One can learn quite a bit about societal perceptions of gender roles through listening to music. What happens when you switch “he” and “she” pronouns in a song (this is called the Willis test)? Does it still send the same message? Usually it doesn’t due to gender differences that result from sexism and misogyny. For example, if we were to take David Guetta’s “Sexy Chick” (at least that’s the name of the edited version). After changing the gender pronouns, the song seems humorous and unrealistic.
I was drawn towards choosing a rap song for this week’s ethical analysis. Rap music provides many critiques of our world, especially as they relate to race, money, gender, and forms of criminal activity. I chose Tupac Shakur’s “Keep Ya Head Up” because delivers a positive message to one of the most oppressed groups in the US: poor, black women. The song is dedicated to Latasha Harlins, a fifteen-year-old woman shot and killed by a shop owner in LA. Her death is cited as one of the causes of the LA riots in 1992.
In the first verse, Tupac raps:
“You know it makes me unhappy (what’s that)
When brothers make babies, and leave a young mother to be a pappy
And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?”
In this verse, Tupac addresses the contradictory perceptions of women in culture. After presenting this contradiction, he specifically calls on men of color to treat their women and children with respect. He also asks women and children to “keep ya head up” though our society makes it difficult to survive in a one parent family.
Part of the second verse:
“You know it’s funny when it rains it pours
They got money for wars, but can’t feed the poor
Say there ain’t no hope for the youth and the truth is
it ain’t no hope for the future
And then they wonder why we crazy”
In this verse, Tupac addresses the government’s role in perpetuating poverty among people of color. He makes a connection between negative perceptions of the youth and the larger societal forces that create inequality.
Part of the third verse:
“To all the ladies having babies on they own
I know it’s kinda rough and you’re feelin all alone
Daddy’s long gone and he left you by ya lonesome
Thank the Lord for my kids, even if nobody else want em
Cause I think we can make it, in fact, I’m sure
And if you fall, stand tall and comeback for more
Cause ain’t nothing worse than when your son
wants to know why his daddy don’t love him no more
You can’t complain you was dealt this
hell of a hand without a man, feeling helpless
Because there’s too many things for you to deal with
Dying inside, but outside you’re looking fearless”
Here, Tupac promotes a two parent family. In the absence of one, he calls on mothers to stay strong, even when they are struggling, because eventually things will change. He also mentions the harm to children that can occur without strong male role models.
Other songs about ethics of gender:
“I’m just a girl”- No Doubt: Limits placed on women by our cultural norms in the US.
“Run the World”- Beyonce: A feminist song about women’s ability to influence a misogynist world.