Songs that Suck: “Steal My Girl”

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This is part one of what will be a multi-part series.  One Direction is on the chopping block today!

Being the “old at heart” curmudgeon I am, I still listen to the radio.  No, I don’t mean the “I ❤ Radio” application you can download, I mean I literal tune-in to a station during my morning and evening commute to/from work 5 days a week.  I know it’s a matter of time before it’s all app-based or satellite radio, but for now I still enjoy the weird feeling of community interaction I get from listening to the radio (even though there are very few disc jockeys I don’t loathe; sorry guys, literally NONE of you are half as funny as you think you are).  Plus, aside from recommendations from friends or Spotify, listening to the radio is how I find new music.

It’s also an exercise in masochism, though, since most new music on the radio is outright terrible, painfully formulaic, or is still pushing sexist/racist/homophobic stereotypes.  For someone who thinks lyrics should be thoughtful and well-written, rather than catchy and in no way grammatical correct, pop music has little to offer.

But, for all my complaining, I still listen.  Because once in a while you hear a great song, and it makes all the ear-bleeding worth it.

Of course, this entry is about a song that really sucks: “Steal my Girl” by One Direction.

In and of itself, I find One Direction to be rather mundane.  All their songs sound the same to me, and not a one contains any sort of powerful or poignant message.  That is, they are the spirit animal of Pop Music: Formulaic, mediocre, and very catchy.   Generally, if a song of theirs comes on the radio, I do not have a strong reaction to it either way (“Ugh, this is awful, change the station!” or “Oh, I love this song, turn it up!”).  It’s just… “meh” until something more interesting comes on.  That is, until I heard “Steal my Girl.”

This song is pretty much the pinnacle of sexist drivel.  The music itself is catchy (and that’s part of the problem) but the lyrics will make you cringe.  The chorus goes:

Everybody wanna steal my girl
Everybody wanna take her heart away
Couple billion in the whole wide world
Find another one ’cause she belongs to me

You can look up the rest of the lyrics, but this is the meat of the song.  Dude has a girlfriend.  Girlfriend is presumably attractive.  Everybody else wants her.  Wow, insightful stuff.

The lyrics are obviously sexist because they completely objectify women– according to the singer, his girl isn’t his partner in life, she’s his possession.  She belongs to him.  She doesn’t have a will of her own, that is, there’s no worry of the girl choosing to leave the guy, the only danger is that she might be “stolen” from him. Gross.

Listen, this concept as been around for a long time when it comes to love, and I think it’s got to stop.  It’s an extremely damaging concept to ALL genders: we are human beings, we are not objects.  We do not “belong” to each other, we choose to be WITH each other.  Why is this idea of being possessed by another human being romanticized? It’s not romantic,  it’s abusive.  Trust me, I’ve been an abusive situation or two in my time.

It’s one thing to say your heart belongs to someone, that’s another way of saying you love someone, but the idea that the entire person is stripped of their autonomy in a relationship and literally belongs to the other person is disturbing, not cute.  It smacks a lot of “traditional marriages” where women were considered the property of either their fathers or their husbands.  Nowadays, the attitude expresses itself in different ways– like your partner insisting you’re not allowed to have friends of the opposite sex (if you’re heterosexual).  That’s some manipulative bullshit!

Folks, it’s 2014.  Women, you are not the property of men and likewise, Men, you are not the property of women!  We’re all human  beings and we all belong to ourselves.  Besides, I think the idea of my partner choosing to be with me, every single day, is much more romantic than that of my partner “belonging” to me, as though she were a prisoner (prisoner of love!).  Really, now.

Anyhow, back to One Direction.  Notice how this girl doesn’t even have a name?  She doesn’t have an identity to speak of except for her relationship to her boyfriend.  She’s his girl, his queen, his dream– basically, her existence is defined as being his girl.  When the boyfriend isn’t there, she just sits down in a chair, plugs herself into int he nearest outlet and recharges her “sexy meter” for when he returns.

Just kidding.  Except, that’s kind of the message.  It’s along the same lines as saying “think of your mother/sister/daughter/aunt/other female loved one” when trying to get someone to stop being a sexist douche.  Women are frequently defined by their relationship to the men around them, and it’s really gotten old.  We’re whole people, dudes, even without you around to validate our existence, call us sluts, solicit us for sex, etc.  We have dreams and desires that have nothing to do with servicing your penis.

Let’s look at one of the verses in this song:

Kisses like cream,
Her walk is so mean
And every jaw drop
When she’s in those jeans,
Alright (alright)

This is the most information we get about the girl in the song.  Again, she has no name, no job, no personality… but we know that she’s attractive and sexually appealing to the boyfriend.  She has nice lips, she looks hot in a pair of tight jeans– I mean, what else could you possibly need to know about this girl? Who cares if she’s intelligent, if she’s contributing to society, if she has aspirations– she’s hot! And really, if you’re a woman, what else matters?

God that message is so stale.  I’ve heard it literally every day of my life for as long as I can remember.  Sometimes it’s subtle, like when I hear a song on the radio singing about a nameless sexy girl who belongs to a dude, and sometimes it’s blatant, like when someone yells “Nice tits!” or “DYKE!” on the street.  The message is all the same: You are your genitalia.  You exist only to gratify (men) sexually, or you’re worthless.  In advertising, in academia, in music and art, in business, we are constantly reminded that men (and therefore the world) views us as sexual objects and little else.

Is this song an egregious assault on women’s rights? Absolutely not.  It’s just sexist; lazy and casual sexism at that.  But I guess that’s why it struck me as so potentially damaging– because it IS casual.  Because I’m sure One Direction does not think there’s anything sexist about this song.  Because the young girls listening to it will like the catchy tune and not think critically about the lyrics that accompany it.  It’s easy to let casual sexism slide, because it is casual and seems nonthreatening on a large scale, but that’s why sexist attitudes are so pervasive.  Because we do let this stuff slide, we say “it’s not that bad” without considering that 100 “not that bad”s a day equals “Actually, that’s pretty bad.”

All in all, I give “Steal My Girl” a D-.  The lyrics are terrible and sexist, the song is uninspired, but the tune is pretty catchy.