I recently rediscovered my last.fm account that I forgot about for several years. I’ve had the account since 2007, so it even predates this blog, est. 2009. Last.fm has kept track of what I’ve listened to while working for more than a decade, with the exception of 2020 and 2021 when I didn’t have the latest app downloaded. Anyway, since I rediscovered my account there, I’ve been paying attention to what I listen to a little more. My left brain loves statistics like how many times I’ve listened to a particular song or band.
Listening to my library with post-Me Too movement ears, I’ve noticed that a lot of the music I’ve listened to since I was a teenager is quite misogynistic. I’ve always known this, but nowadays, it stings a little more. The dismissal of women (and LGBTQIA+) is not new in music. It goes way, way back to the beginning of the music industry. This particularly applies to genres of hip-hop and punk.
When I was fifteen, a friend introduced me to punk. I went from being a shy kid who did what I was told to shaving my head, and wearing my dad’s flannel shirts and a second hand pair of combat boots from the army surplus store. I stopped caring what anyone thought of me. Punk forever changed me, or rather, it encouraged me to be me. I was liberated. I will always be grateful for that.
Listening to punk now though, which I am as I write this, I am remembering how I just shrugged off a lot of the lyrics. A lot of punk lyrics are tongue in cheek and that’s how I took them. Punk was all about pushing boundaries, so a lot of songs were intentionally offensive. I’m not going to single out any songs or bands in my library, because that’s not entirely fair. They were a product of an era in a genre where being offensive was the order of the day.
Listening today, there’s something else I noticed: most punk bands were comprised of men–or really, boys–so the perspective is male. It’s a strange thing to realize that you, as a female, listened to mostly male voices in your formative years.
That’s not to say that women weren’t in the punk scene. There were a lot of us and some of us were even in bands. Some pioneers in the genre were women, e.g., Exene Cervenka and Wendy O. Williams. However, most punk music (and most hip-hop too) is from a male perspective.
Not only were punk bands comprised mostly of males, but they were predominantly white males too. Even in Detroit where I grew up, a city that was 80% black at the time, most Detroit punk bands were white. There were black punk bands like Death and Bad Brains, but it was mostly white boys. Once again, the white male perspective dominates. This is something I’ve really noticed over the past few years: how much of everything from movies to music to politics is from a white male perspective.
It’s really amazing how much men have dominated history. This male stranglehold really set in with the Greeks and Romans I suppose. The Romans stole most everything from earlier civilizations like Mesopotamia and Egypt anyway. They didn’t invent much of anything except maybe Roman concrete and misogyny. Seriously, ask 100 people who invented the aqueduct and I bet 100 of them will say the Romans. Lies.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand: misogyny and music. There’s a lot of it. Even down to just a few years ago with the hubbub over Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. They wrote a sexually explicit song (a very catchy one at that) and the world freaked out. Talk about double standard. It’s apparently okay for men to perform sexually explicit songs that objectify women, but women can’t do the same. Boooooo.
I suppose the point of this rambling post is that we, the non-male humans, are paying attention. Power to the pussy. I’m going to go listen to some Aretha Franklin now. Respect.