Over the course of the summer, being a proud upstater (and therefore, a “country girl” according to everyone I’ve met at Binghamton), I listened to an obscene amount of country music. Among many twangy tunes from favorites like Tim McGraw, Zac Brown and Blake Shelton, one new song stood out. It caught my attention not for its melody or touching vocals, but rather for its message, condemning the underlying sexism in the country music world.
Up-and-coming duo Maddie and Tae’s hit, “Girl In A Country Song” raises some valid points about the state of country music today. It not only criticizes the way women are portrayed through lyrics, constantly referred to as “girls,” “pretty little things” and “babies,” but also how women are depicted in music videos, scantily clad in cut-off jean shorts and bikinis.
If there is any doubt about women’s status in the country music scene, one can look at the blatant prejudice shown against them in most of today’s hits by leading men. Many song titles are shamelessly misogynist. Perhaps, Trace Adkins’ “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” is the most famous example of country music’s tendency toward objectification, but the trend is not limited to one artist. With a name like “Country Girl Shake It For Me,” ladies’ man Luke Bryan’s hit was far from a feminist anthem.
I’ve loved country music my whole life, and I am impressed that finally someone is boldly pointing out this fatal flaw in such a popular, beloved genre.
Maddie and Tae’s chorus calls attention to country’s clear-cut chauvinism by critiquing how little these men value their women. They sing, “Like all we’re good for is looking good for you and your friends on the weekend. Nothing more.”
Such a progressive and fiery song is refreshing in a genre that is dominated by its male artists singing about trucks, tractors, babes and booze. I like seeing women take charge of a genre that’s been dominated by men for too long. Other than Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert, there are few leading ladies in country music and their absence is no coincidence. In a music scene where most women depicted aren’t given the courtesy of being called by their names or wearing any clothing, it’s difficult for female artists to succeed. They’re not even taken seriously by their colleagues.
Why are there so few country songs with a serious message? Although Maddie and Tae’s call to feminism is an exception, it seems as if the country music world is reluctant to embrace the types of songs that call for a change to the outdated ways of its genre. Typical country songs only perpetuate the stereotype of a backward South dominated by men, where a woman’s only job is to please her man as the Confederate flag waves proudly in the background.
I hope Maddie and Tae, and the rising female stars they inspire, continue to push the boundaries of country music to become more than the man’s world it’s always been.