Gender Stereotypes In Music And Their Effects On Public
Gender roles are what society believes are acceptable actions or beliefs for a person to have based on their gender. There are gender roles in every community everywhere in the world. For example, it is socially acceptable for women to wear skirts and dresses but for men it is not. In the music industry, there are clear gender stereotypes for male and female performers. These gender roles or stereotypes separate the work that artists can and cannot do based on their gender and what is socially acceptable. The effect of this gender rift creates a very gender discriminatory industry. The clothing artists wear, what lyrics they can sing, and how they are viewed by their audiences are all affected by these gender roles.
Most artists have a specific way that they dress and most times their gender is the driving factor in how they dress for performances. For example, in Tamara Winfrey Harris’ essay “All Hail the Queen?” she writes about the double standards imposed on the superstar Beyonce. Harris points out some backlash against the superstar, “In a January 2013 Guardian article titled ‘Beyonce: Being Photographed in Your Underwear Doesn’t Help Feminism,’ writer Hadley Freeman blasts the singer for posing […] ‘nearly naked in seven photos[…].’ Of course, in that very same issue of GQ, Beyonce makes several statements about gender inequality — the sort not often showcased in men’s magazines” (Harris 264). Feminism is the belief that men and women should be equal. Beyonce has been a role-model for many feminists around the world. During many of her shows, she wears outfits that are considered revealing and more aimed towards receiving male attention. When Beyonce goes on stage in a revealing outfit, critics call her a hypocrite because a feminist believes in a woman’s right of equality and there she is performing for a male audience. Except what they do not realize is, Beyonce is not dressing that way to impress men. She is confident in who she is and wants to inspire other women to be confident too. When a male performer goes on stage and he sags his pants and wears baggy clothes, then no one bats an eye. Just because of her outfits some critics do not consider her being as devoted to the cause of liberating other women from the pressures of the patriarchy. Even though how she dresses is how women are expected to dress as a female performer in the music industry. In contrast to Beyonce receiving negativity based on showing too much skin, singer Billie Eilish has received backlash because she refuses to show her body at all. Reporter Lara Walsh tells us in her article, “The Reason Billie Eilish Wears Baggy Clothes Is Actually Really Upsetting,” about why Billie Eilish does not wear revealing clothing when she performs, “Known for her quirky style and aesthetic, the singer has previously opened up about why she tends to go for clothing with a looser fit, saying that she’s done so to avoid people from sexualizing her body” (Walsh). Billie Eilish has received all kinds of commentary on her outfits since she became famous. Most of them remarking of the “weirdness” of how she prefers baggy clothes rather than more form-fitting outfits. Most of her fans are supportive of her, but some people give her a hard time for it. The singer has let none of the negative comments hurt her. It is sad though that a young girl who is trying to make music is being pressured to conform to society’s view on how she should dress based on her gender.
An artists gender affects not only how they dress but also the songs they can produce. In the same essay by Harris she says, “Petersen says the singer’s lyrical feminism swings between fantasy (‘Run the World [Girls]’) and ‘bemoaning and satirizing men’s inability to commit to monogamous relationships’ (‘Single Ladies’)”(Harris 263). Beyonce is known for creating songs that are more aimed to empower women. She is a feminist and makes songs that reflect her beliefs. Unfortunately, when she makes songs that talk about how the patriarchy is the root cause of most problems women face while being dressed in revealing clothing, she is labeled as a hypocrite by some critics. When a man writes a song about his “crazy ex-girlfriend” most critics do not care, but if a woman writes a song about how men molest women, then it is a problem. Again, another artist who faces a similar problem is Billie Eilish. In Marta Djordjevic’s article, “The real reason why Billie Eilish’s music is so controversial,” she tells us that, “Although she’s spoken out about her macabre material being fictional, that still hasn’t stopped naysayers from deeming Eilish as someone who glorifies suicide. From her dark lyrics to her cover on The Fader, which saw the musician with a plastic bag over her head in 2019, concerned critics have continued to speak out” (Djordjevic). Billie Eilish has many songs that are considered unnerving and dark. This is a big difference from most pop songs that talk about love and relationships. Eilish’s songs have a dark connotation and are for a more “angsty” audience. Billie Eilish is a female artist singing songs about serious issues she faces in her everyday life. She goes against the grain and does not let gender stereotypes affect her or her music. This causes a lot of backlash and negative comments. Billie Eilish differs because in her songs she talks about mental illness, sexuality, and her own personal experiences in her music. Some critics dislike her music because it’s different from the music that comes from other main-stream female artists.
Besides clothing and lyrics, how the performers are viewed in the eyes of the public is influenced by gender. Also in the essay “All Hail the Queen?” by Tamara Winfrey Harris, she talks about how critics disapprove of Beyonce’s outfits on stage during a time where it’s a common belief that women should own their own bodies and asks, “Why, then, are cultural critics […] convinced that when Beyonce pops a leather-clad pelvis on stage, it is solely for the benefit of men? Why do others think her acknowledgement of how patriarchy influences our understanding of what’s sexy is mere ‘lip service’?” (Harris 265). Some people see Beyonce as a superstar and an activist. Other people see her as a hypocrite. They base many opinions of the singer on her gender. Most women find Beyonce to be an inspiration because of her activism, whereas most men only find her attractive because of her body. Critics call her a hypocrite because she performs shows that they believe are more aimed towards gaining male attention while claiming to be a feminist. That they discredit her for being comfortable for expressing her sexuality is the reason that feminism exists today. Women can not go around exposing too much skin or she is trying to get attention from a man, which is often not the case. Women are thought to be light and delicate, and men are supposed to be dominant and tough. So anytime an artist goes against this stereotype they are often criticized harshly. Beyonce is a strong and independent woman. She is a role model for young girls in these changing times, but some people dislike that.
In the music industry, artists and performers are all held to gender stereotypes that often push them to act certain ways. Gender stereotypes affect how an artist dresses, what music they make, and how they are seen by the public. Gender roles condemn people to acting a certain way based on their gender. Many people may not realize their talent in a field that is predominantly male or female because of their gender. Hopefully one day, society will not expect artists to act a certain way because they are male or female. Maybe one day no one in the world will have to be forced into anything because of their gender identity.
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