Somebody's gotta wear a pretty skirt,
Somebody's gotta be the one to flirt,
Somebody's gotta wanna hold his hand so God Made Girls
These lines begin probably one of the more sexist songs I’ve heard in my lifetime of 19 years. “God Made Girls” has a great tune and will get stuck in your head - fast - but the message underlying its lyrics is quite outdated. Throughout the song it is implied that God created women to provide for, care for, and love men. I mean, what would men do without women when “Somebody’s gotta be the one to cry”? A blogger on Jezebel made a rant about this song, declaring “the term ‘retrograde’ doesn’t do this song justice - it’s downright Victorian.” Feminists everywhere, I know you, too, are probably seething with rage as you Google this song and read through its lyrics.
But just know that it doesn’t stop there.
With country music being less popular with the millennials - who are coincidentally (or not?) the most progressive, open-minded and inclusive generation - the many sexist lyrics that are basically characteristic of this genre have gone overlooked or ignored.
Take the recently-released song “Different for Girls” by Dierks Bentley for example.
It's different for girls when their hearts get broke
They can't tape it back together with a whiskey and coke
They don't take someone home and act like it's nothing
They can't just switch it off every time they feel something
A guy gets drunk with his friends and he might hook up
Fast forward through the pain, pushing back when the tears come on
But it's different for girls
Hold up… so you’re telling me that girls post-breakup don’t have a GNO at the club and sip on their Skinny Girl vodka and trash talk the newest ex-boyfriend of the squad?! Dierks, I’m sorry dear, but you are sadly mistaken. This song is obviously a little less overtly sexist than the last one, but it nonetheless promotes gender-stereotyped behavior. It promotes the idea that girls are emotional creatures who become introverted and fragile when they experience heartbreak. The song even goes on to say, “nobody said it was fair,” further implying that gender stereotypes portray an inescapable destiny; when us girls get our hearts broken, we have no choice in how we can handle it.
I’ve been submerging myself in country music ever since I applied to Vanderbilt University, which I now attend. Listening to the slow guitar and Southern twang of the singers made rides to school so much better. But as time went on, the Southern charm and excitement about moving to Tennessee faded to the background as I began to listen more closely to the words coming out of my radio.
One of my favorite country songs actually addresses some of the sexism present in country music (and it’s catchy!), called “Girl in a Country Song” by Maddie & Tae. Just to give you a taste of it…
Bein' the girl in a country song
How in the world did it go so wrong?
Like all we're good for
Is looking good for you and your friends on the weekend
We used to get a little respect
Now we're lucky if we even get
To climb up in your truck, keep our mouth shut and ride along
And be the girl in a country song
YES, Maddie & Tae, PREACH IT! So often I hear these male country singers swooning over their woman “riding shotgun” with her “seat laid back” ready for him to charm and please her. I am so thrilled that women like Maddie & Tae have begun to challenge the Country Music Patriarchy - it’s about time. These themes of pretty, soft, fragile women being charmed by brawny, sex-hungry country men dates back many decades. However, as we move towards a more progressive society, I see songs like Maddie & Tae’s becoming more popular.
Although I still listen to country music literally anytime I’m behind the wheel (“they’re always singing about driving anyways!” is what I use to justify it to my friends), I am still aware of the messages that are being conveyed through the music. I am hoping, along with many female country artists, that country music begins its own “catch-up” with the rest of pop-culture and starts treating women with respect. Someday I hope to turn my windows down in the summer air as I drive down a highway and hear love songs that don’t say “If you’ll be my soft and sweet, I’ll be your strong and steady” or “Love the way you’re wearin’ those jeans so tight.” Instead, I hope to relax to some respectful man (or woman; who knows how progressive Country might become?) singing about a girl in the most charming yet least objectifying way possible. Now that’s what I call a good love song.