Do Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love” lyrics condone and perpetuate violence against women?

October 27, 2015 Mariana 0 Comments

Once the beat for “Drunk In Love” started pulsating on the Grammys’ stage in 2014, I watched with apprehension…  Would the lyrics referencing Tina Turner’s violent relationship with Ike Turner be omitted? Would they be performed and edited out? Would Beyonce sing the lyrics alongside her husband, Jay Z? Sitting with anticipation, I couldn’t help but think “Why does it matter?”

Violence against women is pervasive nationally (i.e., within the United States) and globally. Violence against women is not a tragic problem only cropping up in some pockets of society. Worldwide, almost 1/3 of all women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner (World Health Organization, 2013). Globally, approximately 40% of all murders of women are committed by intimate partners (World Health Organization, 2013). Granted there are many other forms of violence women are exposed to… However, violence against women at the hands of an intimate partner represents a clear and terrifying reality. The majority of violence against women indisputably happens at the hands of an intimate partner, friend, or acquaintance. How can this be true? 

Various sociocultural factors devalue women (e.g., the Matilda effect, women and unequal pay- women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earned, males being scolded for “acting like a girl”, women are more likely to be interrupted when speaking, when women are successful leaders they are often coined as “bossy” and “aggressive” whereas male leaders receive positive praise… to name a few). Further, a range of sociocultural factors spanning across history perpetuate the idea of women as property (e.g., women’s fight and struggle for the right to vote, anti-abortion legislation, a man’s belief that she belongs to him… you all get the idea). 

What are the implications for the well-being of an entity if they are devalued and treated like property?
How will such an entity be treated? How much power is this entity granted?
Is equality even possible given the social and cultural constraints in which such an entity is embedded?
If women are seen and treated as equals what does this mean for men?

Within the context of the music industry, finding repulsive examples of women being devalued, degraded, and treated like property are as easy as stumbling upon free porn. Take Nelly’s “Tip Drill” video and corresponding lyrics “I said it ain’t no fun less we all get some, I need a tipdrill, we need a tipdrill” as an example. For those who aren’t familiar with the term “tipdrill” it refers to a basketball exercise where players take turns tipping the ball off the backboard consecutively without the ball touching the ground. After each rebound the player goes to the back of the queue, leaving the next player to repeat the drill. I’m assuming you all are drawing the parallel between “tipdrill”, the basketball drill, and the kind of “tipdrill” Nelly desires.

A plethora of examples could be cited here as well as a discussion regarding the effects of  objectifying women. For immediate or future reference, go here. This link will take you to an article that investigated the effects of objectifying videos on men’s beliefs. For a brief synopsis of the findings, “the results showed that exposure to sexually objectifying music videos primed male college students’ adversarial sexual beliefs, acceptance of interpersonal violence, and at a level of marginal significance, disbelief in the legitimacy of sexual harassment (Audrey, Hopper, & Nbure, 2011).  Regarding the acceptance of interpersonal violence and disbelief in the legitimacy of sexual harassment, the authors argued that the videos primed in men “the belief that women use their sexuality to their advantage” and thus, “women have little basis to complain if men reciprocate the interest, and it goes too far (in terms of violence or sexual harassment). This is consistent with research on the effects of violent pornography suggesting that viewers tend to perceive female victims in sexually violent depictions to be responsible or partially responsible for their treatment” (Audrey, Hopper, & Nbure, 2011).

On Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love” track, Jay Z sings a line from the biopic film, What’s Love Got To Do With It about the life of Tina Turner… I’m Ike Turner, turn up, baby, no, I don’t play. Now eat the cake, Anna Mae said, “Eat the cake, Anna Mae!” The lyrics cite the use of force utilized during the scene when Anna Mae Bullock (i.e., Tina Turner) refuses to eat cake and Ike Turner proceeds to stand up and shove it in her mouth and across her face. Intimate partner violence is about control, it is about power, it is about being dehumanized, and it is about being treated like someone’s property…

“If I ran away, Tina was his name,” Tina says. “It was patented, as you call it.”
“So he could own you,” Oprah says.
“So he could own me,” Tina says.
“And then the beating came,” Tina says. Gesturing to her head, she describes the abuse. “And then against the head. Always the head, with a shoe stretcher. A wooden shoe stretcher.”
Afterward, Tina says Ike told her to get in the bed. “Oh, that was really awful,” she says. “To have sex after? I hate you – how can we make love now? If it’s love.”

What role does the music industry play in supporting male authority and control?
What role does the music industry play in perpetuating violence against women?
Do videos, performances, and lyrics referencing intimate partner violence sanction and condone violence against women?

Why would Beyonce imitate a scene of violence against women
and why would she sing and perform the oppressive lyrics with her husband?

Why does it matter? It matters because the messages we receive from music videos, performances, and lyrics surreptitiously seep into our beliefs and assumptions about the nature, worth, and potential of women. Consequently, these beliefs and assumptions manifest into covert biases about how women deserve to be seen and treated. These beliefs, assumptions, and biases inform our behavior and actions- do we want to live in society who acts on these type of beliefs about women? As a woman, NO WAY.

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