Bro Country's Sexism Is Ruining Country Music

Categories: Columns

LukeBryan.jpg
Courtesy the artist
We see through your pensive gaze, Luke Bryan
In the past few years, it seems like everyone has been picking on country music. As the genre becomes more and more dominated by good ol' boys looking for a good time, the term "bro country" has increasingly been used by music critics to pejoratively describe some of the most popular artists in country music, like Brantley Gilbert, Luke Bryan and Lee Brice.

Sadly, that descriptor doesn't miss the mark. Most of the charting artists in country music right now are largely men and the songs they write are targeted at other, mostly white and young, men. If you take a look at the Billboard country music charts right now, there are only two female artists in the top 10. Miranda Lambert's Platinum currently holds the No. 1 spot on the albums chart, along with an album from young TV star Lucy Hale.

But aside from the actual women in country who are making music, the subject matter of "bro country" is distinctly less friendly to women than the country music from the past.

Sure, George Strait, Conway Twitty and Garth Brooks sang about women and relationships, but the tone was much different. Classic tracks like "She Needs Someone To Hold Her" and "I Cross My Heart" have been replaced with "odes" to women that have much more misogynistic undertones, like Bryan's 2011 track "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)."

Misogyny in country music is a touchy subject. It has certainly existed since the inception of the genre, like every other style of music. Sometimes the misogyny is extremely overt. For many people, it's difficult to see why seemingly innocuous things like insisting on calling grown-ass women "girl" and reducing the subjects of these songs to pieces of their anatomy are a problem, especially when plenty of women are crowding into stadiums to swoon over their favorite country boys.

While these women are swooning over Gilbert and Bryan, female artists in the industry are being left behind. Last year, Entertainment Weekly actually asked Bryan what he thought about the difficulty that female artists were having breaking into the industry, and he attributed it to "girls" finding touring and early mornings too tough. Not to keep picking on Bryan, but it's clear that he doesn't realize that he and his bro country buddies are a big part of the problem.

Let's start with the word "girl." Every genre of music uses this word to refer to women, but bro-country has a particular fondness for calling the young women that have caught their eye by "girl." Bryan alone has six songs in his discography that have "girl" in the title, all of which are infantilizing in their own right. It's already weird for grown men (Bryan is almost 38 years old) to be calling the women that they want to have sex with "little girl," but the consequences are much more far-reaching than a little skeeziness.

The same applies to the objectification of women in country music. We don't often hear about women as a whole in these songs, but we do hear a lot about their body parts. Entire songs are dedicated to "long, suntanned legs" and women's asses, and typically not in ways that would be considered empowering or even respectful. How can women sit at the top of country music when it won't even recognize them as people worthy of dignity and respect, much less as serious artists?

Even worse, this trends toward a very murky definition of sexual consent in many of these tracks. In a time when rape culture is being discussed more than ever, the issue of consent in country music is being largely ignored. My brother, whom I often torture with country radio on our drives back to our parents' house a few hours from Dallas, astutely pointed out that a lot of these songs "sound like they're going to end up in a date rape." Even if they don't explicitly imply date rape, they sure do provide good background music for taking a woman out into the backwoods to try to talk her into having sex.

The theme is pretty simple. Take Florida Georgia Line's "Get Your Shine On," for example. The "girl" in the song is encouraged to keep drinking moonshine, then "slide that little sugar shaker over here" so that she can "rock all night long." Something tells me that Florida Georgia Line isn't talking about a guitar jam. Not to mention the fact that they're driving down what presumably is a country road, which doesn't exactly provide for many escape routes.

This kind of language creates an environment that's making it much more difficult for female country artists to succeed. In the last 10 years, only ten percent of No. 1 country hits were performed by women, a 14 percent drop from the 1990s. Bryan may think otherwise, but this decline likely has more to do with the ascension of bro country and the messages that come along with it than women being too weak to hack it on the country stage.

There has never been a shortage of talented, hard-working women making country music. Even in the beginning, though they had to scrape their way to the top, Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline were some of the biggest stars of their eras. In the '90s, women like Shania Twain, Martina McBride and Faith Hill ruled the country airwaves, often out-selling and out-earning their male counterparts. More important, the women in country music have always been the ones moving this historically conservative genre forward as it kicked and screamed.

"The Pill," Loretta Lynn's historic homage to birth control in the 1970s, was a commercial success that did not come without controversy. Lynn's label refused to release the song when it was originally recorded, and country radio refused to play the song. Nonetheless, this feminist anthem helped propel Lynn into mainstream music and earned her a top-100 pop hit. Jeannie C. Reilly's "Harper Valley PTA," a tongue-in-cheek look at small-town slut-shaming, was less controversial but equally progressive.

With this history of strong women making waves in country music, it's disheartening to see bro country walking the genre backward. Making country music a better environment for women, both artists and fans, makes country music better as a whole. Talented female country artists like Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves and even Taylor Swift deserve to have their music on the charts alongside artists that respect them as both women and musicians.


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39 comments
anonymous
anonymous

This comment section was worse than I expected.. Sorry Dallas but you exceeded my expectations yet again.. a perfect example of why the rest of the world laughs at us, at best. 

DALL8077
DALL8077

So tired of liberals and feminazis. Should have figured this was written by a damn girl. I'm a girl too by the way and liberals like u are a disgrace to females. Go to Harvard or move to France. I am 45 Years old and I will ALWAYS be referred to as a girl and my hubby is a boy. And if I'm riding with someone in a car I don't care about consent....consent is implied by the fact I got in the car. Do as u will with me, because I like it rough baby. ....country girl

jimbo
jimbo

Let's not forget or ignore Carrie Underwood's misandry with her country music. Ms. Underwood completes the demented culture with the misandry ideas that it is appropriate for women to respond to unfaithfulness and adultery with violent property destruction and murder.  If bro-country were the obverse of a coin, Ms. Underwood would be on the reverse. It all sells because what sells appeals with cognition-less emotion to a demented single-dimension perspective on interpersonal relationships and/or life-issues. One wonders whether the larger damage are the blatant misogyny and misandry messages, or the repeated reinforcement for feeling your way through life with unrestrained emotions after having checked your brain at the door.

fyd_syd
fyd_syd

Please don't say "misogynist." A misogynist hates women. I won't sing about you or pay flattering attention to you or try to creep on you. I'll flat out shower hatred on you, and it won't leave you with mixed feelings. You'll know EXACTLY where you stand. It's not sexism. It's hatred. It's not a put-down, and it's not calling you a "girl." It's ignoring you as worthless, it's not singing about you at all, it's almost everything sexism _isn't_ from an attention standpoint.

ochridmongrelo
ochridmongrelo

Lol. Two problems, liberal feminazi writer - first, if women are so empowered they should be able to sell as many or more tracks regardless, and also, if you noticed, most of these guys draw women so they apparently don't feel it's too 'offensive'. 


next, it's not country, it's nickelback with a fake southern accent.

anony1
anony1

Really why not hate on both sexes rather than just one? Its not the artists who control the market for their songs, its the public. 

Fred-dorfman76
Fred-dorfman76

Rape culture is not being discussed more. The the only people who use that term are twatty middle class white girls looking to up their victim hood status. I'm sure the women's studied professor who brainwashed you with this garbage is very proud of you.

jacob.t.jackson
jacob.t.jackson

I agree with the sentiment of this article but I think you went about it all wrong and highlighted the wrong issues. Calling a woman girl offends you? Give me a break. Plenty of men AND women call their significant others "baby", does that mean that they literally want to be romantically involved with an infant? Of course not. It's an affectionate pet name. It's not like Nashville "bro" country is the only genre of music that is guilty of that.


I'm kind of surprised you didn't talk about the trend of artists talking about how a girl's blue jeans are painted on tight, or the amount of songs that feed off of inflated stereotypes of women never being ever to make up their mind, always being late, etc.

I was kind of excited when I clicked on this article because I recently made the switch to listening to more Texas country artists after being disgusted with the state of pop country these days, but most of your points seem like a stretch at best. The fact of the matter is that almost ALL of pop music these days is somewhat misogynistic, and country is no different. If you want country with better content, try listening to 95.9 The Ranch.

jkyle
jkyle

For everyone using rap music as a comparative example, you are way off base.  Nobody confuses most rap songs as coming from a wholesome, aw shucks American place.  Country music cloaks itself in the flag and talks about the troops and apple pie while belittling women in the same breath.  Besides, most (if not all) modern country music is so incredibly bad and formulaic anyway, I can't believe anyone's actually listening.  

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

That was just a bit whiny.  Jazus!

alind20308
alind20308

I would suggest you interview Miranda as to her experiences with clubs in Texas that hesitated in booking a Texas girl singer/songwriter as a headliner in their "country clubs". Even the college circuit that promotes almost every college kid willing to sing about drinking, hunting, fishing, and driving trucks hesitated to promote a girl who sang a girl who sang about the same things. She's a talented songwriter but it will always be about her looks, her weight, anything but her talent.

derrickmu
derrickmu

Calling a woman "girl" is pretty tame compared to the terms used by rap artists.  I'd like to see an article about that.

shyra1st
shyra1st

I believe the reason there is more men acknowledge in country music, is possibly because of the female audience. Most votes are tallied for awards shows from downloads and or texts. Which means the main ones that text in or downloads are mostly teen girls/young women and of course women in general.

There probably won't be a balancing of the scales between female singers compared to the male singers, because there will always be more comments coming from the female sector. a lot of us as women love to hear compliments. Especially coming from the male gender. And the only thing that we can agree with another woman about is how she feel about a man.

Isn't music considered art. It's what you like. and not to be dissected by other people dislike of it. But hey freedom of choice......lol

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

no, ignorant songs ruined country music radio. there's still good country music out there if you know where to look for it. take the sexism out of 'get your shine on' and it's still a stupid song. go find good music somewhere else and don't worry about it. 

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

Sounds like somebody had a crush on a country singer and got dumped...

ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

"For many people, it's difficult to see why seemingly innocuous things like insisting on calling grown-ass women "girl"


Out in the sticks there is no shortage of grown-ass women; in many cases it's axe-handle wide.


Wait, was that misogynistic?


Edwin_King
Edwin_King

This article is the equivalent of complaining about too many acoustic guitars at Lilith Fair. Can't wait for Amy's missive on misogyny in hip hop. Oh wait...that's not a historically conservative genre. Nevermind!

Steve
Steve

You write like a fourteen year old.

doublecheese
doublecheese

" it's difficult to see why seemingly innocuous things like insisting on calling grown-ass women "girl" and reducing the subjects of these songs to pieces of their anatomy are a problem, especially when plenty of women are crowding into stadiums to swoon over their favorite country boys."


Don't you mean "grown ass men"?  

anonymous
anonymous

@DALL8077 WTF? "Consent is implied by the fact that I got in the car." NO!!! Are you kidding me?? Suppose the rest of the sentence was ..."in the car of my brother's lifelong friend/best friend's dad/sister's husband that swore he would take me home safe because my original ride home wasn't ready to leave yet?" So then he raped me, but it wasn't rape because I consented to have sex with him as soon as I got in the car. Get it together, you're making all women look bad. Gross.

kaykay
kaykay

@ochridmongrelo Nazis killed millions of people, feminists have not.  If you would like to make a point, do it without insulting somebody.

fyd_syd
fyd_syd

@jacob.t.jackson She's just "earned" her Gender Studies major from an ivy league uni paid for by daddy's dollars. What else is she supposed to write about? When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

julie1310
julie1310

@jkyle This is a HUGE point that Amy overlooked, in my opinion. An earlier poster made a crack about it being a 'conservative' genre... and you know what, it is. If you're an artist that openly supports the stereotypical socially conservative set (and most top country acts do, from what I've seen) - no gay marriage, no abortion, Christianity-trumps-all - then detailing your sexual preferences and singing about getting drunk and banging every cute 'girl' you see is jaw-droppingly hypocritical. It's being called out more and more, and it's about time the Wholesome Country Musicians got called out on it, too.

JustSaying
JustSaying

@bvckvs Are you implying that country music is intended to belittle women? Because gospel music IS intended to promote religion.

DALL8077
DALL8077

Shut up. I'm conservative and every dude, in my opinion, should bang lots of cute gals.

ochridmongrelo
ochridmongrelo

@julie1310 It's obvious you don't understand the genere. None of us who are REAL country like this shit. It's fake country - 00's alternative arena rock with a banjo.

DALL8077
DALL8077

I'm a girl but most girls out there are sluts and deserve to be belittled

JustSaying
JustSaying

there is only enough room for one of us around these parts, dickhole

anonymous
anonymous

@DALL8077 I figured out you're just a troll too late to get the 2 minutes of my life back that I spent replying to another of your incredibly stupid (blandest of the many, many words I have to describe them) comments. I'm sure that gets your rocks off. I wish you really were a "girl" and therefore would be unlikely to reproduce at 45. Get a fkn life

JustSaying
JustSaying

Yep. You just destroyed her entire thesis with that one.

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