its game you be spitting
Naturally, my thought process when I first heard the song went something like this:
Nicki! My gal! The fact that you’re a woman doesn’t mean you have to do the cooking and the cleaning! What’s that about? Why isn’t this dude helping with the household chores? Stop demeaning yourself! You make like a billion dollars a year! If anyone could be the ultimate independent woman, it’s you! Don’t throw that away!
Also, what is a nana? Is it a euphemism for vagina? Is this some sex thing I don’t know about? Is your boyfriend just really partial to ripe bananas? I DON’T KNOW, BUT IT DOESN’T SOUND VERY EMPOWERED.
Stop telling him he’s the boss! He’s not the boss of you! You don’t have to respect him! This is disgusting! What does it even mean to be ‘spitting game’? There’s a lot of stuff I’m missing here! I don’t even want to listen to this misogynistic drivel anymo-
BANGING THE DRUM LIKE DUM DI DI DAY
I LOVE THE DIRTY RHYTHYM YOU PLAY
I WANNA HEAR YOU CALLING MY NAME
LIKE HEY MAMA MAMA MAMA HEY MAMA MAMA
I dare you: try to turn off the radio in the middle of that chorus. It's impossible.
So in general, I tune out to the kinds of lyrics that make my head spin. It's significantly easier and way more fun on road trips.
But I'm also the first person to acknowledge that the culture of violence doesn't exist in a vacuum, and that lyrics like the ones I so merrily sing along to are major contributors to harmful attitudes held by men towards women.
The truth is, if I read the lyrics to "Love The Way You Lie" in an interview or an op-ed, I'd be outraged. I would take a stand immediately. I would make it clear that normalising domestic violence is despicable, and that the promotion of abusive relationships as "sexy" is absolutely unacceptable.
If a woman I knew wrote the words of "Hey Mama" on paper, I'd be really concerned. I'd speak to her about how she's being manipulated in her relationship, and remind her that - no matter what her boyfriend tells her - she does have a say in what happens in her life.
Yet when those same words are blasted through my headphones, I dance around and sing along.
I know there's no "right" way to be a feminist, but this is starting to seem like a pretty drastic deviation from my values.
So, you tell me - am I a massive hypocrite, or can I listen to the music I like and still be a feminist?
Want more discussion on feminism? Watch the Mamamia Out Loud team discuss plastic surgery: