The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Challenging Misogyny—Inside and Out
Eunisah Burke

Hatred or disrespect for women: that’s what misogyny means, as I learned in my 10th grade creative writing class. Soon after, I got an assignment in my journalism class: Raise awareness about an issue that you feel is important. While some students wrote about racism, education, or world hunger, I decided to write about misogyny.

I think it’s a big issue that my generation doesn’t speak about much. Yet it’s a part of our culture that influences us to view women as sexual objects instead of full human beings. I wanted to make people think more deeply about that.

I asked myself, “How can I get my message across to both males and females, while still keeping it simple and relatable?” I created a PowerPoint, and put together a list of songs that have remained popular through the years and have heavily misogynistic lyrics.

One of the songs is “Say Ahh” by Trey Songz. There is one line that’s very well-known: “Go girl/It’s your birthday/Open wide/I know you thirsty/Say ahhh…” To me, the message is clear: He’s telling the woman to open her mouth for oral sex. The song goes on to talk about buying her champagne and then taking her back to his condo where “I’mma beat your body like a Congo.”

Another song I included is “B-tches Ain’t Sh-t (But Hoes and Tricks)” by Dr. Dre. The title is also the opening line, followed by “Lick on these nuts and suck the d-ck/Get the f-ck out after you’re done.” It goes on from there.

Demeaning and Dehumanizing

Taking the time to sit down and choose which songs I was going to use in my PowerPoint forced me to see the music for what it actually was. My reaction when I listened closely to the lyrics was different from how I normally respond to the songs. Usually I bob my head to the beat and sing along. This time, I was shocked.

The songs being about sex wasn’t what shocked me though. It was the realization that they portrayed women as important only for sex. The tone of the songs is disrespectful; men are demanding sexual acts from women, as if we are property. Why don’t we question the fact that there is no relationship between men and women in a lot of the music we listen to?

Rap artist Nelly has a video called “Tip Drill” that shows this clearly. In the video he swipes his credit card between a woman’s buttocks like she is something to be bought and sold. I wonder why Nelly’s fans don’t have a problem with this.

The feeling was mutual among my classmates as I made my presentation. I heard comments like, “That’s crazy, I didn’t realize how disrespectful these lyrics were,” or, “I really liked this song until now.”

Doing the assignment and talking about it with my classmates made me aware of a problem: All of us internalize misogyny every day. We are exposed to misogyny so much that we absorb it, and use degrading words and habits ourselves.

When I’m with my friends, we say, “Hey b-tch,” along with some type of friendly gesture. The word “b-tch” means female dog. We would feel offended if a man hollered at us in the street, “B-tch you look good, what’s your name?” So why do we use that word with one another? No matter how it’s used, no matter what context the word is used in, it still has the same meaning.

Girls my age have internalized our culture’s disrespect toward women so much that sometimes they re-enact misogynistic behavior with one another. Recently I was watching a girl from my school shoot a Facebook video. There were two girls in the video twerking, and they looked about 13.

image by YC-Art Dept

They were dancing to the song “Freak Hoe” by Future. As they danced, the girl filming sang aloud lyrics from the song: “Bounce that ass, trick,” “Bounce that ass, thot,” “Bounce that ass, slut.”

It was like she was taking on the role of the man by speaking the same misogynistic language and portraying the other two girls as sexual objects. I watched in amazement. Neither of the girls who were dancing seemed offended by the names they were being called.

Words Have Power

It’s hard to talk to my friends about this because I feel like they aren’t mature enough and won’t take me seriously. I’d like to tell them that I want us to think more about the names we call each other and what they mean. Then I would ask: Why are we saying such destructive things to one another over and over again?

Words have power; it’s not OK to joke around using language that degrades women. We don’t want men to do it, so why do we do it
to each other? This isn’t the type of language we would teach our younger sisters to use, nor do we want them to be disrespected.

Misogyny hurts young boys, too. If they grow up in a household where the father is constantly disrespecting the mother, they are likely to repeat that same misogynistic behavior. If they grow up listening to music that refers to us as b-tches and hos, then they will think it’s OK to treat women like they are nothing but dogs and property. As a result, they will have a hard time having healthy relationships.

I know I can’t change everybody’s mind. But I can change the way I communicate with people and the way they communicate with me. I can still joke around with my friends without using degrading language. Instead of saying, “Hey, ho,” I can say, “Hey, girl.” It’s not that hard.

Another thing I can work on is insisting that guys not use disrespectful words when addressing me. So I’ve started thinking about what that conversation might sound like, and how I might bring it up—not in the heat of an argument, but later, when we’re both calm. I’d like it to go something like this:

“It really hurt me when you called me out my name the other night. When you say those things to me, I feel little, disrespected, and angry. I want us to change the way we talk to each other.”

“I’m sorry, I was upset.”

“Did you mean any of those things?”

“No, I called you out your name because you were disrespecting me.”

“If we are ever so upset to where we feel like we’re going to disrespect each other like that, we should take a minute to calm down before we cross a line with those abusive words. If one of us needs to walk away and take a deep breath, the other one should respect that. I want us to work on that.”

One way I can get respect is by giving it to myself and others, and insisting that other people do the same toward me. It’s difficult when the culture I live in has so much misogyny, but I’m determined to change that, one person at a time.

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