Popular music is often perceived to be the voice of society’s empowered individuals, its male and female artists speaking truths through their art. Popular music’s negative portrayal of women has been historically regarded as a huge obstacle in fighting gender equality. However, most critics acknowledge that there have been positive changes in how popular music has portrayed women over time. Music has played an important role in evolving women’s rights and male-female relations. Music has inspired and supported women’s unique and powerful roles within every culture (Ramnath). The role popular music plays in promoting equality between the sexes is of considerable importance as it influences the attitude and perception of society. Equality between men and women is important for both biological and social reasons. Popular music has helped advance social movements such as women’s right to vote, civil rights, and gay rights. Music shapes people’s attitudes by influencing how they feel towards something or someone. A song’s lyrics and rhythm can be an emotional platform to help people express their opinions on social issues. Music is also a form of language. It reaches out to people in a way that words do not always do because people often choose not to listen. The lyrics and music of a song can be used as powerful propaganda to support or promote change. Thus, popular music plays a significant role in promoting equality between the sexes because it influences society.
Popular music has supported the evolution of women’s rights and has encouraged male-female relationships that are more equal. The biggest change toward gender equality in popular music was the introduction of the two-sided, two-managed model of the pop music industry. For example, the song “Flawless” by Beyoncé featuring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie criticizes men who try to control women’s behavior. This song represents the noticeable change in gender equality in popular music through its strong feminist statement, which has also been seen in other contemporary songs. This song portrays women’s lives as equal and free from oppression. For example, the lyrics notes, “We raise girls to see each other as competitors, Not for jobs or for accomplishments, Which I think can be a good thing, But for the attention of men, We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings, In the way that boys are” (AZLyrics). These lyrics show that until this point, women have been taught to be inferior and that they are competing against each other. Therefore, this song asserts that women should not objectify themselves to gain men’s attention. The song has tackled the issue gender inequality from a feminist standpoint and created a positive message for girls and women (Valenti). This message encourages self-empowerment, success, and freedom from the pressures of the media’s unrealistic portrayal of female beauty standards.
In the song “Flawless”, the form and content of the work have been influenced by the author’s gender. The authors are women, and the song has a feminist standpoint. The lyrics theme entails woman’s quest for success, which many women aspire to achieve. However, the lyrics have been criticized as unrealistic because the song does not portray a balanced representation of sex roles in society. Most of the work is focused on beauty and appearance, which is unrealistic because women do not always strive to look perfect but lose weight to look “flawless” (Valenti). The song is also a representation of women’s empowerment, but it raises the question whether a woman being empowered is still objectifying herself by trying to attract men. Overall, the song represents positive changes in gender equality and demonstrates the changing role of women in society. In the song “Flawless”, Beyoncé criticizes men who try to control women. The song promotes feminism and suggests that a woman should be able to dictate what actions she should take to be successful and that a man should not have the right to tell her what to do. The lyrics highlight, “Ain’t no more games where I’m weak, I got my own mind and you not it” (AZLyrics). These lyrics promotes the idea that women are strong and independent individuals, which is a powerful message for young girls and women. This song also encourages women to not let a man have control over their lives and to be responsible for their own decisions. The lyrics further notes, “I’m just being free, ain’t no need to be insecure” (AZLyrics). The song has a strong feminist message that affects the attitudes of young girls. This song, therefore, represents a positive shift in how men and women view sex roles in society.
However, not all songs about women address female empowerment. Many songs with a feminist agenda have been accused of promoting male superiority in popular music. Some critics viewed the song “I Touch Myself” by The Divinyls as an example of this issue. This song describes a woman taking her clothes off to reveal her genitals to lure men into satisfying their sexual needs (UCLA). Even though this song is trying to promote female empowerment, critics were appalled that it was aimed at men. It was viewed as promoting female sexuality to please men, which contradicts the message of equality between the sexes. Popular music has also been accused of controlling women and pressuring them to look a certain way to gain acceptance and fame within society. Women have become conditioned to the negative portrayal of women within popular music since they are constantly exposed to it through recordings, videos, concerts, magazines and even advertisements (UCLA). As a result, popular music has perpetuated unrealistic images that objectify women’s bodies.
In conclusion, the message of equality between men and women is presented throughout popular music, leading to greater acceptance of gender equality. By using feminist messages in their songs, female singers seek to promote an equal society for women. The message of equality is emphasized through popular music’s lyrics and rhythm, which has helped women become empowered enough to fight for what they want in life. Music is used as a form of birth control, whereby people with different political ideologies can come together and use music as both a tool of persuasion and as a way of expressing their feelings towards social issues. Many people begin to realize that they have the power to make changes in their lives and in society. As a result, popular music has been used as a tool for social change. For example, the song “Flawless” by Beyoncé represents the significant shift that is taking place in gender equality through its feminist message. The lyrics promote women’s self-empowerment and freedom from unrealistic beauty standards portrayed in the media today. Women are also encouraged to be responsible for their own decisions and not let men control their lives.
AZLyrics. “Beyoncé – Flawless lyrics | AZLyrics.com.” AZLyrics – Song Lyrics from A to Z, 2019. www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beyonceknowles/flawless.html
Ramnath, Aarthi. “Tracing The History and Role of Music in The Evolution Of Feminist Movements.” Feminism In India, 3 Jan. 2022. feminisminindia.com/2021/12/03/tracing-the-history-and-role-of-music-in-the-evolution-of-feminist-movements/
UCLA. “Gender in Popular Music.” https://genderinuspopmusic.humspace.ucla.edu/#, genderinuspopmusic.humspace.ucla.edu/#
Valenti, J. “Beyoncé’s ‘Flawless’ feminist act at the VMAs leads the way for other women | Jessica Valenti.” the Guardian, 8 Aug. 2017, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/25/beyonce-flawless-feminist-vmas