On a Saturday night, you will definitely find me dancing to rap music. When I’m watching “How I Met Your Mother,” there’s no doubt my go-to episode is probably “The Playbook.” However, I am also a feminist. I’m not alone in having these interests and also identifying this way. It’s indeed possible to encompass it all without being a hypocrite.
I’m not okay with lyrics in which men take claim to women’s bodies. Not only are those lyrics disrespectful, but they play into the pyramid of rape culture in which every “little” comment or action or remark makes a real impact.
I’m not okay with TV shows that joke about getting women drunk and taking them home, or manipulating them into doing something we don’t know if they actually want. These are serious issues and traumas that affect people every day.
However, I love the beat of rap music. I love what initially feels like the mindless humor of HIMYM and the wild creativity and superfluous effort that Barney puts into talking to women. I love the relationship between Lily and Marshall: the nicknames they give each other (aka Lilypad and Marshmallow), the ways they can read each other’s minds, their love for each other, and their sense of humor.
I’m going to continue to listen to and dance to rap music; I’m going to keep watching HIMYM. Some songs I have too much of a problem with -- like Blurred Lines, for example -- and that’s valid too.
What I’ve learned from other feminists and what I believe myself is we must be willing to have conversations about how these certain mediums are problematic. We can’t blindly love all songs and shows we come across without thinking critically.
Critical thinking is what brought me to rap songs and HIMYM -- sometimes it’s nice to not really feel anything and to watch a comedy after a long day -- but these conversations are too rare and too important for us to constantly leave the table. Some days may be better for these conversations than others -- you don’t have to fight the hard fight every day -- but we must put in effort and try. We must open up our conversations to people who wouldn’t typically have them and to people who may not run in the same circles that we do.
For example, I love Taylor Swift’s music, but let’s talk about how her “Blank Space” music video romanticizes relationship violence. “Tangled” is one of my favorite Disney movies, but let’s talk about how its song “Mother Knows Best” introduces another very real form of relationship violence -- emotional manipulation and isolation from a parent -- into a Disney movie for kids without fully addressing the issue responsibly.
One of the first times I was introduced to the concept of problematic media wiggling its way into where we wouldn’t expect it, I felt beaten down. This world can be a tough one to be in -- reminders of sexual harassment everywhere we turn, relationships that turn sour, you name it -- and the last thing I wanted to hear about is how every song and TV show I love and turn to in times of stress and in times of fun is problematic.
We can have hope, though: artists everywhere are creating magazines, songs, and movies, et cetera that embrace the kind of material we want in our lives. Check out Bitch Media, Everyday Feminism, and Adios Barbie; check out Ms. Magazine and Feministing. Listen to Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” and Demi Lovato’s “Confident” and Hailee Steinfeld’s “Love Myself.” Watch Mulan and so many others.
Create your own art, too! Become a filmmaker, contribute to The Siren at UNC or create another feminist magazine at your school, write poetry and music that embraces respect and healthy love, make jokes that don’t disrespect a certain group’s existence. The options are endless.
Being a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t have fun -- it just means you respect other people during it.