Country Music and Sexism

In 1954 Bill Haley decided to change the lyrics of the song ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’ prior to releasing the track as his single.
‘Get outta that bed, wash your face and hands. Well, you get in that kitchen, make some noise with the pots ‘n pans’
became
‘Get out in that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans, well roll my breakfast ’cause I’m a hungry man.’
‘Way you wear those dresses, the sun comes shinin’ through’
becomes the charming ‘Wearin’ those dresses your hair done up so nice.’
Almost 60 years ago, this was deemed socially unacceptable, it was lewd and overtly sexual, and, in this day and age, it would be seen as sexist. Yes, both versions of the track are far from perfect, but the point is the acknowledgment of the offensive nature of the song.

Throughout country music history, there has been an occasional song that raises objections from the female demographic. Even the Tammy Wynette hit ‘Stand By Your Man’ has been criticised for its sexist undertones. However, in the past it was generally just the occasional song, but it appears that over the past few years, sexism has become a disturbing rising trend in mainstream country music.

Trace Atkins’ ‘Honky Tonk Badonkadonk’ was one of the first in this modern category. Country music is famous for its story lines, but this song was pure objectifying women, and there was not much else to the track. Since the influx in the mid 2000’s of country rock, country music has been blighted by these songs. The lyrics hide around the distracting, dance-inducing backing.

It appears to be artists who are chasing the country-rock genre, or those incorporating alternative genres into their own hybrid of country music. The most notable examples of late have been Florida Georgia Line, with both ‘Cruise’ and ‘Get Your Shine On,’ Luke Bryan with ‘Country Girl (Shake it for Me)’ and ‘My Kind of Night,’ and Billy Currington with ‘Hey Girl.’ It would appear that all of these men equate country party songs with light sexism. Take a look at some of the lyrics:

‘Yeah, when I first saw that bikini top on her
She’s poppin’ right out of the South Georgia water
Thought, “Oh, good lord, she had them long tanned legs!”‘ (Cruise)

‘Now dance like a dandelion’
‘All I wanna do is get to holdin’ you and get to knowin’ you
And get to showin’ you and get to lovin’ you ‘fore the night is through
Baby you know what to do’ (Country Girl)

‘Hey girl, what’s your name girl
I’ve been lookin’ at you
And every guy here’s doin’ the same girl’
‘A girl like you comes around once in a while
So hot, gotta give it a shot
Gotta get get a little bit of what you got’ (Hey Girl)

You may notice a trend here. One of country music’s aspiring rock stars sees a beautiful woman, makes her dance, and hopes to get to ‘lovin” her before the night is over.

Talking about beautiful women is no bad thing. Country music is full of songs appreciating women’s beauty. There is nothing wrong with country-rock or any other country music sub genre. Take a look at Jason Aldean’s ‘Night Train.’ A relationship is built between Aldean and the woman, so the lyrics
‘it’s supposed to get a little cool tonight
looks like I’m gonna have to hold you tight’
Become emotive, and endearing, rather than sleazy, as in the songs previously mentioned.

I don’t believe these artists wished to convey a sexist view, but they have, whether intentional or not. They are chasing country rock, and artists such as Aldean and Kip Moore, with an overly macho approach. In trying to aspire to this genre their male bravado became too much, and has ended in this unfortunate situation. Fans, on the whole, do not seem to have noticed, but I fear if this continues, several artists may loose large numbers of female fans. One would hope that this is merely an ignorant oversight on the artist’s part, but i suppose, in the words of Tammy Wynette, ‘after all, he’s just a man.’

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