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Express Yourself! Unless You're a Woman...

Woman wearing a crop top on stage singing with a microphone with red lighting
Wendy Wei |

Feminism: “the advocacy of women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.”

The key word here is equality, which means men and women being equal within society. This can be in a range of different sectors such as employment, pay and opportunity, but also general social standing and the treatment of women in our complex society. Some people like to advocate that women are equal already: “they can buy property now, what more do they want?” (This is an actual quote I overheard someone say). But buying property is not the be all and end all of equality, nor are job opportunities or media representation - “they’ve had the Oceans 8 film, what more do they want?”.

Many of you will be familiar with the term “being ladylike”. Some of you may have heard this from your parents or older people around you, and maybe from some younger people too. Women being told “that’s not very ladylike” for sitting the exact same way as their brother, or passing gas, which is a completely natural human occurrence that is deemed acceptable for men to do but not women! I’ll stop going on a tangent now about gender equality...

Feminism and Sexuality

The focus of this rant is sexuality. This term can encompass sexual orientation and LGBTQIA+ issues, but also sexual liberation. This dates back to between the 1960s and 1980s where a social movement named the sexual revolution called for a change from a woman’s sexual life being solely marital and for reproducing, to the freedom to explore their sexuality without judgement and punishment. Since then, women’s ability to freely choose their sexual partners and activity without repercussions has developed, albeit slowly. Although women can, in theory, make these choices, judgement and backlash are still very much rife. Marked terms such as “sl**”, “sl*g” and “wh**e” are still thrown around like they don’t have extremely derogative meanings, and the fact is there is no equivalent term for men. The only time they are used for men is if the word ‘man’ is put in front of them, which suggests that the default subject of these terms are women. This kind of attitude towards women who express their sexuality just like men do, is reflected throughout society, particularly social media which is prevalent in almost everyone’s lives in the Western world. One specific example of this is within the music industry.

Express Yourself: Sexuality in Music

Many popular artists express their sexuality through their music, which is becoming a popular subject for songs in certain genres. Amazing female artists such as Doja Cat, SZA, Ariana Grande, Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B, have all released smash hits that contain sexual lyrics. SZA’s latest album, SOS has had more than 1.4 billion streams since its release and has many songs about sex. Again, Ariana Grande with her album Positions, with almost 174 million streams within the first week of release; also containing multiple sexual songs such as Positions and 34+35.

All these artists are clearly releasing music that their fans are appreciating, something that they can relate to and that makes them feel good. This is a great step forward in the sexual liberation movement; for women to listen to music that makes them feel happy and sexy, and for the genre to continue to allow space for women to express their sexual desires through music for others to enjoy. What could possibly be wrong with this?

You may be familiar with the famous 2020 hit from Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion, WAP. This song swept the nation, particularly Tik Tok, where women everywhere were dancing and singing to it. For some, it brought a lot of fun and sexual expression, but for others it brought anger. There was a complete uproar across Twitter, Facebook and some news reports. People were sickened by the explicit sexual lyrics, stating their fear for their young daughters being exposed to it. Some even went as far to say it brought shame to women and took the feminist movement back 100 years. How does that make sense? A lot of people, both men and women, showed their distaste for the song causing a massive controversy. The interesting thing is, where was this outrage when men were releasing sexually explicit music?

If Men Can Do it Then Why Can't I?

There have been a lot of songs of a sexual nature released and performed by men that have been popular through recent decades. To name a few: Candyshop by 50 Cent, Lollipop by Lil Wayne, Superman by Eminem, Gimme That Nut by Eazy-E, and Lovin’ You Tonight (which actually has a more explicit title, but this is the PG one) by Notorious B.I.G. All the above contain sexual innuendos and blatantly explicit sexual lyrics. Despite the nature of the songs by the female artists and the male artists being the same, there’s a one-sided controversy. Who decided that men could freely express their sexual desires through music for people to enjoy, but women couldn’t do the same? This attitude has been built up from the collective views of anti-feminists and more conservative older generations who are not as on-board with the ongoing sexual revolution.

There is a long way to go for the sexual liberation of women, with this just being one of many hurdles we are facing. So, have the conversation; call someone out if they say something misogynistic. Stand up for equality and women’s rights and let’s make a change!


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