My inner struggle with music as a woman

A few days ago I was riding in the car listening to the radio with the children I nanny when the song “Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis came on, at which point Ava (10) and I (22) began to talk about same sex couples and equal rights. The song sparked a really great talk. Her maturity has always impressed me but what struck me most was how subconsciously (and consciously at times) influential music is, especially to children.

Although this scenario was a positive example, it prompted me to think further about the impact of songs containing negative messages. Most mainstream music is telling Ava and the rest of the world that women are objects, bitches, or only valued for their bodies. The majority of songs we sing along with and dance to degrade women and further feed into the rape culture that we exist in. We know all this yet we still buy it, sing along to it, and dance to it. I know that this is nothing new to many of us, but it leads me to a big dilemma.

On the other hand, I LOVE so many aspects of music. I love listening to music by myself or with friends, I love dancing to music, I love R&B and hip hop, I love falling asleep to music, and perhaps what I love most is how music brings people together. I can’t control what is popular, or played in clubs, bars, and on the radio. But I still want to enjoy music in these many various settings. My inner struggle is balancing my love for music and standing up for what I believe in.

There are times in clubs or at parties when I have stepped out or sat down as my own personal boycott of a song that degrades me. But I would say that there are many more times that I have continued to sing and dance along with such music. I don’t want to pull myself out of society completely but I also don’t want to have double standards. I want to have fun, but I need to be respected. I am constantly debating with myself on where I draw the line when it comes to music.

To cope with the dilemma, I have focused more energy on seeking artists and DJs who avoid the degradation of women in their art. A few examples:

  • Kelly Rowland’s “Dirty Laundry” which discusses her experience with abuse and “Kisses Down Low” which promotes female pleasure!
  • Janelle Monet’s “Queen” which also has a super duper dope video.
  • I love jamming to music selected and mixed by a good friend of mine, DJ Keezy. Her first mix was even made up of all female artists, titled “WHERE MY WOMEN AT” which is incredibly fun to listen/dance/sing to

There are so many more examples out there so feel free to share!

I want to hear from others who are confronted with the same or similar struggles. I am wondering, do you draw a line when it comes to music? Where do you draw that line? Have you ever thought about it before? What have you thought about it?

As my experience listening to the radio with Ava shows, the content of songs is highly influential. It is important that we think about what we are supporting and celebrating when we listen to, support, purchase, sing along with,  dance to music.

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7 thoughts on “My inner struggle with music as a woman

  1. Kati Rae says:

    Well said, Jenna. I am a spin instructor, so I feel like I’m constantly faced with this issue in deciding which music I do and do not play. Within the last few months, I’ve stopped playing any songs which I take to be offensive and encourage rape culture or degradation and objectification of women. It is not impossible, but sadly, there are a LOT of songs out there that contribute to this. Take for instance a song like Usher’s “Scream,” seems to have a good beat, but is full of lyrics that contribute to rape culture: “now, relax and get on your back/if you wanna scream yeah”. And this is what our youth is listening to?! I’m making a conscious decision not to play any of that music anymore, even if it on the Top 40 list and even if someone requests it in class, I just say, “sorry, I don’t have that song.”

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    • jennavagts says:

      Thank you for sharing, Kati! I could see how a spin class would be a difficult environment to navigate playing uplifting, yet positive and up beat music. I appreciate that you are making the conscious decision to avoid music with harmful and degrading messages. I try to do the same with the music I play either for myself or when I play music for others (especially the kids that I nanny). Usually I find my music choice being shot down though by my peers, which makes it difficult.

      Like

  2. jennavagts says:

    Thank you for sharing, Kati! I could see how a spin class would be a difficult environment to navigate playing uplifting, yet positive and up beat music. I appreciate that you are making the conscious decision to avoid music with harmful and degrading messages. I try to do the same with the music I play either for myself or when I play music for others (especially the kids that I nanny). Usually I find my music choice being shot down though by my peers, which makes it difficult.

    Like

    • Kati Rae says:

      Ugh it is so frustrating that your music choices are shot down by your peers! Thanks to your post I’m going to work even harder at selecting music for my classes that is appropriate. So thank you for the inspiration!!

      Like

  3. lexismanzara says:

    LOOOVe this post! I struggle with this literally everyday and was hoping somebody would post about this, great job laying this out 🙂

    Like

  4. rhys says:

    Amazing Post.appreciate your share… looking forward to more.

    Like

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