The Sexist

Street Harassment In Song, From Scrubs to Pigeons

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Now that we've finished fawning over Satah Cameron's epic ode to street harassers (above), let's take a look at how other popular songs about street harassment stack up. From Queen Latifah's "U.N.I.T.Y." to Sporty Thievz' "No Pigeons," below are six other takes on the phenomenon of harassing women in public. Thanks to Stop Street Harassment's list of positive songs about street harassment for some of these tracks.

Queen Latifah, "U.N.I.T.Y."

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Relevant Lyrics:

One day I was walking down the block
I had my cutoff shorts on right, cause it was crazy hot
I walked past these dudes when they passed me
One of 'em felt my booty, he was nasty
I turned around red, somebody was catching the wrath
Then the little one said "Yeah, me bitch" and laughed
Since he was with his boys he tried to break fly
"Huh." I punched him dead in his eye and said
"Who you calling a bitch?"

The good: Sometimes a physical response is necessary to combat a sexual assault. The song goes on to emphasize unity between men and women and address other forms of assault, from intimate partner violence to violence between women.

The bad: I can't think of anything sour to say about Latifah. Who are you calling a bitch?

TLC's "No Scrubs"

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Relevant Lyrics:

I don't want no scrub
A scrub is a guy that can't get no love from me
Hangin' out the passenger side
Of his best friend's ride
Tryin' to holla at me

The good: "No Scrubs" became a club anthem that a women to express their displeasure with men who hang outside of car windows in pursuit of some drive-by sexual harassment.

The bad: Unfortunately, the song goes on to conflate street harassment with guys who don't have cars, live with their parents, and look "like trash." It takes all kinds, TLC.

Dollyrots' "Cat-Calling"

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Relevant Lyrics:

Hey baby, baby
Whatcha want, you're calling me
Dumb standing around the lunch truck so greedily

Hey baby, baby
Just another dog I see
Rolling in the dirt you're barking up the wrong tree

So maybe you're crazy
Never get a bone
Ooh, you're just too much man for me
Yeah maybe you're crazy

. . . Hey baby, baby
Whatcha want, you're stalking me
Bang bang your hammer
Caveman sensibilities

The good: Beyond rejecting the titular form of harassment, "Cat-calling" preemptively knocks down harassers' retorts to your displeasure. You aren't "just too much man" for us.

The bad: The song restricts its vitriol for guys who hang out around lunch trucks or on construction sites, letting more privileged harassers off the hook. Also, calling men "crazy" (ugh) and comparing them to cavemen and dogs may actually just help to obscure how normalized street harassment is in our society. Don't bring dogs in to this.

Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl"

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Relevant Lyrics:

A few times I've been around that track
So it's not just gonna happen like that
'Cause I ain't no Hollaback Girl
I ain't no Hollaback Girl

. . . I heard that you were talking shit
And you didn't think that I would hear it
People hear you talking like that
Getting everybody fired up
So I'm ready to attack, gonna lead the pack
Gonna get a touchdown, gonna take you out
That's right, put your pom-poms down.

The good: In Internet gender activism parlance, a "Hollaback girl" might signify someone who's committed to fighting back against street harassment. Stefani's song uses the idea of "hollering back" to opposite effect: On the track, a "Hollaback girl" is a woman who buckles to the whims of any guy who hollers at her. Here, Stefani's not that kind of girl, and that's her shit.

The bad: According to Wikipedia, the song was actually written about cattiness, not cat-calling: It's "a response to Courtney Love's statement that Stefani was a 'cheerleader' in an interview with Seventeen magazine." So, Stefani writes a song about how she's so above talking shit about other women by . . . writing a song talking shit about other women? What? Too bad, because No Doubt's "Just a Girl" offers a more legit take on street harassment: "The moment that I step outside / So many reasons for me to run and hide . . . I'm just a girl / Guess I'm some kind of freak / 'Cause they all sit and stare with their eyes."

3OH!3 ft. Katy Perry's "Starstrukk."

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Relevant Lyrics:

Nice legs, Daisy Dukes
Makes a man go [whistle]
That's the way they all come through
Like [whistle, whistle]
Low-cut, see-through shirts That make you [whistle]
That's the way she come through
Like [whistle, whistle]

. . . Tight jeans, Double D's makin' me go [whistle]
All the people on the street know [whistle, whistle]
Iced-out, lit-up, make the kids go [whistle]
All the people on the street know [whistle, whistle]

The good: Let's see: This is a song about how the clothes women wear incite men to whistle at them. Later, Katy Perry steps in to clarify that she dresses this way just "to set them up / to knock them down." She's askin' for it, am I right? But perhaps the song can function as a helpful real-life example of the way street harassers treat women, and the way women like Perry cooperate to perpetuate that behavior and turn the blame back on ourselves.

The bad: See "The good."

Sporty Thievz' "No Pigeons"

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Relevant Lyrics:

A Pigeon is a girl who be walkin' by
My rimmed up blue, brand new sparklin' five
Her feet hurt so you know she want a ride
But she frontin' like she can't say hi.
What?

. . . In the front of the club I see this girl like, "Yo love"
Thought she said thug but she called me a scrub
Scrub? What? She musta talk me a joke
Broke Pigeonhead freak, you lucky I spoke.

The good: "No Pigeons" provides the scrub's perspective on "No Scrubs." Uh . . . it's great to remind ourselves of the street harasser's perspective on street harassment, in case you haven't heard one screaming at you on the street lately.

The bad: While "No Scrubs" faulted men for pursuing women who were obviously uninterested in them, "No Pigeons" faults all women for not wanting to fuck Sporty Thievz. It's reverse sexism!

Comments

  1. #1

    I love this post. And yesterday's about Satah/Emily Swashbuckle's song on street harassment.

    I JUST found what I was looking for yesterday. Paige of Flux-Rad has a virtual mixtape here that includes Desiderata's Upon A Man Looking At A Woman. http://www.flux-rad.com/2009/06/30/mixtape-where-was-my-mind-pt-1/

    Oh, sweet, sweet 90s hardcore.

  2. #2

    Queen Latifah is the ish. awesome. so, so awesome.

  3. #3

    Amanda, I always look forward to reading your take on street harassment. Thank you for continuing to draw light to it!

  4. #4

    Can we discuss how Katy Perry is terrible and should go away? Because I think she should go away.

  5. #5

    Starstruckkkkkk needs to be nominated for douchiest music video ever.

    It's like a 4 min. long Axe bodyspray commercial. With lower production values. And a shittier soundtrack.

    Normally I'm not one for lecturing women for their compliance with the patriarchy, but damn, Katy Perry, must you?

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