You Can Be a Feminist and Love Modern Music

Rapper Drake performs at the Sound Academy in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo courtesy of The Come Up Show, via Wikimedia Commons.)

I ran into this article where For Harriet writer Michelle Denise Jackson discussed her quandary — being a feminist and simultaneously loving ratchet music.

You know ratchet music. You may have nearly broken a finger or two frantically pushing buttons on the radio while driving to get away from it. Whereas I look forward to riding in my car just so I can listen to Drake and crew on 107.5 or 92.3 in Chicago.

Sometimes I jam so hard my Sonata turns into a little mobile dance club. And in my more enlightened moments, I know I shouldn’t be listening to this music. I should be writing a blog on how horrible it is that a Muslim couple and her sister were killed this week — a very obvious hate crime in my opinion — but the music is an escape from that reality.

It’s an escape from a society where an entire race of people is persecuted for the actions of a few. It’s a four-minute break from a world where innocents who share only a passing resemblance to the real enemy are made to suffer needlessly. It’s a temporary suspension of a reality where having breasts means it’s OK to pay me less, interrupt me and/or humiliate me with impunity, or where my skin color has dozens of associated crappy meanings that have nothing to do with me as a person, but that I must deal with nonetheless.

Yes, much of today’s popular, urban music is degrading to women. It’s also incredibly simplistic and gives a completely lopsided, narrow and negative portrayal of a gender and a race, but it also offers something that — amid all the other crap one must deal with while navigating this thing called life — must not be discounted as unimportant. It offers an opportunity to shake your butt and not think for a minute. It’s pleasure, a hedonistic little piece of fun.

As misogynistic, simplistic and fatalistic as they frequently are, some of those radio hits many of us turn from are unbearably catchy. And no, I shouldn’t listen to them. No, they’re not good for small children. Yes, the videos that accompany the music are often worse than the songs themselves, but the difference between my listening versus a 12-year-old boy or girl, is that I know it’s not good and why. I know what it is, what it’s not, and I know what it’s good for.

So I listen. I will keep listening. But I will not buy it, not a CD, a download, a ringtone, a concert ticket, nothing. I likely won’t watch the videos, or read the interviews or follow the artist’s Twitter or Instagram feeds.

All they get from me is three to four minutes in my car or three to four minutes when I’m washing dishes or doing some other household chore that requires rhythm to be made palatable. Because like most causes, concepts and ideas related to diversity, gender and all the other dimensions that we talk about, nothing is all bad or all good. Not even that ratchet music. Some things just are; and sex sells.

But we choose how we deal with things. And at the end of the day, isn’t it better to know what’s out there, what exactly it is that I’m fighting when I write in this blog or when I push the button to change the station, or when I raise the volume?