Arts & Culture

Sexism in the Pop Music Industry

The pop music industry is booming with new music, new artists, and new releases. But the one thing that has remained constant is the deep-rooted sexism. 

Hardly any of us would be ignorant about the general consensus of the world on male pop groups or singers. Every conversation about BTS, One Direction, Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes elicits the same scorn filled reaction from self-proclaimed music critics and experts- a passing trend, shallow music, etc. “They’re only famous because they’re pretty” is a popular belief, and it becomes important to acknowledge the not so subtle sexist undertones that lace this common misconception. 

A common feature of these singers and groups is their predominantly larger female fanbase. It is this demographic that automatically reduces their music to something that only ‘thirteen-year-old teenage fangirls’ listen to. And even if it is just thirteen-year-old teenage girls listening to it, why is it that it becomes a bad thing? One could say that every neighbourhood rapper in the past 12 years has had the same sad flow beaten to death over and over again, and yet with a fanbase that is predominantly male-centric, it becomes a thing of critic and is labelled ‘cool’. 

Anything that women and girls love is deemed hysterical, even though men and boys might have the same level of passion for an artist without being considered ‘frenzied’ or ‘mad’. Fans of artists like Eminem haven’t truly been sneered at for decorating their spaces with his merch, which unfortunately does not hold true for pop artists like BTS and Taylor Swift.

The biggest example of this has to be the global sensation Beatles. The band’s rise to popularity in the 1960s came to be termed as Beatlemania. The band was known for its ‘screaming female fans’ and was even dismissed early on as a fad. The fans, who were termed hysterical and their expression, which was termed as a mania probably says more than enough. Yet, almost seven decades down, they’ve only gotten bigger; The band that paved the way for fangirling is now termed a classic.  

The sexism in the industry becomes apparent when these artists are called homophobic and sexist slurs when their hard work and talent is reduced to nothing, when their sense of self-expression is labelled ‘girly’ because that makes them ‘less than’. And it isn’t just the artists who suffer too. As a male, liking these artists or groups makes the fans social pariahs as well. They are ridiculed and shamed for liking something ‘girly’. 

But that’s the notion that’s been established by the toxic masculinity perpetuated by society-  that men and soft emotions cannot coexist. That artists that rap and rock it out over dark, intense concepts are applauded in the same musical space where soft, peppy love songs are given a cold shoulder. 

 “I feel like the toxic notion that men are supposed to be rough and into ‘dark’ music is the reason why a lot of men only listen to rock/rap. Everyone somewhat enjoys pop music which is why it is pop. But revealing themselves as fans of easy, uplifting pop music does not align with their entire aura of being tough,” said a twenty-year-old male fan.

Sexism is not just limited to genres and artists though. The catchy songs hitting the charts reek of objectification, misogyny and in cases, even violence. Songs by popular artists like The Weeknd, David Guetta, Jason Durelo, have multiple lyrics objectifying women and calling them names. Eminem is known for producing music that talks about bashing gays and raping women, and well, he’s remained a favourite. Because, honestly, hardly any of us care about the lyrics when ‘the beat slaps’.

Evidently, in the industry, this sexism is perpetuated and sustained by the very industry itself- the artists and the fans alike. 

Feature Image Credits: Scopio

Satviki Sanjay

satvikis@dubeat.com

Shreya Juyal

shreyaj@dubeat.com