The Vermont Cynic

Music builds and breaks female stereotypes

Spare Rib

Autumn Lee, Cynic Correspondent

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Seven years old, in the back seat of my family’s Dodge Stratus, headphones blasting, “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” I was thinking to myself I could be the next big pop star.

As I sang out loud, my dad turned to my mom, upset I was listening to music he deemed “too sexy” and disrespectful to women. Next thing I knew, Britney Spears was banned and my favorite CD was hidden in the depths of our home.

This incident proves that a woman’s music taste, like most things in her life, is judged by others.

There’s an underlying social expectation about the type of music girls should be listening to.

Basic girls listen to Taylor Swift, theater girls listen to “Hamilton” and hipster girls listen to Mac Demarco. Society teaches us to group one another into blunt categories.

This applies to men, too, but it’s somehow different for women.

New research finds that before age ten, girls entrench stereotypes and build their social status around the way others see their bodies, according to a Sept. 2017 USA Today article.

The category she falls under determines a girl’s worth.

Girls who listen to T-Swift are seen as melodramatic; they’re the ones who stay up all night crying over exes. Assumptions like this are forced on women because of music, even if they’re not necessarily true.

I never wanted that weak and vulnerable image to be applied to me, so I avoided pop music with fervency.

I seek music with feminist messages, like Bikini Kill or Pussy Riot.

From artists like these grew my dream of being in an all-girl punk band. I wanted the glam of tattoos, crazy hair and screaming into a mic about destroying the patriarchy.

Unfortunately, the reality of pop music is often completely different.

Instead of helping to break down stereotypes, pop music reinforces the confining categories women are so carelessly placed in, especially since it’s created for mass appeal.

In pop you’ll find the classic love or redemption story from—you guessed it—a man.

T-Swift’s “Love Story” is a perfect example. She laments the loss of her man, but all is solved with a ring. Oh so dreamy and oh so predictable.

Why does the music industry continue to create music geared toward women that is inherently sexual?

Sex sells – it appeals to the masses.

Girls wear mini skirts to look like Ariana Grande. They hang up posters of a shirtless Harry Styles in their bedrooms.

Teen girls are in a sensitive period of change when media swoops in and teaches them that their worth is based on their sexuality.

Recently, I’ve noticed a trend of more female power-positive music. Some artists bank on the fad of being a self-proclaimed feminist.

Beyonce and Lady Gaga both give themselves this label and try to make music to empower women.

It would be nice to simply smash the patriarchy overnight, but this isn’t realistic.

It’s time to do something, though, because I am so over all the girl degradation. We’re not objects of sappy ballads and bass-heavy club songs.

Support female artists. Support young girls who want to pursue music. Most importantly, don’t reduce girls into categories for foolish things like music taste.

“Trying to look fuckable [will not help]. Remember you’re in a rock and roll band,” said Chrissie Hynde, member of the band Pretender. “It’s not ‘f— me;’ it’s ‘f— you’!”

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Music builds and breaks female stereotypes