I get made fun of a lot at St. Lawrence for my music choices. I don’t tend to put on the top tracks of the month, like Taylor Swift or The Chainsmokers. While I do still dance to them at a party because of their catchy beats, I choose to avoid a lot of popular songs because of their unfeminist lyrics.
So many facets of our society today teach girls from a very young age how to look and act, including movies, ads, and teen magazines. They insidiously teach girls that if they do not look white, feminine, and skinny, they will not be desired by a man or accepted in society. These values are extremely harmful to the LGBTQ+ community and minorities because they are hardly represented in popular media as the “ideal” woman.
I have found these issues to be very prevalent in today’s popular music, which is why I find it difficult to listen to many songs you can hear at any college party on the weekend. Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” is one of his newest tracks, and while I can dance to the catchy beat, I am unsettled by his lyrics.
Part of the title of the song and one of the most commonly used lyrics is “I’m in love with the shape of you,” followed by “I’m in love with your body.” While the word “shape” might be referring to the whole being of his lover, it is not apparent enough to make this distinction. By following up with “I’m in love with your body” throughout the whole chorus, Sheeran seems to be placing his lover’s figure first in his story of falling in love.
While it isn’t a bad thing to love your partner’s figure, I think it’s problematic when so many popular songs today prioritize women’s bodies over their minds and talents. Young girls are taught that they will only be worthy if their looks match the extremely high and specific standards portrayed in media. It is an insidious process, but it becomes so ingrained in girls’ heads that when they grow up, they don’t realize why they feel the need to look pretty and have a toned body; it becomes the norm.
Another set of lines in Sheeran’s song go: “Girl, you know I want your love/Your love was handmade for somebody like me.” No, it wasn’t. Women can love whomever they want and however they want. This line is extremely entitled and possessive, like this woman was made specifically for Sheeran. In reality, no one can know who they are going to fall in love with; it isn’t a “match made in heaven,” but a process that two people have to work together on. Saying that this girl is made for him doesn’t give her a choice in the matter and doesn’t seem like a healthy relationship.
I know what you’re thinking: “This is just a song, it doesn’t mean anything. He’s just trying to tell a story about a cute girl he met and fell in love with.” It is a song that is telling a story about two people in a relationship, but language is a tricky thing and should not be overlooked. If you’re going to write a love song, write it about the two of you and the weird things you do together. Write about the deep conversations you have at night, or about your own insecurities in the relationship. Write about the sad stuff, the real stuff, the murky waters you tread as you enter into a new but fun relationship. But please, please do not write about how amazing a woman’s body is and how you’re falling in love with it. Objectifying a woman is not how you get her to fall in love with you; it will only end up hurting her.