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Friday, April 12, 2024

How female artists like Taylor Swift and Megan Thee Stallion have stood up against sexism and exploitation in the industry

A clapback to the patriarchal music industry 

Women in the music industry have been challenging the patriarchal nature of the business by extending a big middle finger to The Man. Musicians like Taylor Swift and Megan Thee Stallion have gained considerable popularity for stances they have taken against the sexist roots of the music industry. Sexism remains a pertinent issue in major industries, and women have and will continue to clap back until justice is achieved. 

Released on Feb. 27, Taylor Swift’s official music video of her hit song “The Man” spurred chatter over her rather unique exhibition of sexism in not only the music industry, but also in reality. Swift plays her male alter-ego “Tyler Swift” in order to mock the absurdity of sexism. 

The music video includes examples of double-standards evident in American pop-culture, highlighting toxic masculinity, mansplaining and the objectification of women. Tyler Swift lives a lavish and rather promiscuous lifestyle as an egotistical power-hungry man praised for doing little to no work while tyrannizing others. 

Multiple scenes in the music video are chock full with the sexualization of women while Swift’s alter-ego mascarades around with women at his feet. Swift parades down a hallway of 19 hands, high-fiving them along the way. The 19 hands are a reference to the 19th amendment of the Constitution declaring women’s right to vote. By celebrating one of his “conquests,” however, the scene is ironic in the sense that people haven’t realistically changed the dehumanization of women since. 

Other intentional references are made to certain individuals who have caused controversy in regards to gender norms. The significance of the tennis scene is a direct reference to Serena Williams’ episode with the chair umpire in the 2018 U.S. Open. Williams’ reaction was seen as ridiculous while the male reactions (which, in some cases, were worse), were regarded as “passion” for the game. 

The last scene of the music video is of Taylor Swift as the director, telling her alter-ego Tyler to be “sexier” and “more likable,” signifying the underlying sexist norms placed on women by the entertainment industry. She then mockingly applauds Loren Gray for her part in the tennis scene as “tennis ball girl,” in which she solely rolled her eyes. 

Taylor Swift indirectly claps back at Scooter Braun and Big Machine Records (who own Swift’s first six studio albums and have caused a public, contentious contract disagreement) by peeing on the wall of graffiti and a sign prohibiting scootering. In Swift’s own way, she was able to utilize her creativity to fight against sexist norms in major industries — and, from the looks of it, she succeeded. 

In fact, Swift is not alone. The female rapper and singer Megan Thee Stallion recently gained immense popularity after suing her record label, 1501 Certified Entertainment. The label allegedly took a vast majority of her income, the rights to her music and basically ran her entire music career without any say from the musician herself. 

The release of her third EP, “SUGA” was much more of a hassle than it needed to be. Simply wanting to discuss renegotiating her contract, 1501 blew her request way out of proportion. The record label basically buried their own grave. 

Granted a temporary restraining order against 1501, Megan went ahead and signed a management deal with Roc Nation in September of 2019 and they have helped her stand her ground against 1501. She started to tweet the hashtag #FREETHEESTALLION to raise awareness of her mistreatment. Ironically, Megan was the first female rapper on the label — but she was obviously not treated with the level of respect she deserves. 

In Megan’s interview with Rolling Stone, she expressed her appreciation to the court’s denial of 1501’s request to dissolve her restraining order, which would ultimately stop her music from being released. 

“To be clear, I will stand up for myself and won’t allow two men to bully me,” Megan said. “I want my rights.”

Prior to the legal affairs, Megan was featured on the front cover of Rolling Stone magazine with the headline, “women shaping the future” — and she has stood true to that statement, along with other women in the industry such as Swift. 

Written by: Sierra Jimenez — arts@theaggie.org


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