In Defence of Pop & Rap’s “Unintelligent” Lyrics.

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Last week I posted a link to a study by Seat Smart about the most unintelligent songs of the past decade in which the genres of pop and R’n’B/rap/hip hop featured heavily.

Word length and the amount of syllables therein were factors in pushing a song over the edge from unintelligence to intelligence. From the study:

“Country music is full of words like Hallelujah, cigarettes, hillbilly, and tacklebox. Add to that long place names like Cincinnati, Louisville, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and [c]ountry has a serious advantage over the competition.”

Country music coming out on top as the most intelligent genre is laughable; this is the inherently sexist genre that brought you such gems as “Thank God I’m a Country Girl” and Taylor Swift before she found feminism. Just because country originated in parts of America with really long names don’t mean jack. (I tried my hand at some country-esque parlance there.)

Though you wouldn’t think it from the flashy and oftentimes nonsensical rap styles of Pit Bull and Snoop Dogg phoning it in on tracks like Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”, rap and hip hop were spawned in some of the poorest and most downtrodden parts of major cities where their primarily black and Hispanic residents were oppressed and discriminated against and where drugs and crime were rampant. In his younger days, Tupac Shakur rapped about police brutality (“Trapped”, “Changes”), slut shaming, sexual assault and STDs (“Brenda’s Got a Baby”, “Keep Ya Head Up”, “Baby Don’t Cry”), and drugs (“Changes”), while N.W.A. produced songs with similar content.

As is evident in the popular music that the study chose to… erm… study, the rap that makes it to the top 40 charts isn’t necessarily an accurate depiction of the genre as a whole. Take, for example, Kendrick Lamar. I’m not super familiar with his work but I do know that the most commercial success he’s seen came with his recent cameo in Taylor Swift’s (of country music origins) video for “Bad Blood”. And while we all have an opinion on Kanye West, he raps intelligently—although this study would seek to disprove that—about fame, money, racism. (His inclusion on Katy Perry’s “E.T”, making it one of the past decade’s smartest songs, while Perry’s “Wide Awake” with no obligatory rap interlude makes it the 10th dumbest song of the decade should be indicative of rap’s—or at least Kanye’s—value.) This is not to mention the copious amounts of underground and unreleased rap out there.

When it comes to women, Mariah Carey (“We Belong Together” is finally getting its due as one of Mariah’s more artful arrangements) and Nicki Minaj (again, her unreleased stuff is far more sophisticated than “Anaconda” and “Starships”) are topping the intelligence scales while Beyonce makes an appearance in both intelligent and unintelligent lists. That the biggest and best artist in the world today could be described using the word “unintelligent” is a crime. It just goes to show that word length alone doesn’t demonstrate the myriad aspects that go into creating music.

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It’s also interesting that many of the artists who rank high in intelligence are appropriating the music of other cultures, ie. Eminem and Macklemore. (My mother recently said she thought Eminem was the best rapper, despite the high rotation of rappers of colour on my and my sister’s CD players in our youth.) On a related note, Iggy Azalea is nowhere to be found in this study.

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Sure, songs like “California Gurls” and “Tik Tok” may indicate our lowering intelligence as a culture (though, having said that, these are two of my favourite songs to get down on the dancefloor to, so do with that what you will), but artists like Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Taylor Swift (despite what the study says!) who are changing the game would suggest otherwise.

What do you think? Do you agree with the study’s assertions or would you counter them like I have?

Related: On the (Rest of the) Net: 29th May 2015.

Taylor Swift: The Perfect Victim.

Elsewhere: [Seat Smart] Lyric Intelligence in Popular Music: A Ten Year Analysis.

[Jezebel] Country Music Dude: In Radio, Female Performers Are Basically Garnishes.

[The Guardian] Taylor Swift: “Sexy? Not on My Radar.”

Images via Seat Smart.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

In praise of Cher’s Twitter account. [The Guardian]

Women who choose not to have children are “just frivolous people who are wasting our lives away until we add to the world’s population.” [Salon]

Further to that, Sofia Vergara is well within her legal and moral rights to destroy the fertilised embryos she created with her ex. [Daily Life]

Should we be showing porn in schools? [Junkee]

I also wrote at Junkee about the end of Glee and, with it, its atrocious treatment of minorities. And storytelling.

Do we only care about the plight of black women when they’re on our TV screens? [For Harriet]

Why are self-proclaimed feminists like Beyonce and Nicki Minaj supporting woman-beater Floyd Mayweather? [Spook Magazine]

I wrote this a couple of Mother’s Days ago: the divide between second- and fourth-wave feminism.

My last “Welcome to Monday” for feminaust is jammed packed with goodness.

ICYMI: “Some Thoughts on Bruce Jenner”.

Grey’s Anatomy‘s top ten deaths.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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I went to see Into the Woods this week and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would having read some things on the interwebs about its race and gender problems.

While it certainly still had those (*spoiler alert* both The Witch and The Baker’s Wife die because they don’t subscribe to typical notions of femininity; The Wolf wears a zoot suit in a dodgy part of the woods) it’s probably the least problematic of all the Oscars bait in cinemas at the moment.

I found the politics of gender very interesting. I was surprised by how on the nose the rapeyness of The Prince was, and I thought Chris Pine played him to perfection. I was taken aback by the pedophilic undertones rife throughout the musical, exhibited by The Wolf and The Baker, amongst others. And for those unfamiliar with the stage version, in it the actor that plays The Prince also plays The Wolf! It gives a whole new meaning to the niceness/charm VS. goodness that reverberates throughout Into the Woods. If you like musicals and/or picking apart the underlying meaning of pop culture, go see it. [The Windowsill]

Why are some of our favourite TV shows given a “free pass” on their problematic content while others are expected to be all things to all people? I love that Sinead Stubbins threw in the gender card: Sex & the City, Girls and even Grey’s Anatomy are often held to a much higher standard than prestige TV’s other (read: male protagonist-based) vehicles. [Junkee]

Not knowing you’re beautiful is exactly what makes you beautiful. [Daily Life]

The history of the Lifetime movie. [WaPo]

Disney’s Agent Carter isn’t feminist: it’s about “Disney owning feminist entertainment, and thereby being able to set the terms for it.” [In These Times]

Just as relevant to the #Tay4Hottest100 controversy as it was when it was published last year, Brodie Lancaster writes about gender-based music elitism. [Rookie]

“Looking ‘Black’ is a Crime”:

“Authorities want to ban hoodies but not guns, sagging pants but not police murdering unarmed Black people, natural hair but not unnatural racist discrimination.” [Dame]

Nicki Minaj sacrificed love for career success on her latest album, The Pinkprint. [One Week One Band]

Looking at Pretty Woman‘s positive portrayal of sex work. [Bitch Flicks]

Why do all on-screen female journalists sleep with their subjects for a story? [NY Magazine]

The inevitability of being called fat for deigning to be a woman in public. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

“The Girls effect” on the Iowa Writers Workshop. [Vulture]

The effect menstruation has on professional sportswomen. [Birdee]

Glee flies in the face of character development, storyline continuity and sensitivity by making Coach Beiste a trans man. Would you expect anything more? [Autostraddle]

On being a fat bride-to-be. [The Guardian]

Image via Tumblr.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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I interviewed From Parts Unknown: Fight Like a Girl‘s director/producer Daniel Armstrong ahead of the movie’s seven-years-in-the-making premiere last weekend. [Outback Championship Wrestling]

I also did a little write up on OCW’s newest tag team, the Loose Bastards!

And just to top off my week of wrestling writing, I’m talking about choice on Total Divas. [Bitch Flicks]

Do home invasion movies help women work through our fears of real-life in-home violence? [Bitch]

Further to that, what about Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and sexual assault survivors? [The Hairpin]

When is the right time to carry a pregnancy to term? And when is the right time to abort? [Talking Points Memo]

Bill Cosby’s infuriating arrogance allows him to get away with everything. [Role Reboot]

Is it time for Girls to separate Hannah Horvath from Lena Dunham? [Junkee]

Rappers rule Instagram (and they also post the most drug- and alcohol-related content). [Addiction-Treatment]

Feminism won the Golden Globes. [Cosmopolitan]

But diversity lost in the Oscars nominations. [Daily Life]

Further to that, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s Cosby–rape joke got it right because it skewered the (alleged) rapist and rape culture, not the victim. [Feministe]

The class politics of Gilmore Girls. [The Baffler]

Sex workers don’t need to be rescued. [Vice]

Taylor Swift’s Girlfriend Collection. [Buzzfeed]

An interview with Caitlin Stasey about her new body-positive website, Herself. com. [Daily Life]

Filmme Fatales interviewed Beyond Clueless director Charlie Lyne before they present the doco at the Rooftop Cinema on 27th January.

Janet Mock on self-care. [The Hairpin]

Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift and Sia’s latest chart-topping albums are trading in sadness. [The Village Voice]

The story of V: abbreviating “very”. [The Atlantic]

Image via Strongman Pictures.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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Sorry about the lateness but I was unexpectedly without internet over the Christmas break (luckily I was connected to Twitter and Facebook via my phone, so I didn’t have to spend too much time socialising with the family. Phew!). I hope you had a lovely one xx

The mainstreaming of feminism. [Oregon Humanities]

Critiquing Nicki Minaj’s feminism. [Jezebel]

Feminism in Sons of Anarchy. [Bitch Flicks]

I was a Hooters girl: the similarities between waitressing and sex work. [XOJane]

“Kim Kardashian works full-time as a professional metaphor.” [Matter]

Black women are constantly surveilled but do we ever really see them? [Model View Culture]

I profiled OCW’s fastest rising star, Slade Mercer.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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Women of colour’s sexuality in Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” VS. J.Lo and Iggy Azalea’s “Booty”:

“I’m not saying that any time a woman displays her body it has to be subversive or a statement; rather, it all contributes to the way women’s bodies are seen in media, so we should be mindful of that.” [The Music]

I wrote about the women of Masters of Sex. [TheVine]

Household chores aren’t a woman thing: they’re a person thing. [Jezebel]

When celebrities become spokespeople for feminism. [The Guardian, Kill Your Darlings]

“There’s something suspicious about anyone eager to identify with the oppressed”: on male feminists. [The Cut]

Cosmopolitan US editor Joanna Coles talks about the magazine changing its politics. [NPR]

On the semiotics of the Basic Bitch. [The Cut]

And a “thot” is like the black version of a Basic Bitch: “both pinpoint a woman’s consumption habits in order to impugn her character”. [Slate]

Image via Hip Hip ‘n’ More.

We All Have Naked Bodies. Jennifer Lawrence is No Different.

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Do you ever wonder whether you’ve been a positive influence on someone who’s no longer in your life? Well, if I influenced the particular ex-friend I have in mind—the one responsible for the above Facebook status and the shitshow that followed—in any way it has surely dissipated as she took great joy in victim-blaming and slut-shaming the myriad female celebrities who fell victim to the mass nude photo hack earlier this week.

While the leaking of 101 female celebrities’ private photos from their iCloud accounts—many of them long deleted—is a “flagrant violation of privacy” as perhaps the most-high profile victim Jennifer Lawrence’s PR team put it, it is also a crime. Many a think piece has been written in the days following about how looking at Lawrence, Kate Upton, Alison Brie, Adriana Grande et al’s personal photographs makes us complicit in said crime, much like viewing child pornography is a continued violation of the abused minors. I do not deny this but, apart from Buzzfeed writer Anne Helen Peterson’s take on the “scandal” as compared to the nonconsensual publication of Marilyn Monroe’s “Golden Dreams” nudes in the ’50s, I have seen nary a word written about how the naked body is not, in fact, scandalous.

If many of the comments on the above Facebook thread are to be believed, people—nay, women, because let’s be honest, the only men targeted in this mass hack are those who happen to sneak into a shot with their female partners, as Roxane Gay points out—who take photos of themselves in various stages of undress are idiots, especially if they’re famous, because it’s only a matter of time before they’re leaked for the world to see. Never mind the fact that we all have bodies underneath our clothes and that some people like to take photos of said bodies. To return to Peterson:

“The only way to prevent a market for these type of photos is to stop treating them, and the ‘secrets’ they reveal, as revelatory or scandalous. They don’t tell you anything new about Lawrence. They don’t make you think differently about her. You know why? Because sexuality isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a dirty secret. In her public appearances and interviews, Lawrence has never attempted to make it so. And just because it’s private doesn’t mean it’s dirty…”

This isn’t the first time photos of nude, female celebrities have been leaked, though. In the past few years similar photos of Scarlett Johansson, Blake Lively, Miley Cyrus and Mila Kunis have made their way into the public domain, but it’s hard to remember there being an outrage on such a level. I tend toward the fact that these hackers specifically targeted seemingly as many female celebrities as they possibly could in an egregious example of misogyny. But it could also be because Lawrence is “Our Jen”; “Cool Girl Jen”, and her almost mythical status in fangirl (and –guy) world makes us super protective of her. Those other women—Cyrus, Johansson, and even those that specifically market their sexuality as part of their brand (that’s not to say Cyrus and, indeed Johansson, don’t)—kind of deserved it, didn’t they?

From Kate Leaver in her article “Jennifer Lawrence is Not an Idiot” on MamaMia:

“This is not like that time Kim Kardashian (or, more accurately, her mother/manager Kris Jenner) ‘leaked’ a sex tape in a brazen grab at fame. This is not a staged accident, like when Nicki Minaj’s top serendipitously fell open on stage at the VMAs. This is not a seedy publicity stunt from a desperate celebrity.”

And so what if it was? Lawrence et al presumably had a certain amount of agency in creating these photos in the first place. Their agency and privacy was taken away by some hackers with too much time and misogyny on their hands. Let’s not feed into that by further denying it to women who do traffic in the commodification of their bodies for a profit, whether explicitly or implicitly. Only then can we start to accept the naked body as something that everyone has and not something that can be “leaked” and used to shame women into submission.

Elsewhere: [Buzzfeed] Those Jennifer Lawrence Pictures Aren’t Scandalous.

[The Guardian] The Great Naked Celebrity Photo Leak of 2014 is Just the Beginning.

[Buzzfeed] Jennifer Lawrence & the History of Cool Girls.

[MamaMia] Jennifer Lawrence is Not an Idiot.

Images via Facebook.