A Letter to the Musicians of Society
17 December 2022
Dear Musicians of Society,
Listeners are heavily influenced by the lyrical art you create and share. Therefore, it is important to be cautious and precise with the wording that is chosen as it holds the potential to impact every human being’s sensibility. Often, a sense of misogyny and sexism is integrated into certain types of music, specifically within the hip-hop genre. Initially, hip-hop was created during difficult times as a way for people to connect with one another and share significant messages through soulful music. However, I feel that as time has progressed, it has become normalized to incorporate ideas of ownership, objectification, and shaming towards women in this significant form of expression. This encourages a sense of toxic masculinity, sexism, and misogyny through patriarchy, despite it being the twenty-first century.
Personally, I listen to hip-hop music often but never really think carefully about the words and messages that artists are promoting. Why is it that so many of the successful songs in this genre of music are so incredibly degrading to women? Is it because male artists feel that they must appear to be as masculine as possible? But then I wonder, what type of masculinity is this that men aspire to be? This leads me to the topic of toxic masculinity. As I was writing this letter, I searched for synonyms for masculinity on the internet. The Oxford English Dictionary displays the synonyms being “toughness, muscularity, ruggedness, robustness, vigor, [and] strength”. Essentially, what I am trying to show is the toxic expectations that are forced upon those who desire to seem masculine. Boys are frequently compelled to suppress their emotions and conceal any vulnerability they may feel. Peggy Orenstein writes, “Boys routinely confided that they felt denied—by male peers, girlfriends, the media, teachers, coaches, and especially their fathers—the full spectrum of human expression (Orenstein Peggy. “The Miseducation of the American Boy”). In the lyrics of a hip-hop song or rap, a male may be praised for his sexual prowess, whereas a woman is slut-shamed for the same action. The song “GUMMO” recorded by American rapper 6ix9ine says, “Man that’s really all I use her for, I kick her out the door / I don’t want her, you can keep the wh*re, she fiendin’ for some more” (6ix9ine. GUMMO). Lyrics often refer to women as “b*tches” and “h*es” while sexualizing every aspect of their appearances. This double standard promoted through what once was an emotional, meaningful genre of music has now turned trashy and sexist. The Pew Research Center On Gender Differences reports, “The biggest gap can be seen in encouraging children to talk about their feelings when they are sad or upset: 59% of adults say there is too little emphasis on encouraging boys to talk about their feelings, while only 38% say the same about girls” (Pew Research Center. “On Gender Differences, No Consensus on Nature vs. Nurture”). This ties in with the concept of misogyny, as well as patriarchy which also pressures men into this emotionless persona.
Patriarchy is defined as a social system of beliefs that creates a structure of gender inequality between men and women; men hold positions of authority, while women are excluded from this power. It is rare for male rap artists to express feelings of powerlessness in their music due to the fear of showing any sign of weakness and facing the repercussions from society that comes with it. Bell Hooks explains that “Patriarchy demands of men that they become and remain emotional cripples” (Hooks Bell. “Understanding Patriarchy”). She describes how men and women both actively contribute to a patriarchal society and how both genders must work together in order to eliminate patriarchy by acknowledging the present bias, as well as challenging the norms assigned to each gender.
Through this letter, I am hoping to acknowledge the vulgar culture that surrounds hip-hop music and the misogyny which exists within. The inappropriate sexual content within this music is heavily sexist and prejudiced toward women. We are in the twenty-first century. Regardless of what gender one identifies as, all individuals should feel comfortable expressing their emotions without being afraid of judgment and backlash. Although patriarchy may never completely cease to exist, due to being ingrained in our society for centuries, we can learn to acknowledge and fight against the system itself. This includes the toxic masculinity mindset that males feel obligated to hold and the misogyny which exists in our current society. I hope you all consider my words thoughtfully.
“Gummo - Single by 6ix9ine.” Spotify, 12 October 2017, https://open.spotify.com/album/51qlJOqCapoHshML7v9vdq. Accessed 11 October 2022.
Hooks, Bell. Understanding Patriarchy. Louisville Anarchist Federation, 2010.
“On Gender Differences, No Consensus on Nature vs. Nurture.” Pew Research Center, 5 December 2017, https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2017/12/05/on-gender-differences-no-consensus-on-nature-vs-nurture/. Accessed 11 October 2022.
Orenstein, Peggy. “THE MISEDUCATION OF THE AMERICAN BOY.” The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/01/the-miseducation-of-the-american-boy/603046/. Accessed 11 October 2022.
Oxford English Dictionary. synonyms of masculinity. 2022. OxfordLanguages, https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/. Accessed 11 October 2022.