Ruth Butaumocho Gender Editor
Rather than regard women as mortal beings, whose interests are vast and not only confined to their sexuality, several dancehall artistes present women as sex objects solely interested in pleasing men without having any of the same desires, laying foundation for gender-based violence. Growing up in the 1980s, I had a song book that I kept tucked away in the depths of a sofa that doubled up as my bed.
Like any girl of my age, I would scribble the lyrics of any song deemed a hit at the time.
One of my favourite groups were the Beatles, “All You Need is Love” was the ultimate romance song for me. It was not until years later that I really listened to one of the group’s songs, “Run for your Life”, that I vowed never to listen to the Beatles again.
In the song the composer, John Lennon says “I would rather see you dead little girl, than to be with another man”, a line which the Beatles claim was taken from Elvis Presley’s song titled “Baby, Let’s Play House”
Innocently singing along to such lyrics, I never thought of the explicit gender-based violence being glorified in the song. Such a song can be best described as violent, sadistic and would play well as the sound track to some mindless horror movie.
A short while ago the same thought came back to me again, but this time with the irony striking me that women are complicit in the glorification of their abuse.
I attended a party in the capital where the youthful gathering of both sexes danced body, mind and soul to a robust selection of music, which was heavy on local dancehall tunes.
The house got on its feet when the DJ started playing a song from dancehall musician Ricky Fire, “Ndiratidze zvaunoita”.
“Kana uchiti unotamba babe, ndiratidze zvaunota, Kana uchiti unogona kuwaina, babe ndiratidze zvaunoita. Kana uchigona kutambisa riri one, babe ndiratidze zvaunoita . . . ’’
As the song began, most ladies got on the dance floor with whoops of delight, gyrating, fully following Ricky’s suggestive chant by exposing their backside in the most suggestive ways.
Not to be left out of the action tipsy young men on the dance floor seemed to think the song was some licence to rub themselves on the backs of the revelling women, who appeared quite happy with that development. As the tempo increased, so did the gyrating, further exposing the backsides of most women. I was left wondering if it would be wrong to say women sometimes are willing subjects of abuse, directly or indirectly.
The song, which on the surface appears like an ordinary dancehall tune, is laden with suggestive lyrical content that denigrates women.
Like many other tunes in this genre, the song is strongly supported by a video, where a semi-naked, raucous lady “wines’’ to the satisfaction of Ricky Fire.
Since women allow themselves to be ridiculed in this manner, should anyone censor musicians for objectifying women, while seemingly celebrating sexual abuse in various forms?
Songs likes King Shady’s “Chipanera”, ‘‘Ndezvevarume’’ and Killer T’s ‘‘Ndeve Short time’’, are among a myriad of tunes where women are regarded as sex commodities, to be abused with impunity and regarded as collector’s items.
The fact that some of the songs are receiving airplay on radio stations yet their content is explicitly suggestive and depicts the way popular culture, especially music, promotes violence against women.
This song and many others that fall in the same category also illustrate the ideology of male dominance that perpetuates gender-based violence, where women have got little or no say on sexuality issues.
Rather than regard women as mortal beings, whose interests are vast and not only confined to their sexuality, several dancehall artistes present women as sex objects solely interested in pleasing men without having any of the same desires, laying foundation for gender-based violence.
Since time immemorial, music has been part of human kind. It seeps into arts and culture, finds expression in language and has great effect on lifestyle including behaviour.
More than one thousand scientific studies and reviews that have been done over the years conclude that significant exposure to violent music and lyrical content increases the risk of aggressive behaviour in children and adolescents.
A recent research that was carried out by international psychologists Anderson, Carnagey and Eubanks revealed that the lyrics one hears from a song can definitely influence his or her thoughts, ideas and even behaviour.
The same research suggests that if the practice is sustained, cultivated and encouraged in a demographic group its products turn out into adults who are violent against their peers, especially women.
It is sad that our society has become amenable to songs that denigrate the role of women, when we could take equal joy in the avalanche of positive songs that celebrate their feat in various fields.
Songs like Freeman’s ‘‘Shaina Mwana’’, Oliver Mtukudzi’s ‘‘Daisy’’ or Sniper’s ‘‘Mukadzi Haarohwe’’ speak well about women and still sound as good, if not better than the dancehall riddims being churned our everyday.
But until women themselves choose to individually reject songs with lyrics that debase them, then musicians will continue to churn out songs that shape our society to accept abuse as normal and even admirable.