You’re strutting down the street, feeling confident and humming along to your music. You press shuffle and Meghan Trainor’s “Dear Future Husband” comes on. You sing along without thinking about it because the words are burned into your memory from its constant repetition on the radio. You swear they play the same 10 songs every day. All of a sudden you stop and closely listen to the lyrics. Did you hear that right? “I’ll be the perfect wife, buying groceries”? “You gotta know how to treat me like a lady /Even when I’m acting crazy / Tell me everything’s alright.”? Suddenly you feel a wave of guilt rush over you as your feminist intuition kicks in. What century is this again? Maybe there is a double meaning to this. Is Trainor possibly criticizing these gender roles? You look up her music video for more answers but sadly what you come across is even more frightening. There are scenes of Trainor scrubbing the floor and cooking pies, dressed as what appears to be a 50s housewife. She disapprovingly shakes her head when one of her suitors fails a test of strength. When listening to Meghan Trainor’s song “Dear Future Husband”, the keyword essay titled Gender immediately came to mind. I also immediately connected Trainor’s song and video to our female characters who either reinforce or reject the gender roles that Trainor embraces.
In the essay Gender, it discusses how ideas of femininity are linked with stories of romance and domesticity. We can see a clear emphasis on domesticity in Trainor’s song and video as she cleans and cooks and is therefore the “perfect wife”. In Little Women, Meg desires to be in this role ”Like most other young matrons, Meg began her married life with the determination to be a model housekeeper. John should find home a paradise, he should always see a smiling face, should fare sumptuously every day, and never know the loss of a button” but then the passage goes on to say that Meg was “too tired to even smile”. The reader gets the idea that this is not as pleasant as she had imagined it to be. The essay then goes on to discuss how traits are associated with gender. Girls were thought of to be “passive, emotional”. In Trainor’s song and video we see her waiting for the men to impress her and sitting aside as the men display their adventurous traits and strength. In the lyric “You gotta know how to treat me like a lady /Even when I’m acting crazy”, the stereotype of a woman being emotional and possibly unstable is yet again pushed forward. Gender also discusses how feminist movements tried to “re-imagine bodies” and “disentangle historical conflations of gendered bodies and language”. This is where we can examine our character of Jo as a rejection of these social norms. Jo likes to run, climb trees and participate in “boyish activities” but is still pushed into these roles. “You are old enough to leave off boyish tricks, and to behave better, Josephine. It didn’t matter so much when you were a little girl; but now you are so tall, and turn up your hair, you should remember that you are a young lady.” Trainor’s song seems to retreat to these old views and roles that Little Women, written in the 19th century, also encourages.
You think about all the little girls who must be singing this with their friends, dancing around in their bedrooms, unaware of the underlying message that Trainor is portraying. The question remains, is it just a silly pop song or a tool which could play into the socialization of young girls and boys in possibly harmful ways? Is it really music’s responsibility to put forward a positive message? What do you think?