Artists continue to demean women through their lyrics



Deanna Crusco

My taste in music has two settings. I’m either getting hype with Drake and Big Sean, or diving deeper into my feelings with Hozier and Adele. I have no middle ground and I’m OK with that. I don’t usually enjoy listening to angsty music that makes me question every facet of my own life. So 99 percent of the time my mind is locked in on setting one. 

My Spotify playlist for this setting ranges from songs by Fetty, Future, Drake, J. Cole, Dej Loaf and most recently Travi$ Scott. As soon as I hop in the car, plug in my aux cord and click on my playlist appropriately titled “IDFWU,” I know I’m in for a fun drive. I sing along, pretend I’m a rapper and even manage to dance while simultaneously abiding by the speed limit. Most days I can listen to this playlist on repeat and go from point A to point B without overthinking the lyrics. Recently though, instead of innocently bobbing my head along to the beat, I’ve started to shake my head repeatedly as I hear the following words said over and over again.  

Thot, ho, freak, jawn, shorty, girl, dime, baby, bitch, ting and trap queen are some of the words consistently laced throughout the lyrics of my favorite songs. Maybe I’m listening to the wrong kind of music, but it feels like with each passing day one more word is added to Urban Dictionary under the tab “derogatory synonyms for the word ‘woman’.” It has gotten to the point where I find myself looking up song lyrics on Rap Genius every other day just to keep myself informed on what these artists are actually rapping about. 

Maybe I would be better off if I simply traded in my love of rap for a different genre that is not so intent on demeaning women. The truth is, though, whatever type of music I listen to, whether it is country, pop or rap, females often seem to be on the receiving end of every sexually explicit punch line. 

Sometimes I try to listen to the same songs and remove my attachment to my identity as a female from the equation. I try to listen and understand from an objective point of view, simply translating the words of each song into a sentence I would feel comfortable enough to explain to someone not from my generation, like my mom. 

For example, if I was listening to the song “Can’t Trust Thots,” I would tell my mom that the lyrics portray a female who likes to party and have sex as an untrustworthy “ho.” If I was listening to “A Milli” by Lil Wayne when he raps “Damn I hate a shy b****, don’t you hate a shy b****” I’d tell her that…I really do not know what Lil Wayne is trying to say here. After looking it up on Rap Genius though, I would find that this line describes “men who hate and can’t stand being with a woman who’s normally shy and sexually reserved.” 

At this point, I’m pretty sure if I actually had this conversation with my mom she would walk away shaking her head, mimicking the same reaction I have upon hearing most of these words. The fact is though, Lil Wayne and French Montana were not the first men to place women on a spectrum of sexual appeal.

Freud actually coined this condition the Madonna-whore complex in 1925. It basically meant that women are either seen as saint-like virgins (Madonna), or sexually promiscuous “whores” that have lost their sexual appeal. It is 2015, almost 100 years after this complex first came to fruition, and yet we still live in a world where we are culturally impacted by the sex lives of women.

To say I am sick of this is the understatement of the century. It would be more appropriate to say I’m ashamed. I am ashamed to live in a world where women are consistently valued and devalued by the number of people they’ve slept with. I am ashamed that men continue to sing and rap and write about this, without ever giving regard to the fact that the same women they’re demeaning are the same women who will later be mothers, wives, sisters, friends and mentors.

I get that artists like to sing about sex. It’s an irreplaceable human need that Maslow regarded as one of the most basic physiological needs humans must fulfill in order to attain self-actualization. There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing or singing about this human experience, but does it always have to be done in such a disrespectful manner?

I challenge the artists of today to think before they speak. Think about the words they’re putting out into the world that will remain there for years to come. Think about referring to a woman as a thot or ho, and then think about the possibility of having a daughter who will grow up and learn what those words really mean. 

I know that when I think of the word “woman,” I think of a million different things. I think of my mother who has loved me unconditionally since birth. My sister who has played an indelible role in the person I’ve become. My friends who are my confidants and biggest supporters.

I’d like to think that if I had a daughter of my own one day and she inherited my taste in music, she’d be able to listen to a song without having to question her own identity, or feel compelled to define herself based on the limited categories these songs have created. Women are so much more than what society tells them to be, so much more than what they are valued for and so much more than just “that ho over there.”