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  • Writer's pictureRhoda Akua Ameyaa

Gender Standards for Men and Women in Music and Their Social Impact


Lady Gaga (via https://www.usatoday.com/)

In a 2009 interview, Lady Gaga confronted the interviewer following a question about the lyrics in her music. Lady Gaga’s reaction to the interviewer’s questions once again brought attention to the sexist double standards the music industry has for men and women. Unfortunately, these double standards are still up and going strong. We have seen music videos of male musicians that include sexually suggested or explicit content. We have heard male musicians describe their sexual encounters with different women in their lyrics. We have seen some songs of male musicians do very poorly. Again, we have seen male musicians talk about women’s bodies in music as though they have the same anatomy. The music industry cheers for them through all these and praises their musical genius, talent, and reach. Sadly, that has not always been the case for women in music.


Of course, regardless of gender identity, any musician can face controversies in their career, but what is problematic is when something should not spark arguments. What is confusing is how the industry reacts differently to the same actions. I already mentioned that male musicians have come up with lyrics that disrespect the female body and sexuality, yet the music industry and society do not drag these men. However, women make songs about their bodies and sexual desires, and all hell breaks loose. The industry has not been fair with the way it approaches misogyny. There are so many misogynistic rap verses from male rappers that glamorize and normalize oppressive ideas about women. Still, the music industry and the society sit back and watch it do the numbers, but when a woman releases a song about how she owns her sexual desires the society all of a sudden begins to think about the children listening, how the music affects the image of women and whatnot.


Megan Thee Stallion (via https://www.nbcnews.com/)

In 2020, rappers Cardi B and Meghan Thee Stallion released the song WAP. They embrace their sexuality through an ode to their genitalia, among the embodiment of several other sexual themes in the song’s music video. Unfortunately, WAP’s Music video faced backlash from the music industry and the public for being “too sexual.” Some critics even commented that these two rappers composed WAP due to the absence of a strong masculine presence in their lives during their formative years. Some also said the song is indicative of what happens when people raise their kids without God. This article gives more details to some of the backlashes the rappers received for their music.


While I support people having the freedom to express their opinions, I find it very hypocritical that the society (in which the male-dominated music industry exists) pretends to see a problem with the content of sexual songs only when women make them. Let us go back several years to 2000 when Eminem released his hit song ‘kill you.’ The following are lyrics from the piece:

Shut up slut, you’re causin’ too much chaos Just bend over and take it like a slut, okay Ma!? Oh, now he’s raping his own mother, abusing a whore Snorting coke, and we gave him the Rolling Stone cover? You god damn right, bitch, and now it’s too late I’m triple platinum and tragedies happen’ in two states I invented violence, you vile venomous volatile bitches

… Bitch I’ma kill you You don’t wanna fuck with me Girls neither, you ain’t nothin’ but a slut to me

Whether there is a hidden code somewhere that we need to break to decipher the exact meaning of these lyrics is not my problem. I am concerned about how the music industry and society let these blatant misogynistic lyrics slide but attacked Cardi and Meghan for singing WAP. Here are some lyrics from WAP:


Look, I need a hard hitter, I need a deep stroker I need a Henny drinker, I need a weed smoker Not a garden snake, I need a king cobra With a hook in it, hope it lean over He got some money, then that’s where I’m headed Pussy A1, just like his credit He got a beard, well, I’m tryna wet it I let him taste it, now he diabetic I don’t wanna spit, I wanna gulp I wanna gag, I wanna choke I want you to touch that lil’ dangly thing That swing in the back of my throat My head game is fire, punani Dasani It’s going in dry and it’s coming out soggy I ride on that thang like the cops is behind me (yeah, ah)


Society cried over these lyrics saying they would corrupt children. Why is it an issue when women possess their sexual side and write about it, but it is society’s taste when men sexualize women in raps?


I watched Tik Tok trends that went like “Women: Do not sexualize us! Also, women: Insert WAP.” That is very nonsensical to think that women singing about sex in a way that does not affect anyone is the same as men rapping about women being nothing but people that must be sexed down. It all goes down to show how threatened the music industry and society are by female power.


Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion ( via https://ew.com/)

Please do not take my word for it yet. Keep reading! Even when it comes to numbers and recognition, the music industry is so stingy with appreciating the efforts of women. When about 40.2k voters ranked greatest rappers, only three of the top 100 rappers were female artists. Female musicians like Lady Gaga and Ebony Reigns (may she RIP) had noted how they were sexually harassed, abused, overlooked, and rejected when they began their careers. In Ebony’s Aseda, she mentions how music producers and studio managers used sex against her. These women are but a few that spoke about their experiences in the music industry. Sexualization of female musicians has led to the abuse and torture of many musicians to the point where when a woman becomes prosperous, it is too hard to believe their hard work made it happen. What is even worse is that women are less likely to be signed to a record label for reasons such as fear of not making it. Rick Ross, a record label owner, once said he barely signs women to his record label because he is confident he would be sexually attracted to them. In this interview, he remarks: “You know, I never did it because I always thought, like, I would end up fucking a female rapper and fucking the business up… I’m so focused on my business. I just, I gotta be honest with you. You know, she looking good. I’m spending so much money on her photoshoots. I gotta fuck a couple times.”


Singer H.E.R at the 2021 Grammys (via https://www.grammy.com/)

Let us take a look at how the music industry act towards female achievement. The male-dominated industry frequently trivializes the milestones of women in the industry and awards similar efforts from men. An investigative report by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative between 2012 and 2018 gives the statistics of how women appear to be making it. Still, their efforts are not awarded as of that of men. The researchers found that women make up 21.7% of artists, 12.3% of songwriters, and 2.1% of producers, yet only about 10.4% of nominees between 2013 and 2019 were women! Read more here. I am saying that the music industry has come a long way regarding representation and inclusion, but it has even a longer way to go! It is not about being invited to the table. It is about if you are also given the opportunity to self-serve yourself and eat what you like! Long story short, the Music industry must stop policing women’s confidence, achievement, and voices and let them bloom to grace in their ways.


Works referenced/cited:

  1. Isaac, B. (2019, July 29). Lady Gaga calls out the interviewer’s ‘SEXIST’ double standards when he asks about her ‘PROVOCATIVE lyrics’. Retrieved July 07, 2021, from https://www.upworthy.com/lady-gaga-calls-out-interviewers-sexist-double-standards-when-he-asks-about-her-provocative-lyrics

  2. Kelley, C. (2019, April 28). The music industry still has a long way to go for gender equality. Retrieved July 07, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/caitlinkelley/2019/02/06/music-industry-study-annenberg-gender-equality/?sh=60bb08eb5f81

  3. Paiella, G. (2020, August 14). Wait, what: The week IN ‘WAP.’ Retrieved July 07, 2021, from https://www.gq.com/story/the-week-in-wap


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