DJ Turn That Speaker Up

My apologies to anyone who checks this blog regularly or semi-regularly, I know it has been a couple of days since my last posting.  I hope you guys enjoyed the stuff I posted on women and the war memorials, but now I’m ready to talk about something we’re exposed to way more regularly than monuments in DC (and that’s coming from me, and I live in the District of Columbia most of the year): music.  Here are six songs you probably know and an analysis of how they portray gender/sexuality.  (Sorry if it’s a little long)

SONG #1: “For The First Time” (the Script)

Why did I pick this one?  Because it shows a great differentiation of gender, but not one that really demeans one or the other.  Think about it.  Each verse starts with “she is” followed by “while I’m”, but it never really takes away from what the girl is doing, or glorify what the guy is doing.  Verse #1: she’s laid up in bed with a broken heart while I’m drinking Jack all alone at the local bar…both the girl and the guy are portrayed as broken and lonely.  Verse #2: She’s in line at the dole with her head held high, while I just lost my job but didn’t lose my pride.  BOTH are holding on to their dignity despite what is happening.  So for that reason, we’re giving “For The First Time” a nice little thumbs up for equitable portrayal of gender.  

So what DOES this song tell us about gender?  Well, it still depicts the guy as the breadwinner, so that might have been a thumbs down, but what it REALLY tells us is that, especially for men, to be unemployed and unable to provide might be a hit to the ego (see “while I just lost my job but…”).  But more importantly, what this song tells us is that the most important things are immaterial, and that the people we have by our sides are more valuable than anything money could buy.  I know, it’s not a gender message, but I still think it’s worth acknowledging here.

And to the person for whom this is my song, if you’re reading this (though I doubt you are)…I know. I’m still here. Just give it time.

SONG #2: “I Wanna Go” (Britney Spears)

If you just looked at that and said “there is no way Britney Spears is getting a positive review”, chill a second, because Britney Spears (other problems aside) had a lot of image issues related to a hypersexualization of young women in America coupled with a twisted expectation that girls remain “pure”, a subject that she actually tackles in this song.  So for that reason, “I Wanna Go” totally gets a thumbs up for positive portrayal of female sexuality and critique of stigma.  Yeah, I know.  I never thought I’d be citing any of Britney’s songs as “critiques” of anything sociological, but there’s one line (“shame on me to need release”) that really gets right to the heart of the problem: we stigmatize women who engage in casual sexual activity while failing to slap that stigma on guys, allowing for the term slut to be applied only to girls.  “I Wanna Go” directly explores female sexuality, and I actually think that’s great. Yay, Britney.

SONG #3: “Just The Way You Are” (Bruno Mars)

Here’s the thing about “Just The Way You Are”: he’s saying ALL the right things.  And seriously, what girl doesn’t want her partner telling her she’s beautiful all the time, telling her she’s perfect, etc.?  (Or what guy, for that matter?  I really just went with girl initially because the subject of the song is, in fact, female)  But here’s the thing: the ONLY thing he talks about is how beautiful she is.  He never refers to her as smart, independent, funny, or successful, just beautiful.  It’s basically her only character trait.  So while Bruno Mars gets a total thumbs up for being super sweet and romantic in this song, he gets a thumbs down for single-trait portrayal of gender (f).  Guys, if you love a girl, shouldn’t you love her for being more than just beautiful/sexy?

SONG #4: “Tonight” (Enrique Iglesias)

After I gave that thumbs up to Britney, you might think that I was on a “Yay exploring sexuality” kick right now and then might have concluded that I was on the same page as Enrique Iglesias in this song, but if perchance you were thinking that…I’m sorry, but no.  While I have nothing against women exploring their sexualities and sexual desires, this song seriously objectifies women, where the lyrics focus in on the girl’s body and the anticipated sex, but again, that’s it.  And in the words of a friend of mine, it’s a little “rape-y”, as if the decision has already been made, regardless of what the girl wants…ICK.  Thumbs down for this one.

SONG #5: “Fifteen” (Taylor Swift)

For those who don’t know me, I’m a total Taylor Swift fan, because I think a lot of her songs are easy to relate to, but that DOESN’T mean I’d give a positive review to just any of her songs (I could really give you some solid criticisms for “Tell Me Why” and I could probably get into some issues with “Love Story” even though I like the song).  The reason I chose “Fifteen” is because it is one of the only songs where the girl actually decides that her goals and dreams are more important that the guy she is with (“back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday but I realized some bigger dreams of mine…”) AND talks about the sexual pressures that girls face as they are growing up and learning to navigate relationships and sexuality (“and Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind…”).

I know it seems a little shaky when she spends a decent part of the song wrapped up in the relationship, but she also takes the time to mention her friendship with Abigail and to explore what we’re made to believe about falling in love.So my final thumbs up goes to “Fifteen” for an awesome portrayal of maturation and female independence: because sometimes, you have to walk away, and we don’t hear songs about that too often.

Got a song you want talked about on The Radical Idea?  Email me at

Oh, and before people start commenting how much they like all of these songs, how could I say this, etc, I have nothing against any of these songs, except maybe that some of them are a tad overplayed on the radio.


~ by Randi Saunders on August 15, 2011.

One Response to “DJ Turn That Speaker Up”

  1. super website carry on.

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