30 March 2017
Univ 211: Food for Thought
Food and Gender in Pop Culture
It’s no secret that pop culture is notorious for sexualizing women and in some instances blatantly degrading them. However, hip-hop and rap are still flourishing genres even through their degrading lyrics and explicatory music videos. In this paper, I am going to analyze how pop culture uses food to sexualize women and to maintain gender roles. I plan to explore various music videos, lyrics, and even interviews. It may be surprising to some to see all the hidden messages in pop culture geared towards maintaining women’s unequal role in society while other messages will be those that have been clear. Although there are many songs sexulaizing women through food some artists are slowly fighting gender roles using food.
To begin, I want to discuss the many songs that compare women to food. Here are a few that I can list off the top of my head: Cake by Trey Songz, Diced Pineapples by Rick Ross, Peaches and Cream by 112, Cary Out by Timbaland ft. Justin Timberlake, and Laffy Taffy by D4L. Let me remind you, these are just a few songs and these are only songs where women are referenced as food numerous times throughout the song. In Trey Songz’ song “Cake” he says, “Hey pretty lady, give me some of that cake I’d like to place an order, ooh, I just wanna taste, and ooh I’d hate to wait Lay your body down all over my plate.” This obviously objectifies and belittles women – making them seem like a piece of food with one purpose – to satisfy the man. To lay her body down in his plate is a metaphor referencing giving him control of her body which exerts male dominance. In “Takeout”, Timbaland says, “I’ll have you open all night like you’re iHop.” Later is the song, he says, “you look good baby must taste heavenly, I’m pretty sure that you got your own recipe.” An obvious reference to food in comparison to her physical body.
Even songs that have nothing to say about food somehow find a way to belittle women with food in their music videos. For example, the music video for Birthday Song by 2 Chainz and Kanye West features a naked woman lying on a dinner table covered in dessert toppings. Almost immediately after, a woman (with her breasts out) is shown carrying a cake that is in the shape of a plump butt. I find it interesting that the woman is also serving the cake. While carrying the cake through the kitchen, she walks past two men sitting down seeming not to have a care in the world. This definitely upkeeps the stereotypical women in the kitchen doing the work while men do nothing idea. Another music video I want to mention is California Gurls by Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg. Katy is seen laying naked in cotton candy in quite a few scenes of the music video. In other scenes, women are seen trapped in candy. This is very oppressive to women. All the while, Snoop Dogg is sitting in chair as if he is the master he even has a cane made of candy. Remember that canes are often associated with pimps. Furthermore, at the very beginning of the video Snoop Dogg is shown placing a game piece that is a model of Katy Perry on a game board made of candy. This gives the idea that it’s his world and his game to play.
We must not put all the blame on men for objectifying women when women are not hesitant to do it to themselves. I want to talk about the song “Milkshake” by Kelis. Although an old song, it is a classic and can often be heard on the radio still; you’re probably singing it to yourself right now. The song starts with the raunchy line, “my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,” this line can be found several times throughout the song. One who’s not familiar with the song may be confused, “so what she makes good milkshakes??” It’s not as innocent as it sounds however. “I know you want it, The thing that makes me what the guys go crazy for. They lose their minds, The way I wind,” is the first verse after the chorus and now you probably understand what Kelis really means when she says her “milkshake.”
Although sexualizing women and maintaining gender roles through food is prevalent in pop culture, it is important to realize that there are some artists such as Lady Gaga who are fighting these gender roles and sexualization with food themselves. In the video for “Telephone,” featuring Beyonce, Beyonce can be seen being disrespected by a man she seems to be on a date with in a diner. When he gets up, she puts poison in his coffee. Meanwhile, Lady Gaga can be seen making a sandwich while men dance around her in the kitchen of the diner; they do not seem to be helping one bit. Typical. What happens next is what is interesting. Lady Gaga then poisons the food she made and serves it to the man that Beyonce is sitting in the booth with. Looking back the Kitchen scene, it is no coincidence that Gaga is featured in the center making the sandwich and that it’s only men in the kitchen with her dancing around. This video was a clear feminist statement by Gaga and a big push back with the same thing other artists use to sexualize and degrade women: food.