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what happened to sisterhood?

April 27th, 2007     by Thea Lim     Comments

Okay, so popular music isn’t exactly the last bastion of feminism, but I can’t help but be a little saddened by some of the lyrics on the radio these days.

Take Avril Lavigne for example. Her new song “Girlfriend” is a sonic catfight, where she calls her crush’s girlfriend stupid and, like, so whatever. The video involves Avril attacking said girlfriend with a golf ball and laughing as she falls into a pond. Isn’t there already enough violence in high schools without Avril helping out?

Carrie Underwood’s song “Before He Cheats” manages to embrace not only girl-hating but classism, as she refers to her bf’s other gf as a white trash tramp who can’t shoot whiskey (ooo! burn!).

I guess the reason why these two songs make me take to the liquor cabinet more than, say the Pussycat Dolls, is that both Avril and Carrie have been held up as good role models for young women. Avril has been applauded for eschewing raunchiness and being proudly individual where other pop tarts don’t (Sidebar: I strongly disagree with that, and think that Avril is an individual in the most sheep-like way, but hey, that’s what the critics are saying) and Carrie, as a Christian rock goddess and supporter of the troops is seen to be a good alternative to, well, fallen blonde American Christians such as Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson.

What disturbs me the most is that I’m pretty sure both these singers have seen that a good way to up their popularity is by attacking “stupid girls” or “tramps.” Avril has on numerous occasions spoken out against female pop singers who attract attention with revealing clothes, saying that she wants to be appreciated for her music first. Seeking the rewards of girl-hating are probably not conscious acts on Lavigne or Underwood’s part, but they still do it pretty effectively.

The irony is that Avril attacks the sell-out-iness of women who wear bikinis just to sell records, at the same time as she’s attacking other women, because, well, it sells records. Essentially both Lavigne and Underwood are rewarded for hating other women, for being cooler and more moral than stupid tramps - and as walking industries, they’re taking advantage of that. Come on now, that’s not right.

(I suppose I should mention I just wrote a novel on this topic. Okay, now that is the last time I will hijack our blog for disgusting promotional purposes.)

All this just intensifies my now uncontrollable love for Beyonce, who has gone from demanding that a man pay her automobills (please see Bills Bills Bills, circa 1998) to only hiring female musicians (see video for Irreplaceable, circa 2006).

Ciara has an interesting take on the whole topic with her new single “Like a Boy.” Though the song essentialises male and female behaviour by suggesting that women naturally get cheated on, and men naturally cheat (wow, did I just use the word “essentialise” to talk about a pop song?) it does question cultural power dynamics that can destroy relationships. I especially like the video, where at the end a bunch of girls dress up as men and do a dance number not to be sexy (none of them really look stereotypically sexy, and there’s not a single boob or butt close-up) but to turn gender stereotypes on their heads. Drag king-ing in a mainstream music video? I think that’s pretty great.

Tags: media savvy

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