Are Rock Lyrics Sexist?

I’ve always despised the sexist lyrics of Simon & Garfunkel’s Homeward Bound, which includes the despicable lines:

Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.

What a great role for a woman: to lie in bed silently until her man, who’s out on the road seeking public adoration, bestows his presence once again upon her. Is she allowed to eat during her bed-waiting time? Is she allowed to speak once he has returned? We may never know. But it got me thinking:

Are Rock Lyrics Generally Sexist? Here’s an easy way to find out: Reverse the pronouns! Let’s try it with a few popular songs from throughout the decades:

  • From the hit Elvis song, Baby, Let’s Play House:

(This song reached #5 on Billboard’s Country Singles chart in 1955)

Well, you may go to college,
You may go to school.
You may have a pink cadillac,
But don’t you be nobody’s fool…

Now listen to me, baby
Try to understand.
I’d rather see you dead, little boy,
Than to be with another woman.

That last part may sound familiar to Beatles’ fans – they used the original gender version in Run for Your Life: “I’d rather see you dead little girl, than to be with another man.”

  • From the 3OH!3 song, Don’t Trust Me

(This song reached #4 in 2009 on Billboard’s Top 100.)

Don’t trust a ho, never trust a ho
Won’t trust a ho cause the ho won’t trust me
He wants to touch me, woo ooh, he wants to love me, woo ooh
He’ll never leave me woo ooh, woo ooh, ooh ooh
Don’t trust a ho, never trust a ho
Won’t trust a ho cause the ho won’t trust me….

Shush boy, shut your lips
Do the Stevie Wonder and talk with your hips

(The original being, “Shush girl, shut your lips. Do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips.” While there are a number of famous deaf and blind women, famous deaf/bliond men are harder to find for some reason. So I went with Stevie Wonder.)

  • And of course,

Lay, gentleman, lay, lay across my big brass bed

from Bob Dylan’s Lay, Lady, Lay, which hit Billboard’s #7 position in 1969.

So, yes, of course rock lyrics are sexist. Women are “girls,” while men are men. Songs about men lusting after 16 year old girls are celebrated (Chuck Berry’s Sweet little sixteen, the Broadway musical Hair’s Donna: “Once upon looking for Donna time there was a 16 year old virgin!” and Johnny Burnett’s You’re Sixteen: “You’re my baby, you’re my pet…. Ooh, when we kissed I could not stop…. You’re sixteen, you’re beautiful, and you’re mine.”) At least Joan Jett changed the pronoun of the Arrow’s I Love Rock and Roll, about a 17 year old girl to “he.”

Are things changing? Perhaps. I just looked at the lyrics of the current top 10 radio hits and, while incredibly idiotic and shamefully shallow, moronic, vapid, dumb, uninspired, uncreative and pointless, only one, Ed Sheehan’s Perfect, harken’s back top the girl-with-man days:

“Be my girl, I’ll be your man”

Not exactly a comprehensive study. But I don’t have the fortitude to read through all the insipid lyrics of today’s corporate algorithm produced “music.” Let’s just hope the days of making millions of dollars by telling a “ho” to shut up and talk with her hips are over.

Hey look! A flower portal:

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