A couple of things have got me thinking about misogyny in music recently. The first was this excellent Grantland article about Eminem. The jist of the article is that it was easier to justify Eminem’s seemingly misogynistic lyrics when he first appeared on the scene (“He doesn’t really mean it”, “It’s just a character”, “it’s only said for shock value” etc. etc.). However the fact that, fifteen years later, he is still rapping about NFL player Ray Rice’s brutal assault on his wife, and raping Iggy Azalea is either rather sinister or deeply, deeply pathetic.
The second was listening to The Bug’s excellent recent album ‘Angels and Devils’. A vague concept album of sorts, the first half ‘Angels’ consists mainly of slower, dreamier instrumental electronica, the second half ‘Devils’ is loud, fast and features various angry rappers, rapping angrily. It was whilst listening to this second half that I started to wonder if it was strange for a 34 year old father to be listening to a song called ‘Fuck a Bitch’, and more importantly whether becoming the father of a daughter had made me less comfortable with, and less forgiving of lyrics that seem, at first listen at least, misogynistic.
Whilst I never would have approved of misogynistic lyrics of course, when I was younger I found it easier to ignore and/or justify them. I listened to more hip-hop then (and the offshoot of techno named ghetto-tech, which features very silly but undeniably sexist lyrics). Of course this is not just a problem of hip-hop, and there is a certain prejudice that exists against that genre. If Nick Cave writes a song about murdering a woman, everyone assumes he’s writing in character, if a rapper does the same, they’re not quite so sure.
Every performer is to some extent a character of course, but in music (and other artforms where the performer interacts directly with the audience, such as stand up comedy) it is much harder to separate the person from the ‘character’. A writer of a novel or film who creates a misogynistic character, is not necessarily assumed to be misogynistic themselves but that divide is not so apparent for a musician.
So, I don’t necessarily have a problem with ‘offensive’ lyrics, even if they initially appear to be misogynistic or otherwise abhorrent, and I certainly would never advocate censorship (no matter how much I may personally dislike a piece of music I would never want it banned). However, I do find such music harder to listen to nowadays. As I get older I become more painfully politically correct, deconstructing everything I read and hear, a track like ‘Fuck a Bitch’, although excellent, becomes harder to enjoy (although the ‘bitch’ in question is not actually a woman it turns out). This process was starting to happen anyway, long before Frida was born, but having a daughter has definitely accelerated it . She, unfortunately, will probably have enough sexism to experience in her life, without being introduced to more through music. I have no doubt though, that by the time she’s a teenager she will be searching for music that will shock or offend her parents in one way or another.