Recently in seminar, we talked about the pervasive sexism that women still face in developed nations. While it seems that the patriarchy has stepped away from blatant and obvious inequality in many ways, the reality of the structure still exists. In thinking about the ways I have encountered this more subversive form of the patriarchy, I almost always think of Drake’s 2015 hit “Hotline Bling.” From the second I heard the lyrics of this song, I was almost the most offended I have ever been by pop culture. There are two things I want to further explore – first, the fact that this, of all rap songs, offended me, and secondly, what is so problematic in Drake’s whiny ballad.
Writing this post and thinking about “Hotline Bling” makes me aware of my privilege, and in many ways, fortunate chance in life that I have never encountered severe abuse. I don’t want to point out “Hotline Bling” as a new form of sexism and misogyny that is replacing more overtly gendered violence, because that’s completely false. There are many women who face those traumas, so I am in no way suggesting that my encounter with patriarchical ideas is prototypical of the American woman. I do, however, think it is pervasive and common. While violence, oppression and overt sexism demand our attention, I believe this “softer” form of the patriarchy does as well – because it reinforces the ideas that lead to blatant abuse and discrimination.
Offensive rap and R&B lyrics are nothing new. Many rap and R&B artists embrace sexist imagery, tone and messages in their music. The genre is known for being unapologetic, and I found many articles outlining “Most Offensive Rap Lyrics” that I don’t want to link here because I don’t want to give them a further forum. However, “Hotline Bling” departs from the expected misogyny to paint the picture of a lonely boyfriend that misses the good girl he used to know. Drake mourns the loss of the girl that used to call him up when she was lonely, even as he takes credit for her sexuality, decides she doesn’t belongin places she wants to go, and takes issue with her making friends he hasn’tmet and traveling without him. In short, he is acting like almost every high school boyfriend I had or observed who wanted his girl to act a particular way to make him feel comfortable – with no parallel response expected on his end. “Hotline Bling” perpetuates gender stereotypes, while at the same time telling girls they should be “good girls” and allowing boys to expect that. Good girls apparently only have friends their men approve, don’t travel alone, don’t make decisions for themselves, and keep their sacred bodies pure and covered for their man’s eyes only.
I guess I expected more outrage about this song, but all I heard was people making fun of Drake’s dorky dance moves in his music video. I am not sure whether this reflects apathy, whether no one finds it as offensive as I do, or whether people just think we have more important problems to focus on. We certainly have many battles to fight – but I think confronting the “soft” patriarchy is one worth considering.