Perry and pals chant porn for the ears

By Maria Ji

Music videos are often criticised for portraying women in negative ways. However, song lyrics are often overlooked.

The truth is the lyrics of many songs are written as porn for the ears, regardless of the consequences.

Take a look at 3OH!3s breakout hit Don't Trust Me, in which "Shush girl, shut your lips, do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips" is chanted.

As a book on the sexualisation of girls put it, the band obviously doesn't care "how disrespectful their song is in appropriating the name of such a heroine as Keller".

To the 3OH!3s it was probably just another clever line that helped the song slime its way into the top 10 in New Zealand.

The effect on listeners' impressions of Keller is insignificant, because even "a visually impaired woman who overcame many obstacles; an advocate for women and people with disabilities, a militant suffragist who not only didn't talk with her hips, but was completely unconcerned with outward appearances", doesn't amount to anything more than a sexual object, right?

Many of my friends say they'll listen to "anything with a good beat". But a good beat can't justify the abasement and sexual objectification of women.

The fact that so many girls listen to singers like Snoop Dogg, who would "treat a bitch like 7-up", is inexplicable. How can so many females support a man who arrogantly promotes gender inequality?

It was pretty alarming when I realised that it isn't just men who sing disparaging lyrics. Earlier this month Katy Perry opened her New Zealand tour with Teenage Dream - a song I endured for many weeks as its infectious pop beats passed through the wall from my sister's room.

I'll admit that after hearing the first line of this chart-topper ("You think I'm pretty without any make-up on"), I was practically cheering: "Woohoo! Defy those unrealistic social conventions of beauty!".

But unfortunately it only went downhill from there.

I won't lie: the song is saccharine sweet, fun and catchy.
Nevertheless, the ideas behind the lyrics can be quite alarming. The song is pretty much about how the teenage dream is one involving sex, reckless driving and more sex.

Perry also sings about how a girl isn't a complete person without a guy ("I finally found you, my missing puzzle piece, I'm complete") while smiling demurely at the camera.

It's bad enough that, coincidentally, many aspects of the English language seem to enforce this idea (the words she, woman, female, Mrs and lady are incomplete without he, man, male, Mr and lad), without women blatantly supporting it through their music.

Here are some examples of American singer Ke$ha at her lyric-writing best: "Here we go, welcome to my funeral. Without you I don't even have a pulse"; "[Stephen] I want to keep you as my pet to play with and hide under my bed"; "So cut to the chase kid,'Cause I know you don't care what my middle name is, I wanna be naked and you're wasted"; "I've got guys waiting in the line for me to play my evil girly games with all their minds".

Clearly these lyrics don't do anything for either gender.

And although people had no qualms about criticising Twilight's glamorisation of an unhealthy relationship, very few seem to acknowledge that much of the music we listen to does the same thing.

In an ideal world many of the songs on the radio today wouldn't be aired, or the songwriters would at least think about their lyrics' potential effects.

It's obvious that our world isn't an ideal one, however.

It is sad to admit it, but one could compare music censorship today to the likes of Holly Holliday from Glee: "looser than a thrift store turtle-neck, and probably just as diseased".

Maria Ji, Year 12, St Cuthbert's College

- NZ Herald

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