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Sexism and Songwriting

By Mary Grlic

Image via Billboard.

There is no doubt that sexism is rampant in Hollywood. With the media and public constantly forcing women to dress, act, and live a certain way, it can be extremely challenging for girls to put themselves out there and climb their way to success. Even with popularity and fame, women continue to receive hatred for just about everything they do. Female-identifying musicians and songwriters who put themselves in a vulnerable position by performing very personal music are constantly bashed for writing about men or relationships. On the same token, men who write about relationships do not receive any hate, and their music is always loved by listeners. It seems as though women can never get a break. Luckily, there are artists who continue to push through the sexist industry and produce music about what they want, despite negative misogyny.

As singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo reached the top of the charts as a young Filipina artist, she is also receiving plenty of hate for the subject of her songs. Rodrigo has released three hit songs in recent months, “driver’s license,” “deja vu,” and “good 4 u,” as well as her debut album, Sour, much of her music pertaining to stages of heartbreak. Even as an emerging artist, Rodrigo reveals in an interview with The Guardian that she is by no means a stranger to the “sexist criticism of songwriters like me being told that they only write songs about boys.” Rodrigo’s response to this criticism defied haters by showing that her authenticity is what really counts: “I’m a teenage girl, I write about stuff that I feel really intensely – and I feel heartbreak and longing really intensely – and I think that’s authentic and natural.” Rodrigo continues to write from the heart, just as she should, making an inspirational icon for all young girls.

A feminist icon in the world of music, Taylor Swift has also been quite fierce in responding to hate regarding the subject of her songs. Swift has written a myriad of heartbreak ballads and pop songs, all experiencing a lot of success as well as a lot of backlash. The Netflix show Ginny and Georgia even made fun of her dating life, one of the characters saying “You go through men faster than Taylor Swift.” In a tweet, Swift criticized the platform for its “lazy, deeply sexist joke,” standing up for hardworking women who are constantly degraded by big industries. In response to her songs about exes, Swift defies haters and says that "You're going to have people who are going to say, 'Oh, you know, like, she just writes songs about her ex-boyfriends'. And I think frankly that's a very sexist angle to take. No one says that about Ed Sheeran. No one says that about Bruno Mars. They're all writing songs about their exes, their current girlfriends, their love life, and no one raises the red flag there.” Swift perfectly acknowledges how her music is criticized while nobody says anything negative about the music that men write, often pertaining to similar topics of love, lust, and heartbreak.

These artists are just two examples of women who receive hate for writing authentic and relatable music, but it does not end there. Many women are put under fire for their songs about relationships, while men do not receive as much hate for similar music. Swift says it perfectly: no one ever gives any sort of criticism to male-identifying musicians like Bruno Mars or Ed Sheeran who produce many songs about love and relationships. Whenever we turn on the radio or press shuffle on our Spotify playlists, we’ll probably find that most songs are about heartbreak, regardless of who is singing the piece. It is not fair to stigmatize or bash women for writing about such authentic emotions while men can do the same thing and receive minimal criticism.

Written by writer Mary Grlic

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