When I first heard Nicki Minaj rap her heart out in “Hey Mama” — her collaboration with David Guetta — and I really listened to the lyrics, I was appalled. I can’t say I don’t like the song, because it’s as catchy as songs come and I dance to it like nobody’s business, but I cannot sing along to more than the chorus and that’s not because I don’t know the lyrics. I wish I didn’t know the lyrics.
As a woman, I’ve been confronted with sexist lyrics in the past. But usually, they came from men. The 50 Cent’s of this world, the Akon’s who just want to “smack that,” and the numerous times artists call a woman a “hoe” or a “bitch.” I’ve heard them before. But when it comes from a woman, it hurts me more. It hurts me more because I thought we, as women, all sort of agreed that a woman is more than just a play-thing for a man. She is more than an object to be talked about; she has a voice of her own. But is it really a bad thing that some women do not talk about women as subjects but rather, as objects in their own music?
Nicki is not the only female artist who spits lyrics I have problems with. Selena Gomez just wants “to look good for you.” She wants to look good so she can keep her lover satisfied, so he will stay. In “Come And Get It” she openly says “when you’re ready come and get it” and she will be waiting, constantly on standby for her potential lover. I wonder if Selena ever thought about what she is actually singing. And I am glad I know that women can do a lot more than just wait and be pretty.
Lana Del Rey often sings about a lady in waiting, but her lyrics come across as a sad journey of making bad decisions and having bad relationships. Her lyrics are more open to interpretation and a song such as “Fucked My Way Up To The Top” seems more like a metaphor for how women are viewed than a presumption that working your way up by sleeping with the boss is the only way a woman will succeed. Same goes for Lana’s excruciatingly painful lyric “He hit me and it felt like a kiss.” “Ultraviolence” is not saying it’s beautiful for a woman to be hit, it’s actually saying that a relationship can become so destructive and dependent that you think this is what you deserve. That said, I cannot identify with some of the things Lana sings either, but I see her lyrics more as a reflection on women and the way they are treated or how they let themselves be treated.
At first, I was against all these women who were merely saying we are there to please men, that we are there to wait and serve — and I still think it’s better to use your female voice as a weapon against misogyny. Then again, these women voice something and that’s their right. They can voice stories that aren’t theirs, they can voice stereotypical ideas, stories that are metaphoric, and stories that are there to make you cringe. They also voice part of society: A lot has changed, but women still get paid less and women still get judged on virtually anything.
Related: The Importance of Representation
Instead of instantly dismissing songs by female artists that objectify women, I now say: This is your voice, as an independent person. I might not agree with your voice, and it might downplay our position as women, but it’s essentially your voice. You are free, women, to say whatever you want. You have more stories inside of you than just this one line or one song, I hope. I hope we hear all female voice.
I hope we hear that treating a woman like an object is not right, whether someone sings that she is an object or not. I hope we know that we deserve more. I hope that we understand that every woman deserves to have a voice. I hope we listen to female voices and decide which ones to keep close and which to casually pass by because we don’t agree. I hope we listen to Pink when she sings “pretty pretty please, don’t you ever ever feel, like you’re less than fucking perfect” or to Christina Aguilera who talks about what a girl wants and needs and who takes her sexuality to an entirely different level by being the one who leads the show in “Dirrrty”. I hope we realize that “if you like it”, putting a ring on it does not make someone own us. I hope we listen to Alicia Keys saying “I am superwoman, yes I am”. I hope we celebrate women for the beautiful, complex creatures we are, like Joy Williams in her song “Woman (Oh Mama)” and how different her “Oh Mama” is from Nicki Minaj’s “Hey Mama.”
Women, you have a voice and a choice. Use it whichever way you see fit. But use it as yours, and yours alone and not as what someone thinks it should be.