Thoughts and Perspectives

The Culture of Rape and Music

Lyrical music has been on my mind a great deal lately, as have notions of sexism and patriarchy. My on-going conclusion is that it is as hard to find lyrical music free of racism, sexism, imperialism, ethnocentrism, as it is to find movies where directors allow named female characters to speak to other named female characters.

For this blog, I am particularly concerned with the ways in which lyrical music perpetuates a condoned Culture of Rape: the idea that men and their desires matter exclusively and that women will and should automatically want them in return.

The segment below of this past season’s Britain’s Got Talent has been on my mind a great deal for a few months. I previously wrote about this show here.

Before proceeding, I have some reservations about this particular exercise in thinking and cultural criticism because Henry Gallagher, the young man in question, is currently 12 years old. However, this analysis is important, maybe more important because a 12 years old is fully involved in the perpetuation of the Culture of Rape, and he has entered the public spotlight as a “hero” to many.

To begin, please watch this video:

The lyrics to the song Lightning are:

I saw her from a distance
Out in the corner of my eye
Her hair is shiny and bright
She’s the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen around
I saw her from a distance
She made me wanna smile
Her face is cute and it’s beautiful
And she’s the only girl that stands out in the crowd

I hope you’ll notice me sometime
I hope you be with me, be mine
You’re everything, you’re my sunshine
(Oh, oh, oh)

Cause I’ve been struck by lightning, lightning
And it’s frightening, frightening
I don’t ever think I’ll be the same again
You’re my princess, my girl
You’re my interest, my world
You mean everything, everything to me
(Oh oh, oh oh, oh oh)

And if you smile at me
You would make my heart start racing
And it’s clear to see you’re so amazing

Cause I’ve been struck by lightning, lightning
And it’s frightening, frightening
I don’t ever think I’ll be the same again

Cause I’ve been struck by lightning, lightning
And it’s frightening, frightening
I don’t ever think I’ll be the same again
You’re my princess, my girl
You’re my interest, my world
You mean everything, everything to me

For sure Henry Gallagher is a talented singer, and his song is catchy. His lyrics from start to finish, however, objectify women, and suggest that only outward appearances have significance and that all of this gives him a kind of ownership (“my girl”) over the person in question. Men are all too conditioned to see themselves above women. Indeed, if a 12 year old girl had song this song about a boy, I would just about guarantee that people would respond very differently–especially if the 12 year old had been a Person of Color. Or what if a boy sang that song about another boy. From another perspective, this song assumes the girl in question is heterosexual. 

Gender and sexuality and intersectionality matter. Every step of the way we must challenge normativity. 

The judges’ and audiences’ reactions “she has to go out with you know,” followed by applause also further perpetuate and sanction the Culture of Rape.  

So, so many songs have similar problems. I also wrote about music and the Culture of Rape here. Music is also used to perpetuate racism at times, as discussed here.

Here lately Nina Simone’s music speaks to my soul like nothing else. I have over 200 of her (wonderful) songs. These songs are totally free of the racism and sexism that penetrate today’s music. They are bold, different, really good, and inspiring    

See also (links to other websites):

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