Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Women in Rap Music

In her book, Cecelia Reclaimed:Femenist Perspectives on Gender and Music, Susan C. Cook explains how women are portrayed in rap music, especially black women. Cook stresses on the idea that there are "negative, stereotypical female roles within music" (Cook 184). Since music is a business, rappers use the idea of sex to sell records. With the idea of sex comes women stereotypes. A woman should have the perfect body, perfect hair, etc, and those women are usually prostitutes and/or whores. According to Cook, a few terms used for women within rap music are, "skeezers, hoes, sluts, whores, and bitches". Not only is the view of women potrayed as negative, but rap music is a male-dominated industry. Not many women are wel-known rappers, and if there is a woman rapper, then she is seen as being a lesbian or aggressive. On a positive note, Cook explains how women are starting to stop being the "objects" in rap songs, but rather be the "subjects". Women are starting to get their voices heard and producing songs. WOmen are bringing in a different tone to rap music and starting to change the views that the industry portrays. It took a while for female rappers to be taken seriously, but progress has been made. The first female rap duo was Salt n' Pepa and they had a hit called "Express Yourself". Salt n' Pepa were feminists that expressed their views and feelings about women through their music. A segment from their song says, "I'm not a man, but I am in command. Hot damn, I got an all girl band". These lyrics really show how important it was to change the view on women within the rap community.
Although their are still negative views of women within rap music, progress is being made and hopefully one day the stereotypical ideas will no longer exist.

By Toni

Works cited

Cook, Susan C. "The Conflicting Nature of Females in Rap Music." Cecilia Reclaimed: Femenist Perspectives on Gender and MUsic. 183-96. Print.

Gender in Country Music Videos

Country music videos are known for an array of things: cowboy boots, horses, flannel shirts, wide brimmed hats, and worn out blue jeans.  Women country singers also use these props, and go outside the gender roles that apply not only for entertainers, but for all people.  In her article, "Women In Country Music Videos", Janelle Wilson says, "I suggest that country music videos offer a space for contemporary female artists to more visually and openly challenge that which their predecessors challenged in their time--the traditional, confining gender roles that dominate American culture espouses" (Wilson 2000). Later in the conclusion to that same article, she says, "It would be overly sanguine to suggest that country music has created the liberated woman, but it does seem fair to suggest that country music is an element of popular culture in which we can wee women's resistance to submissive roles" (Wilson 200).  Janelle Wilson expresses in her article that she believes country music has helped women break from their gender roles and become something the music industry has never seen before.  Most female country music stars seem to agree with what Wilson says.  They are hesitant to step into the typical women entertainers' costumes.

With the recent uprising of women country stars, the country music industry decided to name 1997 the "Year of the Woman".  In female country stars' videos, they depict women as strong and independent, while male stars do the opposite.  In their article "Country Music Videos in Country Music's Year of the Woman", JL Andsager and K Roe prove that, "by analyzing 285 CMT videos, we found that most female artists' videos portrayed women progressively, whereas male artists portrayed them stereotypically" (Andsager, Roe 2006).  This proof also coincides with what Janelle Wilson said in her article. Women country stars are hesitant to depict themselves as sex objects, and instead portray women as a minority to watch out for.

Works Cited:

Wilson, Janelle. "Women in Country Music Videos". ETC: A Review of General Semantics. Vol. 53. Issue 3. 2000.

Andasger, JL.  Roe, K.  "Country Music Videos in Country Music's Year of the Woman".  Journal of Communication. Vol. 49. Issue 1. Pgs 69-82.  1999.

Written by Kelly Rothe.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Gender and Sexuality in our Performances

For this last post on musical theatre, I will answer the age old question: How does musical performance mirror the gender and sexuality of our society?

According to Pirkko Moisala scholarly article “Musical Gender in Performance”, “The bodily nature of music intertwines deeply with human sexuality”.  In a sense, performance embodies an audience’s interests and desires.  Sexuality (in its wide variety) is explicitly conveyed on stage in a variety of ways.  The article went on to say, “Music seems to be a site where we not only free ourselves from gender limitations but also from the limitations of conventional sexuality.”  Music and performance provide a canvas for expression and a diversity of moods.  This variety can help us a society better understand each other and our wide spectrum of perspectives.  Moisala reinforces this idea in her article.  “As a unique human expression that combines our bodily and cultural identity with idiosyncratic creativity, music provides an interesting setting for gender performance and negotiation in all sociohistorical and cultural contexts”.  Altogether, Moisala is hopeful for a future of equality and sees art as the vessel for egalitarianism in our modern world.  “The performative nature of music…allow for an interesting and possibly radical, if not revolutionary, site in which new kinds of gender performances and gender identities can evolve and which, eventually, may transgress the gender boundaries of any society. The concept of "musical gender," I hope, will help us to move away from looking at what "men" or "women" do with music to an investigation of how music acts in the practices of gender signification and resignification. Music and musical gender can and should be used to deconstruct gender dichotomies and to appreciate all gender differences and variations.”

 This pairing with sexuality, gender, music, and dance is often so explicit that the performance becomes controversial.  Judith Lynne Hanna’s article “Dance and Sexuality: Many Moves” addresses this very concept.  Her article addressed religion’s view of dance as “immoral”.  Hanna’s article views dance, sexuality, and musical performance and a union of strength and free expression.  “Dance and sexuality (are) a source of power (and) manifestations of sexuality in Western theater art and social dance, plus ritual and non-Western social dance. Expressions of gender, sexual orientation, asexuality, ambiguity, and adult entertainment exotic dance are presented.”  Hanna argues that because of such traditionalist judgments toward dance, the gap between free expression and conservativeness will only widen in our futures.  Nevertheless throughout this debate, the connection between performance and sexuality only grows closer.  At the extreme end of dance, exotic dancers literally connect their specific type of performance with sexuality and gender.  Everywhere in between sex workers and church choirs, sexuality and gender are addressed through performance.

 Altogether, musical performance directly relates to gender and sexuality.  From musical theatre to strip tease to opera, gender and sexuality are addressed.  Audience members make quick judgments biased on context clues about characters and categorize them instantly.  This gender and sexuality framing is ever-present in our lives and it is directly reflected in our entertainment.

Works Cited

Hanna, Judith Lynne.  “Dance and Sexuality: Many Moves”.  Journal of Sex Research. 

Moisala, Pirkko.  Musical Gender in Performance”.  Woman & Music 1999: 1-30.  Web

article.  University of Nebraska Press.

-Written by Michael Herman

Monday, March 19, 2012

Masculinity and punk

It is well known that punk is considered violent, with violent lyrics and riffs, violent dancing and violent passion, there is little that is soft and gentle about punk music. It is also very strongly associated with masculinity. When asked to describe a punk, very few people would describe a woman and probably none would mention the word feminine. As I have mentioned before, even female punkers are expected to behave in many masculine ways. Female singers frequently have to have rough, husky voices to become popular (although certainly not always) and their lyrics make use of masculine attitudes and sometimes genitals.

Though the singer could be talking about her breasts, this is not what is implied later when she refers to her mother telling her "You've got to be polite girl". And this is very insightful. Part of the reason many women shave their hair into a mohawk, dress in torn clothing and wear heavy, smeared makeup is to rebel against the very strict gender expectations this society has. Girls are expected to be polite and do whatever men want. They aren't supposed to spit or growl or tell people to suck their left one, and breaking these expectations can be very satisfying. Breaking these expectations can, in some small way, balance the odds and fight the gender inequality that still exists.

Punk women are still women however, and they often do things to retain their femininity and balance. Some girls dress strictly in lingerie or dress as though they are baby dolls. One woman pulls off a very striking balance between her masculine rage at the way she and other women have been treated and feminine quiet and softness. The contrast between the two seems almost bipolar but it is very fun to listen to and her lyrics are killer commentary and societal expectations of sexually active women.

But women aren't the only ones who are expected to be masculine. Men in punk are pictured as almost hyper-masculine: tough, angry, violent and never weak. And this is frequently true, in reputation at least. My personal experience has shown me that there is much more to it than that though. I have found the punk community to be surprisingly supportive when men experience a loss. Men are allowed to dress in women's clothing and hug their friends, sing and dance and kiss each other and no one bats an eye. They're also permitted to show emotion without retaliation in most cases, anger most often, but also love and sadness. This is not often done in public where people other than punks are around but in the actual scene itself it's not unheard of. There are even punk love songs.
And even sillier, a psuedo-satire song that claims to be against the violence often present at shows. This one starts out almost like a campfire sing-along.
By the same band, here is a song that reclaims the word gay, using it as one of it's original meanings. 

So punk may be very masculine at times but there are many instances where this is not the case. Either way, gender norms are frequently challenged, very often with humor. 

More positive songs in Hip Hop

      Over the semester, I have focused on more "negative" views on sex, gender, and/or sexuality in hip-hop music. For this blog, I have focused on the more "positive" views.
      There are many songs that do not just focus on having sex with anyone and everyone. For example, Trey Songz has a new song on the radio called, "Sex Aint Better Than Love". The title alone takes a different view than most of hip-hop. Here are some lyrics to this song...

Sex Ain't Better Than Love
I been outchea in these streets and I done learned that
Sex Ain't Better Than Love
I dun seen it all done done it all so much better when you fall
Sex Ain't Better Than Love
Girl you've been my teacher and I've learned that
Sex Ain't Better Than Love
Sex Ain't, Sex Ain't...Sex Ain't better than love

lyrics from

     Tupac Shakur also took a more "positive" view on a song. In his song, "Keep Ya Head Up", he talked about how women are being abused, raped and forced to get pregnant, left and abandoned. He says that things will get better and that women should keep their heads up. This song, in a way, gives those women experienceing those things hope for a better future. Here are some lyrics...

And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it's time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don't we'll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can't make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you're fed up ladies, but keep your head up

lyrics from

By Toni

Gender Stereotypes in Country Music

There is a song that has been around since 2007 that has made every feminist shiver with anger. The song "I'm Still A Guy" by artist Brad Paisley has had enormous success, even hitting #1 on the Billboard "Hot Country Songs" list; but there are some that think it shouldn't be played on any radio station. The lyrics are very straight-forward and hard-hitting, the opening lyrics speak for themselves:

When you see a deer you see Bambi
And I see antlers up on the wall
When you see a lake you think picnic
And I see a large mouth up under that log
You're probably thinking that you're going to change me
In some ways well maybe you might
Scrub me down, dress me up but no matter what
I'm still a guy
When you see a priceless French painting
I see a drunk, naked girl
You think that riding a wild bull sounds crazy
And I'd like to give it a whirl
Well love makes a man do some things he ain't proud of
And in a weak moment I might walk your sissy dog, hold your purse at the mall
But remember, I'm still a guy
Now you see why this song is controversial. I don't intend to sound like I think Brad Paisley is a bad guy, he's just the unfortunate songwriter whose lyrics stuck out the most to me.

Paisley claims that the song is not an attack on women, rather that it's addressing society and how society tries to feminize men. I don't know if I believe that statement or not, but the bottom line is, upon listening to the song I felt offended.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Musical Theatre and Sexuality

Musical Theatre constantly touches upon the idea of sexuality. In this post, I will take you on a "timeline" of musical theatre and how it has explicitly referenced and involved sexuality through its generations.

The first musical ever was called "The Black Crook" (1866).  This show was a book musical (or a musical that has a full story line with songs integrated into the plotline.) One song in particular, "You Naughty, Naughty Men" reflects sexuality and gender roles of the era.

"We've no wish to distress you, we would sooner far caress you,
And when kind we'll say, oh, bless you, oh! you naughty, dear, delightful men."

In the 1890's, a new era of musical theatre began. "A Trip to Chinatown" was the first ever musical comedy (featuring songs like "Bowery" and "Push Dem Clouds Away").  Even in the 1890's, sexuality was present in the songs. Here is an except from "Bowery" about the nightlife of New York,

"The Bow'ry, the Bow'ry! They say such things, And they do strange things"

With the arrival of WWI, another generation of musical theatre began. "The Merry Widow" is an operetta centered around the psychological battle of a widow as she finds new love. This piece defines gender stereotypes of the time and reflects feminine sexuality.

Musicals became even more popular in the roaring twenties. A show called "Oklahoma" took the scene. Here the west was represented passionately and comically. "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top" helped to define the conservative sexuality of the time.

With the end of the great depression, an explosion of musicals rocketed around the country. Famous titles like: "Anything Goes" "West Side Story" and "Sweeney Todd" became popular. In "West Side Story", a great deal of emphasis focuses on sexuality.  The central plot revolves around two lovers separated by a family feud and how their hate killed love.

From here, musical theatre was revolutionized by Rodgers and Hammerstien.  Together they wrote, “The King and I”, “South Pacific”, “Carousel” and much more.  These are often still performed in high schools today.  “South Pacific” was particularly radical with it’s musical number “Honey Bun”.  Two characters cross-dressed and danced for a group of military soldiers.

In the 1950’s, musicals dived even deeper into sexuality.  “Gypsy” premiered and expressed the wild spirit of vagabonds and thieves.

With the 1960’s, theatre once again morphed into an even different creation.  Shows like “Hello Dolly”, “Cabaret”, and “Hair” took the scene.  “Hair” represent the hippie movement and it is full of a diversity of sexuality.
In the 1970’s, theatre became even more radical and sexual.  “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Godspell”, and “The Rocky Horror Show” immerged.

Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s theatre began to partner with iconic pop artists of the time to produce upbeat feel good shows like “The Lion King”.  Also in this era, “Rent” began to rock throughout America.  “Rent” expresses a very diverse range of sexualities and passions from bisexuality to homosexuality and everything in between.

This brings us to the modern scene.  Theatre is just as radical today (if not more) than it was in its early years.  Shows like “Spring Awakening”, “The Producers” and “Urinetown” are trying to break convention and draw attention to themselves through controversy.

-Written by Michael Herman