Trigger Warning: Mentions of physical abuse and sexual assault.
It is common knowledge that women in the workplace are treated differently than their male counterparts. The prevalence of unequal pay, barriers to career advancement, and the tendency of women’s contributions to be devalued are just a few of the issues we face, and that doesn’t include the overt racism that women of color experience in the workplace either.
However, one of the largest breeding grounds for sexism and double standards is the music industry. Musicians and celebrities live in the public eye, but women in music are treated as public property, by facing constant unsolicited criticism about their choices, looks, and personal lives. These artists face the negative effects of sexism daily, and their male counterparts are not only exempt of negative backlash for minor offenses, but are grossly defended and justified for unspeakable acts.
First, we are going to take a look at XXXTentacion’s history of abusing women. On October 8, 2016, X was arrested and charged with aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment, and witness tampering. During and after his imprisonment, X received overwhelming support from his fans and other musical artists, who begged for X’s release, and “couldn’t wait til he came home”. After XXXTentacion’s murder in June of 2018, the world and music industry grieved his loss, and X received accolades for being an incredible person and musician. I still wonder to this day how devalued the victim to his abuse felt, seeing the world grieve and honor the man who held her captive and continuously assaulted her.
Unfortunately, we know XXXTentacion is far from being the only male musical artist with these offenses. Two weeks ago, Chris Brown was arrested in Paris after being accused of assault and rape, and was released from police custody days later with no charges. We are well aware of Chris Brown’s decade-long history of abuse, and here he is, still releasing music, and still receiving support from fans and fellow musicians alike.
R. Kelly is reportedly under investigation for multiple accusations, including sexual misconduct with minors, child pornography, and sexually abusing women as part of a cult.
Additionally, Tekashi 6ix9ine recently pled guilty to nine felonies, including sexual misconduct with a child, direct connection to an armed robbery, and murder.
To find information covering the four male artists above, I had to do hours of research. If I wanted to find out why Demi Lovato was being “cancelled” for laughing at 21 Savage memes (like the rest of us), all I had to do was go on twitter and see the internet attacking her for laughing at the memes we were all guilty of finding funny.
Women in the music industry are scrutinized for everything they do, while male artists and producers are repeatedly excused, defended, and supported, regardless of their offenses.
I recently revisited Nicki Minaj’s music video for “Anaconda” (which is now up to 1.5 million dislikes) and read the comment section, which berated Minaj for openly expressing her sexuality. This is a common theme among women who aren’t afraid to own their sexuality and do what they want.
When Ariana Grande recently got Japanese characters tattooed on her hand to honor her new hit single “7 Rings”, she was slammed by the internet for accidentally getting “Japanese BBQ” inked on her instead. The singer was also accused of cultural appropriation, and received backlash for days, which she made clear she was fed up with. (Me too, Ariana, me too.)
In 2016, The Manhattan Supreme Court declined Kesha’s plea to legally break her contract with Sony, after suffering years of sexual, verbal, and physical abuse from producer Dr. Luke. Following the court ruling, Ariana Grande spoke on the sexism women face in the music industry, in a interview with 97.1 Amp Radio.
“The incredible double standards that we [women] face on a daily basis, in the industry and just in the world, it’s shocking. I would be so amused – and pardon me if this comes across as sexist – but I don’t think a male artist would be in this position right now. Sorry.”
Taylor Swift has been criticized nearly all of her career for writing songs about her ex-boyfriends. She spoke up about that double standard in an Interview with Time Magazine.
“You’re going to have people who are going to say, ‘Oh, you know, like, she just writes songs about her ex-boyfriends and I think frankly that’s a very sexist angle to take. No one says that about Ed Sheeran. No one says that about Bruno Mars. They’re all writing songs about their exes, their current girlfriends, their love life, and no one raises the red flag there.”
When I see news stories condemning Demi for laughing at memes, comments that attack Nicki for twerking, and tweets trying to “cancel” Ariana for a tattoo she got, I can’t help but wonder why the media has the tendency to defend and protect artists like Chris Brown and XXXTentacion for things that aren’t even comparable.
Frankly, my sympathy isn’t with the rapper who strangled and beat his pregnant ex-girlfriend, but with the victims of abuse, and female artists who have spent their entire careers fighting the double standards that litter the music industry.