A professor from Mississippi State University says that modern country music increasingly features “representations that facilitate the reproduction of racial and gender inequalities.”
These representations “do or can promote unequal relations between men and women and [lead to] bad outcomes,” says Braden Leap, whose work can be seen in the journals Men & Masculinities and Gender, Place & Culture.
Leap infers to ABC (of Australia) the “scary” figures: Country’s audience is overwhelmingly white, the average listener partakes of five hours a day, and 40 percent of the US as a whole listens to it.
But the real problem, the professor says, is the genre’s contemporary shift from the “celebration of working folk” to “masculinity defined by the pursuit of women.”
“[Now] it’s a type of provider that provides women with alcohol, transportation, and places to hook up in order to potentially enable physical intimacy,” Leap says. He points to Dierks Bentley’s 2014 hit “Say You Do,” the lyrics of which include “If you really don’t mean it, I don’t care / If you need a little buzz to get you there / Then baby I’m buyin’.”
With this, Bentley encounters a “#MeToo” conundrum: He’ll provide alcohol to his ex in order to get what he desires.
More generally, [Leap] says, research shows sexual assault is facilitated when women are provided with alcohol and transportation, as well as places to hook up.
“I’m not saying that people necessarily do what these lyrics say, but they are what you could think of like as a toolbox, or you could think of them as cultural scripts.” …
References to what Professor Leap calls “white phenotypes” are also increasing.
In Lonestar’s My Front Porch Looking In, listeners hear about “a carrot-top who can barely walk” and “a little blue-eyed blonde with shoes on wrong”.
The chart-topper Sold, by John Michael Montgomery, spots a woman he describes as a “10” with “ruby red lips, blonde hair, blue eyes”.
White phenotypes, Professor Leap says, are generally mentioned when describing children in heterosexual families or women made sexually desirable by their whiteness.
“We see increasing references to phenotype characteristics that we would associate with white people, like blond hair and blue eyes,” he says.
Professor Leap also jumps on a years-old controversy surrounding Toby Keith’s 2003 “Beer for my Horses.” The song depicts an “extrajudicial lynching” which Leap (and progressive publications of the time) contend(s) has racial overtones: It’s a “really good example of how the ways that we portray the past can very clearly erase racial inequalities or the significance of racial inequalities during this time period.”
However, Keith addressed the issue at the time: “It’s about the old West and horses and sheriffs … and going and getting the bad guys. It’s not a racist thing or about lynching.”
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