SOS Music Media

Music That Matters

5 Songs to Listen To When Discussing #MeToo

Mainstream exposure and the #MeToo movement has brought the public's attention to the pervasiveness of rape, sexual assault, and violence against womxn* in our society. The outpouring of survivors has humanized the issue for a wide audience, but has also opened up a wider conversation about the power dynamics at play in sexual violence, its media portrayal, and its consequences. As we work to collectively discuss the prevalence, impact, and jurisprudence of sexual violence, here are 5 songs to help contextualize the issue.

*For further explanation on the use of the alternative spelling “womxn” to enhance inclusiveness follow this link.

1. JESSIE REYEZ - GATEKEEPER

KEY LYRICS

“Oh I'm the gatekeeper
Spread your legs, open up
You could be famous
If you come up anywhere else, I'll erase you
Drink up, bitch, we got champagne by the cases.
Don't you know? Don't you know?”

WHERE’S THE MEANING?

“If you’re not using your pussy, you ain’t serious about your fuckin’ dreams.” This is what a music industry titan told Jessie Reyez one night in the back of a car after they just met. The reality that powerful men have made these propositions, threatening careers and demanding sex in exchange for opportunity, have surfaced, but not shocked, the world in 2017. When they do surface, the focus is often on the impact of the allegations on the accused, a fact that is magnified by the big personalities involved, but seldom on the normalization of this behavior and the effect that has on the victims and our communities.

“You know we're holding the dreams that you're chasing. You know you're supposed to get drunk and get naked,” the Canadian singer-songwriter mocks in a demanding voice while sirens wail urgently in this haunting pop anthem. Perhaps most perturbing, however, is Reyez taking on the voice of her attacker. This cut and dry method of telling her story, as opposed to simply relaying her point of view, creates shock and drives anger into her listeners. She further plays upon his aggression, subverting his message by reclaiming the power he asserts over her.

MUSE POINT

  • How do skewed power dynamics as it relates to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status - i.e. devaluation of womxn and the use of sexual coercion for workplace advancement - result in and reinforce sexual misconduct and violence?
  • How can victims of sexual assault reclaim painful spaces and experiences in order to empower themselves?

2. TANYA TAGAQ - RAPE ME (NIRVANA COVER)

KEY LYRICS

“Rape me,
I’m not the only one.
Hate me,
I’m not the only one.
Beat me,
I’m not the only one.”

WHERE’S THE MEANING?

Tanya Tagaq’s harrowing cover reimagines Nirvana’s “Rape Me”, incorporating elements of feminism, environmentalism, and native rights. A steadily pounding drum builds a distinct, more melancholic and perturbed tension to this classic rock song, as the Canadian Inuit’s eerie vocals relate the violence against bodies of womxn and the resources of the earth; she relates the sexual assaults she faced as a child to the country’s harmful oil drilling industry and exploitation of native communities.

One in three native womxn will be raped or assaulted, the highest rate of any demographic. 1200 indigenous womxn have gone missing or been murdered in Canada since 1980. The #MeToo movement has recently burst into the mainstream and while this traction helped the underpinnings of the movement gain recognition, Tagaq’s work reminds us to recenter the issue back around the highest risk womxn and marginalized groups who are being left behind as the movement grows. In her cover, Tagaq repeats over and over “I’m not the only one,” as we hear a community of whisperers behind her, speaking to the added stigmas and obstacles that womxn of color, queer, and trans folk have in being involved in the conversation that largely involves them.

MUSE POINT

  • What steps can we take to center or focus on communities who are most at risk? How do we battle both an systematic and internalized oppression? Whose pain are we privileging? Whose pain are we making urgent?

3. ANGEL HAZE - CLEANIN’ OUT MY CLOSET

TW: Graphic descriptions of child sexual abuse

KEY LYRICS

“See it was weird because I felt like I was losing my mind
And then it happened like it happened millions of times
And I would swear that I would tell but they would think that I was lyin'”

WHERE’S THE MEANING?

Disgusted is what Angel Haze wants you to feel as she explicitly recounts the most personal and graphic details of her sexual abuse - abuse she experienced as a child no less. By sampling Eminem - a constant offender of using sexually violent lines - on his iconic track of the same name, Haze re-purposes that violent energy to bring to light the horrors of sexual abuse. This track details the process rape survivors face, exploring the feelings of confusion, trauma, hate, guilt, anger, and eventual self-acceptance. Her blunt and grotesque recollections of her childhood rape are not for the faint of heart and drive sympathy towards the healing process and the survivor’s experience.

MUSE POINT

  • How do we balance the emotional labor required of retelling and reliving horrific violence with the effectiveness of sharing experiences? What support do we offer womxn who come out with their stories? And what support do we offer womxn who choose not to share because of the social, emotional, political, and economic dangers they still face?

4. QUEEN LATIFAH - U.N.I.T.Y.

KEY LYRICS

“I walked past these dudes when they passed me
One of 'em felt my booty, he was nasty
I turned around red, somebody was catching the wrath
Then the little one said, 'Yeah me, bitch,' and laughed
Since he was with his boys, he tried to break fly
Huh, I punched him dead in his eye
And said, 'Who you calling a bitch?'”

WHERE’S THE MEANING?

“Can you believe more people are stepping forward?” is something I hear almost every day in regards to growing accusations of sexual misconduct/assault/rape against big-wig men. The idea that sexual assault is so pervasive is probably shocking only to people who haven’t grown up being told not to walk alone at night, wear certain clothing, or be in the same room alone with a man. In other words, we’ve known about these problems for a while; see: Queen Latifah’s U.N.I.T.Y. The original Queen breaks the silence in 1993, delving into street harassment, domestic violence, and the self-hate and oppression that womxn have learned and impose on each other. She raps, “real bad girls are the silent type,” noting the danger if womxn don’t come together and stand up for their rights.

MUSE POINT

  • How might a history of power imbalance have contributed to and/or created a deeply internalized oppression of womxn? How do we change the conversation to one promoting love and U.N.I.T.Y.?

5. PEARL JAM - SAYING NO

KEY LYRICS

“She did nothing to deserve it
He just wants, he wants to observe it
We sit back, like they taught us
Keep quiet like they taught us.”

WHERE’S THE MEANING?

Pearl Jam speaks to the systematic silencing of womxn in their rock hit “Saying No.” While they work with the antiquated “no means no” methodology instead of new affirmative consent guidelines, and his ideas of consent are less than nuanced, leadman Eddie Vedder urges the audience to stop this violent behavior. Vedder begins with a scat section, whose improvisation stands in stark contrast to the following methodical instrumentation. The guitar steadily strums while the drums add driving force, all systematically chugging along. Chaos don’t ensue until Vedder laments about how we are all cogs in that machine, sitting back and keeping quiet despite knowing what violent events have unfolded. The cacophony of instruments contradicts society’s hush-hush history regarding rape and sexual assault, yet mimics the havoc that this deafening silence wreaks.

MUSE POINT

  • Neither an identity or self defined, allyship is a lifelong process of supporting and centering marginalized groups by understanding privilege and power dynamics, leveraging your resources to end systems of oppression, and having a genuine interest in dismantling oppressive structures. Read more about the history and connotations of the term with this zine.
  • What role should allies play in combating potential cultures of sexual violence? How can allyship effectively work to disrupt systems and imbalances of power without co-opting the conversation?