by Moriba Cummings
Ignorance is bliss ‚ÄĒ This sentiment seems to be the main mantra of popular music‚Äôs latest critics as many seem to harshly criticize one side of the spectrum while unknowingly ignoring the other. This ‚Äúspectrum‚ÄĚ being the gender divide in the top tier performing acts of the music industry. The sexual expression of male and female acts have been hot topics for decades, with the topic of the ‚Äúdouble standard‚ÄĚ being introduced early on. This double standard lends itself to the latest trend of vastly and negatively criticizing actions and decisions ‚ÄĒ often sexual in nature ‚ÄĒ made by females in music, while their male counterparts‚Äô actions often go either unaddressed or are unabashedly tolerated. This proves that music consumers seem to be practicing an exercise of subconscious male privilege, and it needs to stop now.
Male privilege is formally defined as the social theory which argues that men have unearned social, economic and political advantages or rights that are granted to them solely based on the premise of their sex. The key term in this definition is ‚Äúunearned.‚ÄĚ I would not consider myself a well-versed modern day feminist as that would ultimately dilute the works done by those who truly support that role in their studies. However, it is in clear form that this exists in today‚Äôs music landscape. What have these male artists earned by calling women ‚Äúb—–s‚ÄĚ and, contrarily, what have our female artists unearned to deserve being deemed ‚Äúh–s‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúsluts‚ÄĚ by consumers and critics alike?
The initial critique that often rises is the notion of the ‚Äúrole model‚ÄĚ justification that is commonly overused and abused. Almost immediately after the release of any sexually charged ‚ÄĒ whether it be a sprinkling or a full-on dousing ‚ÄĒ visual or audio project by any of today‚Äôs most successful commercial female artists, the infamous critique of ‚ÄúShe‚Äôs not a good role model for today‚Äôs young girls‚ÄĚ is introduced. Whereas, following the release of projects similar in contextual nature by male artists, it is seen as the next big hit, often sans any major criticism concerning the project‚Äôs sexual trajectory.
While the mundane statement of ‚Äúraise your own kids‚ÄĚ seems clich√©, it is, in actuality, an ample response. It is not the duty of public figures ‚ÄĒ¬†past, present or future ‚ÄĒ to raise the world‚Äôs newest batch of social media-crazed millennials. While their exposure to popular culture does indefinitely contribute to their overall maturity, the magnitude of this exposure can be monitored by parents to their liking.
After the blame game is settled, however, it is noticeably apparent that the unwarranted responsibility of raising America‚Äôs kids is mostly placed on female musicians whose job descriptions do not delve further than simply creating art. Furthermore, as far as male artists are concerned, they appear to be given less ‚Äúresponsibility‚ÄĚ and are, thus, held less accountable for the topics that their music discusses ‚ÄĒ case in point for this being the display of skin.
The argument of differentiation in sexual expression between genders is a clear determining factor in this argument. While women are known today to display much more skin than their male counterparts in their respective art forms, this remains nothing new. For decades, way before¬†Beyonc√© donned a G-string in ‚ÄúPartition‚ÄĚ and Rihanna worked the pole in ‚ÄúPour It Up,‚ÄĚ female artists have been sexually liberated in their musical ventures ‚ÄĒ¬†see¬†Janet Jackson (The Velvet Rope era),¬†Toni Braxton (Secrets era),¬†Tina Turner (“Private Dancer”),¬†Donna Summer (‚ÄúLove to Love You Baby”), etc.
While they are viciously critiqued and attacked for their choices to support their sexually charged music with matching visuals, their male contemporaries are praised for being hyper-masculine juice heads ‚ÄĒ they become fantasies while the women are limited to mere sexual fixations or caricatures. This has also been the norm for decades, especially during the pimp culture era that ushered the likes of¬†Prince and¬†Snoop as sexual fantasies for women everywhere. Whereas, females who exercised their right to explore their sexuality openly in the form of music¬†were intensely criticized for being too raunchy or unladylike, somehow encouraging the world to view them as mere pieces of meat.
This notion has transcended to today‚Äôs popular music landscape, with male musicians being praised for releasing music that blatantly objectifies women but is widely tolerated once disguised and accessorized with a catchy hook or beat.
Ideally, this is the case with¬†Chris Brown‚Äôs hugely successful and apparently ‚ÄĒ yeah, right ‚ÄĒ gender-neutral ‚ÄúLoyal.‚ÄĚ Though it has proven to be a massive hit across all musical platforms, the track proves to be nothing but yet another successful attempt at masterfully capturing an otherwise ignorant female audience who unknowingly tolerates being called ‚Äúh–s‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ ‚ÄúThese h–s ain‚Äôt loyal.”
What serves as the final sheet of disguise, however, is the colorful and innocently produced visual that accompanies the otherwise degrading track. The music video is strategically much less hyper-sexualized and demeaning than the track itself, fostering viewers to just rock out to the song, ignoring what its lyrical content entails.
While this obviously helps push the male-driven track toward becoming a more widely accepted event, female visuals tend to have an opposing effect. Oftentimes, when female artists pair a sexually charged lyrical piece with an equally or more outlandish visual, the intended message of the song is watered down, inducing viewers to either viciously attack the piece for being a ploy for desperation or highly praise her for being open with her own sexuality, enforcing, yet again, the ever-present double standard.
Either way, sexuality, when expressed by adults, does not need to be censored for the pleasures of those who only see through the scope of a society-created, gender-specific lens. Whether exercised by men or women, the ideal of sexual liberation should be welcomed without such harsh, one-sided criticisms, unless such claims can be amply defended by equally addressing the utilization of such by both sexes. After all, art¬†is intended to be an outlet of subjective expression, regardless of gender restrictions. So, enjoy the art and stop complaining.