Eve Atkins speaks on everyday sexism and feminist guilt.
In the aftermath of the tragic death of Sarah Everard – and indeed the many other women who have died at the hands of male violence – my male housemates and I engaged in important conversations about rape culture, women’s safety and the nature of everyday sexism. These conversations were emotional – I felt heavy with the responsibility of my own feminism and drained by the retelling of stories of assault and experiences of fear.
So, one evening I did what any run-down and stressed student does and I took a trip to the big Sainsbury’s to find reduced bread and eat my feelings. To avoid having awkward small talk with someone I met on a night out in first year or a course-mate whose name I can’t remember, I put my headphones on and clicked shuffle. ‘Me and My Bitch’ by The Notorious B.I.G started playing. It’s a love song about Biggie’s girl but in that moment I couldn’t shake the uneasy-ness of her only being referenced throughout the whole song as ‘bitch’. I then started anxiously trawling through my music library and am confronted with some shockers.
Snoop Dogg’s back catalogue consistently refers to women as whores, hoes, bitches, sluts. Mike Skinner thinks a girl is fit until she rejects his advances to leave with that ‘fucking white-shirted man’. The Rolling Stones album Sticky Fingers begins with ‘Brown Sugar’ which according to Jagger is about ‘drugs and girls’. Yet, you can’t ignore the blatant sexualisation and fetishization of black women in the lyrics ‘Brown sugar how come you taste so good? Brown sugar just like a young girl should’. To add insult to injury, later on in the record is a track simply entitled ‘Bitch’. Charming.
It’s not that I have never noticed the attitudes towards women in music before but I felt conflicted by my own contradictions of encouraging and leading conversations with my male friends and then trotting off and indulging in the very thing I am campaigning against.
I resent and resist the sexualisation and violence towards all women in every-day life but I’ll have it passively repeated to me on my walks, in the car, at the gym, at a club. *Queue moment of spiralling*… I was confused. How do I navigate this? I don’t want to stop listening to music I love.
Am I a bad feminist for loving music that degrades women? In short I think the answer is no – being a feminist means living in these contradictions and conflictions but it’s a complex issue and I’m not sure I could begin to draw conclusions myself. However, in the interest of self-awareness I will add ‘work out if I am a bad feminist’ to my ‘sorting the world out’ to my to-do-list.
Artwork by Amelia Elson.