Feminism in the Face of Boy Band Songs
Disclaimer: I would like to mention that the opinions stated in this article are subjective and are not representative of boy bands in general or people who listen to them. This is purely an analysis of one particular song in question, it does not in any way represent other boy band songs. I’m also not shaming the boy bands for their lyrics, nor the people who wrote them, as this is only my interpretation of the text.
So, recently, a friend of mine suggested that I listen to this new rising boy band, “Why Don’t We”. As I was going through their songs, I came across one song in particular whose lyrics struck me.
When you think of boy bands, you think of a group of relatively young, and (relatively) attractive boys that sing songs about love, heartbreak, growing up and other themes generally associated with teenagehood.
The song that I came across, was indeed a love song; a typically catchy chorus, a melody that gets stuck in your head way too easily, and you know, the usual “I see stars in your eyes” kind of thing. The problem that I found with that song was, well, most of its lyrics. I find that this song, “Trust Fund Baby”, is praising one type of “perfect” girl, only to shame another type.
In my very honest (and strongly feminist) opinion, I find that this song is offensive to the type of girl that the lyrics openly target and that they invalidate the whole concept of feminism - the idea that encourages girls to support each other, not compete with each other.
So, shall we look at these (appalling) lyrics together?
Right off the bat, the first lyrics that hit you are: “I don't want a girl who gets a car for her sweet sixteen”. These first words set the tone for the whole song which then follows the same pattern of “I don’t want a girl that does something one way but I want another girl that’s better”. Inherently, it encourages the mentality that there’s only one right way to be a girl and that all the other ways are invalid and/or shameful. This goes against the whole principle of feminism - trying to get girls together, not competing with each other, and recognizing that one doesn’t have to fail for the other one to thrive - we can all thrive together.
The lyrics are making a contrast between two particular types of girls: a so-called “Louboutin” girl, and a “Nike Airs and baggy jeans” girl. They oppose and shame one while praising another. The “mean girl lady” and the “pink prom queen” as they call her, is supposed to be “a girl who takes selfies, wants her makeup-free”, and equally she has a “fake tan, short skirt, daddy's money don't work// shop until you drop on the town”. The song makes it look like these things that are stereotypically in the realm of girlhood aren’t desired and it seems as though they are looked down upon. In contrast, we have the other “smart girl, stronger than her father” and she supposedly “will laugh at tryna fit in the crowd”. The “girl who climbs trees, always dirt on her jeans// her daddy told her how to fix cars” is the “ideal” type of girl to them and is the only way to be a woman.
The song touches on certain ideas of femininity and masculinity in a way that seems to state that there’s a correct behaviour related to one’s gender. This further shames of the ways of being a woman, like “It took a while to figure out// What type of girl that I'm about// Who brings the real man out of me”. This part of the bridge states that there’s more than one type of girl (since the singer had to find his type) but it does state that only one of them brings the “real man” out of him. My question, therefore, is, what is the “real” masculinity that he is talking about? So, not only is one type of girl acceptable, but there’s also only one way to be a man and other ways are not “real”? Not only is this song strongly misogynistic, but it is also telling young men there’s a standard that is considered “really” masculine.
There’s one more problem that I see: the so-called “independent” and “confident” girl that they all want just so happens to be more tomboyish and thus (surprise, surprise) is the better option because she is similar to men in her attitude. By contrast, the girly one isn’t good enough because she is too much of a woman in what she likes and wears.
Finally, I want to say that this song is quite exceptional, and I (as you may have noticed) strongly disagree with its message. However, I do realise that this song was not necessarily written by the same people who sing it, and of course, there is some doubt in if they really had a choice about it, which is why I’m not blaming the band itself, just purely analysing the lyrics. And to end this on a more positive note, please don’t hate on women, because like any human being we have the right to be individual in very different and complex ways, not only in the things we like and do but also how we dress.