Reclaiming Male Dominance Through Country Music



Country music of the 21st century has been nicknamed ‘bro country’ due to the lack of female country singers in Nashville. According to Billboard, in 2014 women sang only eight percent of charted country singles. Country music is rich in Southern tradition where white men have stereotypically reined king along with the Bible. Southern men are losing their dominance over women due to the increasingly progressive agenda the 21st century regarding women’s equality. Through their catchy, misogynist lyrics bro country provides a solution to this progressive agenda by giving its male listeners advice on how to reassert their dominance over women: objectify and sexualize them. The level of sexualization of women has increased in recent past and that the “objectification and sexualization of women is a result of highly sexualized media” (Brandt). By turning women into sexual objects, country songs attempt to reassert their waning male dominance over women. By praising females who ‘dresses up’ for them, bro country artists turn a women’s body into a sexual object whose sole purpose is pleasure. Through their misogynist lyrics, men are fighting back at the progress made by women by showing their listeners how women should be treated as and valued in society. Bro country songs provide three ways a man can objectify women and exploit them by turning her into a sexual being that succumbs to her sexuality.

Although there is an infinite amount of songs I could have analyzed I randomly chose three of the best selling Country songs of the decade. All of these songs coincidently happen to be sung by male, white, middle-aged artists from Georgia (although one member of Florida Georgia Line is from Florida).

  1. Cruise by Florida Georgia Line is the best selling digital country song of all time according to Nielsen Soundscan. It has sold a record 6.33 million copies and spent 64 weeks on the Billboard Top 50 Country chart with 24 weeks at #1 and 10 weeks at #2 from 2012-2013.
  2. Die a Happy Man by Thomas Rhett is RIAA certified platinum and spent 30 weeks on the Billboard top 50 Country chart, 17 of which were at #1 from 2015-2016.
  3. That’s My Kind Of Night by Luke Bryan spent is RIAA certified double platinum and spent 26 weeks on the billboard top 50 Country chart, 12 of which were at #1 in 2013.

Mechanism #1: Name Calling-

All three of these songs fail to call the women in them by their actual names, but instead use demeaning adjectives to describe them such as “pretty girl” and “baby”. Although ‘baby’ a term of endearment used between couples, this nickname takes on a new meaning when used at the bar to pick up a girl. Calling a stranger ‘baby’ (“I walked up and said, Baby you a song”) immediately degrades their being because you are implying that by nature they are inferior to you. This name degrades their capabilities because they are likened to someone who is unable to take care of herself. Calling someone baby implies possession and dominance over her. It is also less personal than calling someone by their actual name, or better yet asking for their name.

In addition to being called a baby, females are also called “girl” instead of you. Naturally, “girl” implies a sense of inferiority such as in the phrase ‘you throw like a girl’. If the informal “you” is used in a country song, it is in the possessive form ‘your’. ‘Your’ is then used to refer to a specific body part or feature as in the lyrics “your little hot self” “your eyes” “your hand” and “your lips” and “your t-shirt”. All of these phrases separate a feature of a women from the whole. By compartmentalizing women, they are not seen as whole beings but are rather seen as a compilation of features. Singling out a specific part of a women objectifies her and holds her body to the sum of its physical parts. By referring to a women by her specific parts, country lyrics objectify women so that they do not have to be seen as equals to men. By referring to girls by their body parts instead of the whole (“long tanned legs”), men associate value to certain parts of women.

Mechanism #2: Bodies-

sexy_cowgirl_0_1389191692         Songs and their lyrics are able to convey emotions in people because they paint vivid pictures and descriptions of their subjects. The Star Spangled Banner vividly describes the American Flag to associate notions of resilience, strength and determination with the United States. Bro Country songs paint vivid pictures of women’s bodies to associate notions of sexual desire and lust with women. Popular culture “conveys contradictory messages to women about their sexuality, first teaching them that social validation comes from sexuality and then holding them in contempt for behaving sexually” (Glantz). Country songs are no different. First, country songs socially validate females through the exposure of their bodies. When “She’s poppin’ right out of the South Georgia water” Florida Georgia Line is praising a girl who has a malfunction. The girl’s mishap is twisted to be a good thing, and that it is good to expose yourself. These songs tell women what they should wear on their bodies to please men “tan skirt and boots” “red dresses” “black dresses” and “bikini tops”. By telling a girl to wear a dress or a skirt is telling her that she either needs to wear something that can easily be accessed, or that she should wear something that specified for women. Women fought hard to be able to wear pants and shirts instead of dresses, skirts and corsets. Country songs tell women that they need to cover themselves like they used to. Country contradict themselves by telling women that they need to wear dresses to cover themselves while also telling them to wear bikini tops and show off their “long tanned legs”. Country songs socially validate and praise women by showing off their bodies, rather than appreciating them regardless of what they wear and their body shape.

Mechanism #3: Trucks-


Country songs about trucks sexualize women and emphasize male masculinity. “The pop culture storyline works to reinforce systems of gender inequality by promoting an association between masculinity and dominance and power and control through the universal assumption of a male viewer” (Glantz). Trucks are seen as a symbol of masculinity in society. Country artists emphasize their trucks (and thus their masculinity) by describing their trucks as “big” and “jacked up”. The truck acts as a metaphor to demonstrate how easily trucks seduce women. Trucks assert male dominance through their ability to fulfill the needs of women “I got that real good feel good stuff, up under the seat of my big black jacked up truck”. Since the truck is big and jacked up it has “feel good stuff”.

For those of you who don’t know, KC lights are these two circular light fixtures that are attached onto the grill of a car (or truck) used to imply boobs. In one lyric, “I turned on those KC lights and drove all night”, the lights act as a metaphor. The guy is turning his KC lights on thus turning her on. By having the ability to fulfill the needs of women, men are showing how they can dominate over women. If women are seen as sexual objects, having the ability to control her sexually shows his power over her. In order to assert your dominance over women, you need to seduce them. Some lyrics choose to emphasize male arousal such as “brand new Chevy with a lift kit”. A lift kit is when a truck is raised above its usual height to ‘jack it up’ and is often done in a body shop. The lift kit acts as a metaphor to show how men control both themselves and women sexually. It is the male that bought the “lift kit” for his Chevy. In the lyrics he is in control of both his body, and hers.

In country songs Trucks are depicted as means necessary in which hooking up can happen. From “blowin’ stop signs” “rolling the windows down and cruising” putting “her legs up on my dashboard just the way I like it” “getting it stuck” and “taking it way out”. Since trucks are a symbol of masculinity, country lyrics imply that women are dependent on men to “get our love on”. In one song, driving around in a truck makes it so the guy doesn’t have to take the girl out on a proper date, “all them other boys want to wine you up and take you downtown” but instead were going to “sit down on my diamond plate tailgate”. Country music makes it seem like women are sexual beings desperate to have sex and that only the man can fulfill her needs. By having sex with a women, you are thus asserting your dominance over her because you are in control of her.

If women are being treated poorly in country songs, than why are 52% of country music listener’s women (according to Billboard)? Country music complements women’s bodies and intensely flatters them. Women do not have a problem with being complimented by men. In fact, many women enjoy being complimented by men, which is why country music is appealing to them. Who doesn’t want to listen to a feel-good song full of complements? The problem with country songs is that only women’s bodies are being complimented. These back handed complements exploit women and tell them how they should dress and look in order to be praised by men. By only complimenting their bodies, country music exploits women by providing them with a false sense of recognition. In actuality, solely praising certain physical features implies a standard for how a women’s body should look and be dressed. Country music sets a male dictated standard for how women should be valued in society. “Girls who are exposed to objectified images of women score lower on the Body Esteem Scale than boys do” (Brandt). Not only does country music devalues women, it lowers their self-esteem. Women should not have to dress to impress men, nor dress to receive approval from men. Women should be complimented on more than just their bodies. Country songs make it acceptable for men to dictate how women should look and provide a guilt free socially acceptable way to judge her.

Summer Camp Provides Children With a False Sense of Happiness


What do you want to be when you grown up?

“I don’t know… I want to go on adventures I think; not get stuck in one place” -Suzy Bishop

Summer camp is a fake environment in which kids are freed from their responsibilities, (namely parental rules and school work) and supplied with a cornucopia of activities to ensure they are constantly entertained. These children live a fantasy world for a couple months only to return to their everyday lives come mid-August. Summer camps purposefully hire young, energetic, single adults to entertain said children for 24 hours a day. If a child is not constantly entertained they may choose not to return next summer– and thus the camp fails. Summer camp is an entertainment industry not unlike Paramount Pictures. Both provide an escape from ones’ everyday life through the form of selling entertainment (i.e. a film or a camp activity). According to the Oxford Dictionary the very etymology of the word ‘entertain’ comes from the French words entretenir, which means ‘nourish/keep in repair’, and tenere, which means ‘to hold’. The point of a summer camp is to temporarily amuse children so that for a little while they are temporarily relieved of the discontentment in their lives. Yes, it is ironic that children, the only members of our society that are taken care of and do not have to work, need to be relieved from their everyday lives. Using this contradiction, director and writer Wes Anderson sets the plot for Moonrise Kingdom and attempts to teach his viewers how to be happy and live lives worth living.

 In Moonrise Kingdom, two children, Sam and Suzy, are both classified by their peers as being ‘emotionally disturbed’, and ‘troubled’–so they are each other’s only friends. Because they live on opposite sides of the island, they only interact through letters. Since Suzy does not have any other friends besides Sam, she is often very bored. So, at her young age Suzy feels discontent with her life and begins to seek alternatives. At first, Suzy seeks out superficial pleasures and thrills (laughter). She is constantly reading books and listening to music to escape from her reality. She also steals books from the free library for the thrill of doing so—to have a secret to keep.

According to Adorno, “laughter is a means of cheating happiness; it is the consolation prize you get for not having a life worth living”. Watching a movie, taking drugs, or attending a summer camp are all like laughing: they temporarily provide a false sense of happiness and escape from ones life. “People are deluded into believing their desires are [being] gratified while in reality they are [being] cheated of happiness.” (Ghose). “As Adorno famously argues, ‘Fun is a medicinal bath which the entertainment industry never ceases to prescribe.” (Ghose). It is through the false sense of enjoyment; a person is being cheated from happiness.

In Moonrise Kingdom, Sam realizes this Adornian concept; that at camp he is only being temporarily relieved from his sad life (that he must soon return to). Sam decides he wants to be happy and live a life worthy of living; so he starts a new life for himself by running away to the woods. Like Sam, Suzy is also looking for more in life beyond her temporary enjoyment of stealing books, and runs away with him.

By using troubled children as the carrier for Adorno’s concept, Anderson points out the various way that the adults in the film are unhappy in their everyday lives. People in real life face the discontentment the adult characters face. By using real life examples, the audience is forced to ask themselves if they are genuinely happy with their own life. To ask, do I actually have a life worth living or do I just seek out laughter. For example, Suzy’s mother is quickly characterized as being unhappy. She does not sleep in the same bed as her husband, and unhappily prepares family dinners. To escape from her life, She has an affair with the local “sad, dumb” police officer. This affair is a form of entertainment she subscribes to in order to temporarily forget about her sad life. The only adult in the movie to act “happy” is the camp councilor Scout Master Ward. But even he admits he typically teaches math, but prefers to escape from his reality every summer at camp.

Since Sam and Suzy had no friends, they both felt an emptiness inside of themselves that couldn’t be filled. In order to fill their voids, they ran away to be together. In life, you can choose to do something that makes you feel happy and complete, or you can just do what is expected of you. Sam and Suzy often found themselves in trouble during their attempts to be happy, but to them it was worth it. In order to be happy, a person must make a genuine attempt at doing so. A person cannot be a bystander in their lives, and allow the world to create entertainment for them. Although Suzy had a plethora of books and records, she was still not happy. Although Sam was at summer camp, he still felt an emptiness inside of him. It was only when they did what they wanted to do and took control of their lives did they feel genuinely happy.

Sam and Suzy realize that they will probably grow up to be like their parents—and do not want this reality for themselves. They are sick of feeling empty and sad in their everyday lives. The small island in which they live on cannot provide them with the stimulation and adventure they crave. Suzy wishes that she was an orphan so that her life would be more special, and spends her days looking out her window with binoculars. Suzy is looking out into nature and dreaming about a different life for herself. Suzy believes that a better life can be found in nature.

A study by Zelenski and Nisbet found a direct connection between a person’s happiness and their connectedness to nature. The more connected a to nature a person felt, the happier they were. It is not until Sam and Suzy enter the forest, do they become happy. They go from having sad lives, to being genuinely happy. Through their story of finding happiness in nature, (rather than ‘entertainment’) Wes Anderson is literally telling his viewers how to be happy: disconnect from ‘entertainment’ and connect with nature. In order to be happy one must also disconnect from ‘laughter’, which only provides a false sense of happiness.

Throughout the film, Wes Anderson is teaching his viewer how to be happy through the story of Suzy and Sam found happiness. When a person is able to be content with themselves and their life, then they will be happy. In order to have a life worth living, a person must do something that genuinely makes them happy. They cannot just rely on the entertainment industry to make them laugh, but rather they have to seek out happiness. In fact, they have must disconnect themselves from the things that provide entertainment and temporary happiness (laughter). Furthermore, it is not just a disconnection from ‘entertainment’ that is necessary, but also a disconnection from a sick false sense of happiness that ‘entertainment’ provides. If a person is genuinely happy in their life, they should not feel empty inside. In order to live a life worth living, first you must form a connection with nature.


The Princess Villain


            Animated Disney films (such as The Little Mermaid or Beauty and The Beast) are notoriously known for depicting female princesses as powerless, rudimentary anti-heroines that must be saved from an oppressive villainous figure. These cookie-cutter princesses all face a shallow impending crisis that throughout the course of 90 minutes is resolved. The various crises are resolved when the princess falls in love with a man, gets rescued by her prince charming, receives a kiss, or gets married. In the end, the princesses are always saved by a man and live ‘happily ever after’. On itssurface, Frozen appears to be a sharp contrast to these undoubtedly sexist Disney precursors. It is evident that a man does not rescue the protagonist princess Elsa from the crisis that she faces. Additionally, there is a greater majority of lines spoken by female characters than in other Disney princess films. This fact is insignificant because most Disney princess movies pass the Bechdel test1 (this is a nugatory accomplishment because any movie aimed at a young girl should, at a minimum pass).

            What makes Frozen more disquieting than previous Disney films is that it elicits the viewer with a false sense of feminist-heroism. This false sense of feminism is perpetuated by the fact Frozen does not have an easily identified villain that unequivocally attacks, suppresses, or manipulates princess Elsa. The ‘villainous’ character (prince Hans) is a mere decoy because he has no significant role in Elsa’s life. Elsa is arguably the most self-thinking and nondependent Disney princess. But, unlike all prior Disney princesses, Elsa is the villain who mistreats herself and others. In fact, Elsa is such a horrible human being only she can save the world from the treachery she causes.

            At the beginning of the film, Grand Pabbie (the king troll) warns Elsa of the innate potential of her magical powers, “There is beauty in your magic…But also great danger.” Grand Pabbie knows only Elsa can choose to use her powers for beauty or destruction. Because of this, Grand Pabbie tells Elsa that she must learn to control her powers. He scares Elsa by showing her what will happen if she “panics” the townspeople of Arendelle: she will be attacked in witch-hunt fashion. Out of fear that her powers will be used for evil, Elsa’s parents isolate her from society so that she is unable to hurt anyone. Elsa is locked away in her castle similarly to how Belle is locked away in the Beast’s castle. Her forced isolation causes her to become fearful, angry and sad. After her parents die, Elsa chooses to continue to live in isolation because she believes her powers are a danger to others and can only be used for evil. She believes that her powers can only be used for evil. Elsa feels an immense pressure to be a ‘good girl’, so she ‘conceals’ her magical powers by isolating herself because she is unable to control her powers.


            The roman numerals (MDCCCXL) in the top left corner of a map of Arendelle determine that Frozen takes place in a fictional 1840’s Scandinavian society (1). This is important because in 19th century Europe there was no real fear of female being accused of engaging in witchcraft. Thus, Elsa did not live in fear of being stoned to death because it wasn’t simply wasn’t the reality of the time. If she knew how to control her powers and use them for good, she would not live in isolation. In fact, at the end of Frozen, the township of Arendelle warmly embraces her ‘magical powers’ when she uses them for good. The only probable reason Elsa hides from the world is because she does not know how to use her powers for nondestructive acts.

            As princess, Elsa decides to permanently keep the gates of her Kingdom closed in a North Korean-like fashion. It does not cross her mind that this selfish act causes the people of Arendelle to suffer, including her sister. There was no need for Elsa to isolate Arendelle from the rest of the world because she considers herself, rather than an external enemy a preeminent threat to Arendelle. She is forced to open the gates of Arendelle on her coronation day, two townspeople discourse: “I can’t believe they’re finally opening up the gates” “And for a whole day!” (Lee 13). As soon as Elsa becomes the queen, she recloses the gates of Arendelle. She then runs away after unleashing a permanent winter on Arendelle; which subsequently forces the townspeople to live in treachery.

             Elsa believes that her powers are the result of an evil curse that has been cast upon her and that she ‘can not control the curse’. In her new castle made of ice, Elsa declares that she is finally free and happy because she has stopped trying to control the evil curse she believes to be inside of her. In fact, she purposely ‘lets the storm rage on’ and warmly embraces the evil powers inside of her. She is no longer pressured to ‘be the good girl [that] she always had to be’. With her newfound freedom she ‘tests the limits’ because there are ‘no [longer] rules for [her]’. The fears that Pabbie instilled in her, “can not get to me at all”, she exclaims! ‘The cold never bothered her anyways’, and all that matters to her now is that she’s happy. Elsa has been waiting her whole life to finally be free. Now that she is free she, unleashes her powers (which she knows are evil), and she is “never going back” because she does not care. In her kingdom of isolation, Elsa is the queen. In Kim Jung-Il’s kingdom, he’s the ‘supreme leader’. She does not care that the people of Arendelle are suffering as a result of her actions. Elsa does not care that Arendelle is literally ‘frozen’—not unlike Dante’s treachery.

             It must be noted that she was not born inherently evil but rather, she became evil due to her forced isolation. Simply put, Elsa chooses to be evil. This actuality is made clear in the opening scenes that explicitly state that Elsa was born with her powers. This is important because, the movie resolves when Elsa is forced to confront the destruction that she has caused.

             In the song, Do You Want to Build a Snowman?, Anna twirls around a painting of Joan of Arc and tells Joan to “hang in there”. The movie forces the connection that similar to Joan; Anna is a heroine who must fight against a regime to save her homeland. It is up to Anna to stop Elsa in order to save Arendelle. Anna attempts to confront Elsa and “save Arendelle from destruction”, Elsa strikes her with an icicle and unleashes a menacing snowman after her to kill her. Elsa realizes that she killed her sister, and begins to hug her frozen corpse. Elsa’s ability to freeze things becomes her ability to thaw. When she finally shows compassion towards someone, she literally ‘thaws her frozen heart’. This act of affection, causes Elsa realize she can choose to use her powers how she pleases—for good or for evil. In fact, she saves her kingdom by loving them rather than oppressing them.

            Throughout the course of her life, Elsa was affected and became an evil human being who was abusive of her powers. Frozen is not at all about a strong, female role model. Elsa is an evil-hearted princess who young girls should not aspire to be. Because Disney movies must end with a ‘happily ever after’, Elsa magically decides to stop being evil. But, like the movie repeatedly states, “the heart is not so easily changed, but the head can be persuaded.”. Elsa is magically able to reverse her malicious sprit, but in reality, this is much harder to do. People who are innately evil, are not easily persuaded to become nice. In fact, the movie states this: “the heart can not be easily changed”. It is only because Disney movies end in a happily ever after, she decides to use her powers for good. For someone to not be mean spirited, they mustn’t become evil in the first place. The ‘happily ever after’ that Elsa receives, helps to blur that fact that Elsa is not a good human being. Perhaps, Disney should have given her squinty eyes like they did to all their other villains.

1 The Bechdel test asks a work three basic questions: 1) Does it has to have at least two women in it? (2) Do they talk to each other? (3) Do they talk about something other than a man? Read more about the Bechtel test.

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