(October is domestic violence awareness month. My blog will focus on domestic violence from the often ignored and silent perspective – the male victim – and how organizations, politicians, and society deny men and their children the same awareness, compassion, and resources offered to women.)
Women’s groups have been advocating that many forms of media, particularly rap and hip-hop music, carry words and images that are degrading, sexist, aggressive, and violent towards women. They have defined this as a serious cultural problem that needs to be seriously addressed.
As a father of a teenage daughter, I couldn’t agree more, and have found many other women and men feel the same, taking up the cause by boycotting those individuals, groups, or corporations that perpetuate this type of gender humiliation – whether on a personal or organizational level.
This awareness, led by women’s rights and domestic violence prevention advocates, has resulted in aggressive pressure being placed upon those responsible for creating these harmful images to change their ways.
While I have never questioned the purpose, I have always questioned the cause. In some of my previous writings I have questioned whether blaming men, masculinity, and the patriarchy is actually valid in the present social environment. I have reasoned, in an age when women are out pacing men academically, making incredible strides in the areas of independence, career, money, status, and power, why is it they have chosen to exploit themselves, or allow themselves to be exploited, in such growing numbers?
Feminist ideology says that with the rise of all the components listed above, the ability for women to be exploited would decrease. Instead, it has been increasing.
I believe that if more emphasis was placed on seeing women as being just as exploitive as men, then the cause of this societal stain would become clearer. I believe women are no different than men; they are human first. This means that if exploiting themselves or others for their own personal gain is within their reach, they will do so. And just like men in the past, when caught doing so, women try to avoid any accountability.
Men, having held power for so long, have filled many history books with various methods of exploitation. This is why exploitation is viewed as a masculine issue, but as women gain power, it is becoming clearer that such issues as exploitation, discrimination, and violence are as much a part of the feminine personality as the masculine.
With that being said, let’s take a look at female violence in the media.
But My Violent Media is “Different”
A female reader of mine recently sent me the lyrics for a country song by female artist Miranda Lambert. The song is called “Gunpowder and Lead”. She was disturbed by the content and images of the song, which unfortunately, her young son was listening to.
Here is a sample:
I’m goin’ home, gonna load my shotgun
Wait by the door and light a cigarette
If he wants a fight well now he’s got one
And he ain’t seen me crazy yet
He slap my face and he shook me like a rag doll
Don’t that sound like a real man
I’m going to show him what a little girls made of
Gunpowder and lead
His fist is big but my gun’s bigger
He’ll find out when I pull the trigger
In all the advocacy done to raise awareness towards violent images and words in modern music/media, I have never heard this song mentioned. Is it because the violence is directed at a male instead of a female?
Would the same hold true for Carrie Underwood’s song, “Before He Cheats” which tells the violent reaction of a women scorned by a cheating partner?
That I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped up 4 wheel drive,
carved my name into his leather seats…
I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights,
slashed a hole in all 4 tires…
Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats.
Nobody in the DV awareness circles complained about this song. In fact, this form of toe-tapping domestic violence towards men garnered Underwood a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance! (And she demonstrates exactly how a woman should do this during her live performances. Underwood violently attacks a car on stage with a baseball bat during this song.)
Domestic violence awareness advocates have stated repeatedly that any form of violent outbursts by a partner is a significant indication if that person is a potential abuser. But DV awareness advocates and women groups were silent on Underwood’s song, failing to criticize or reach out to young women (Underwood’s fan base) to educate and counter the dangerous image and message the song was sending these young women, that using violence in any manner is not the way to address and handle emotional situations in their relationships.
So why were they silent? One will have to assume it’s because the victim is male and the perpetrator female.
But finally there was controversy when the Dixie Chics came out with their song, “Goodbye Earl” which tells the story of an abused woman who along with a female companion kills her abusing partner (Earl) with passion and glee:
Right away Mary Anne flew in from Atlanta
On a red eye midnight flight
She held Wanda’s hand as they
worked out a plan
And it didn’t take long to decided
That Earl had to die
Those black-eyed peas
They tasted all right to me Earl
You’re feeling weak
Why don’t you lay down
and sleep Earl
Ain’t it dark
Wrapped up in that tarp Earl
Earl had to die
We need a break
Let’s go out to the lake Earl
We’ll pack a lunch
And stuff you in the trunk Earl
The video even includes a scene of the women dancing all giddy like school girls after killing Earl.
However, the Dixie Chics did show how sensitive they were to the issue of domestic violence by including this disclaimer:
“The Dixie Chicks do not advocate premeditated murder but love getting even.”
Gee, how sensitive and understanding.
Furthermore, in an interview, Natalie Maines, a member of the Dixie Chicks, said, “I think initially when we heard it, we just thought it was so funny.”
When men are victims of violence, it is “so funny”.
As I stated, controversy did engulf domestic violence awareness advocates over the Dixie Chic song and video – but not how one would think.
The dichotomy among DVA advocates was drawn between those who felt it helped raise awareness for domestic violence victims, and those who felt is was too comical and “tongue-in-cheek” to raise awareness to the cause. None, however, felt the actions and violence of the women were disturbing, or felt that using violence to solve violence is acceptable.
In contrast, when male country singer Garth Brooks produced the video for his song “The Thunder Rolls” which tells the story of a cheating man who comes home and beats his wife, The Nashville Network (TNN) and the Country Music Television (CMT), refused to play the video.
However, both stations played the “Goodbye Earl” video, and CMT never questioned playing all three videos which showcased females singing about death, violence, and revenge towards men. And it should be noted that not one DV prevention advocate that I’m aware of stated that Garth’s song/video displaying male-on-female violence “helped” raise awareness for domestic violence victims.
So what’s the difference? It’s obvious.
Garth’s video was male-on-female violence. That is wrong.
But female-on-male violence is funny, empowering, and educational.
DV prevention advocates and women have a legitimate cause for concern when it comes to how the media, particularly music, affects or influences our nation’s young men and women. According to researchers, both male and female teenagers spend more time listening to music than any other form of media in a correlating ratio to their age. The older they become, the more music they listen to. By the time he or she enters the dating years of high school and college, music is the dominate form of media in his or her life. And it is noted that females show more of a reliance on music than males.
But what’s more interesting is how this demographic responds to controversial lyrics in their music.
According to this study:
Two general patterns seem to emerge from the research on attention to lyrics: First, the more
important music is to an adolescent, the more importance he or she places on lyrics relative to other elements of music gratification. Second, attention to lyrics is highest among fans of oppositional or controversial music (whether it be 1960s protest folk or rock or the heavy metal and rap of today). In other words, the more defiant, alienated, and threatening to the mainstream a music type is, the more closely its fans follow the words (Christenson & Roberts,1998).
This would help explain the appeal and fascination with heavy metal and rap/hip hop music, and it also brings validity to the concerns of the misogynistic lyrics and images these genres proliferate.
While research analyzing the affects of misogynistic lyrics and images are a dime a dozen, there is barely any research analyzing how anti-male or mysandric lyrics and images affect male and female listeners.
I finally found one, and I can only say the results are surprising.
Music and Aggression: The Impact of Sexual-Aggressive Song Lyrics on Aggression-Related Thoughts, Emotions, and Behavior Toward the Same and the Opposite Sex, by Peter Fischer and Tobias Greitemeyer from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich.
In a series of three studies, we investigated the impact of misogynous and men-hating song lyrics on aggression related thoughts, emotions, and behavior toward the same and the opposite sex. In Study 1, male and female participants listened to misogynous or neutral song lyrics and, subsequently, their actual aggressive behavior toward a male or a female confederate was measured. Study 2 attempted to shed light on the underlying psychological mechanisms by measuring aggression-related cognitions and emotions. Furthermore, Study 2 widened the scope of Study 1 with regard to the effect of menhating music on aggressive inclinations of women toward men: Participants were exposed to misogynous, menhating, and neutral song lyrics and then the listeners’ aggression-related cognitions and emotions were measured. Study 3 intended to replicate the findings of the previous two studies by employing additional measures of aggressive inclinations and behavior. In short, the aim of the present research was to investigate whether male and female participants are prone to be influenced by violent music. More specifically, we tested the impact of misogynous song lyrics on aggressive responses of men toward women as well as more aggressive responses of women toward men after being exposed to men-hating music.
To sum up the results:
Study 1 showed male participants had increased aggression towards the female participants after listening to misogynist music. Females showed no measurable difference towards the male participants after listening to misandric music.
Study 2 was used to correct for the flaws in study 1. After listening to misogynist music, the male participants showed heightened aggression towards women again. However, this time, women began showing negative reactions to males, but still lacked the measurable form of vengeance found in the males.
In study 3, the researchers corrected a problem found in study 2, which was the realization that the intensity of the misogynistic music was greater than the intensity of the man-hating music. When the negative intensity of the anti-male music equaled the negativity intensity of the misogynistic music, women showed an unmistakable negative reaction towards their male participants:
Furthermore, we found evidence that men-hating song lyrics could have a similar effect on aggressive reactions of women toward men: Listening to men-hating song lyrics substantially increased women’s recognition of negative male attributes.
The study also found that as the intensity of the man-hating music increased, the males that were exposed to it showed an increase in aggressive and negative behavior towards women.
It’s sad there is only one study out of hundreds that had the integrity and courage to approach this subject from both sides. In recognition that only one study does not make absolute truth, there are still some important conclusions to be drawn from it:
— It is apparent that anti-male music is not funny or empowering – it is just another form of discrimination. I believe that common sense and historical evidence will establish that the uncontested and unaddressed proliferation of degrading, shaming, and humiliation of any individual, gender, race, religion, etc., will always lead to open and accepted discrimination of those individuals or groups by society.
I think this study only verifies that anti-male music, videos, and other media is as dangerous as the misogynistic music. However, I guarantee there will be no rush by women’s groups to address or question the female artists responsible for anti-male music. As usual, they will remain silent.
— If further studies corroborate the research, this study reveals a very important correlation: women who engage in writing anti-male music are not empowering women or creating a feeling of “justice” for women. Nor are they raising awareness to DV issues. Instead they are creating more aggressive behavior and actions towards women in men. In other words, if women choose to create this music they are contributing to more aggressive behaviors and actions not only towards men, but towards women also.
In no way is this anti-male music creating awareness towards DV prevention. It is actually raising the potential for domestic violence for both men and women.
— Women’s groups and DV prevention advocates have done a great job of raising awareness to the forms of media that are harmful to women. Since these same women believe in equality between the sexes, why do they consistently ignore popular media which displays blatant violence towards men when the perpetrator is female? When are they going to address and speak out about these forms of media being just as harmful and disturbing?
The two arguments I find that are used to dismiss this obvious gender hypocrisy by women and others is; “Men have done it for years (misogynistic music), so why can’t we”, and “Some of the songs are written by men so it’s OK”.
First, it is true, men have done it for years, but if that is your argument, then you have just done tremendous damage to your own cause. One cannot have a valid complaint of feeling marginalized if one is also openly engaging in the same behavior. When that happens, my attention and sympathy for your cause is lost.
Second, just because a man/men may have composed the songs does not mean that it is morally acceptable. If that were true, then the argument against rap and hip hop falls apart. Since so many women have contributed to the proliferation of rap/hip hop and its corresponding words/images involving women being denigrated and sexualized – from appearing in the videos, to buying the music, to attending live performances of the artists – it proves that rap/hip hop is not bad for women.
As the father of a daughter, and the father of two sons, I find any type of media that degrades or portrays violence against either sex for humor or empowerment disturbing. Fortunately, for my daughter, there is plenty of awareness and advocacy being generated to voice concerns about various forms of media that may harm her. For my sons, very few people are advocating for them, and the people who are supposed to be advocating for them are not. Why?
Because they are the wrong gender.