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Feminism and reggaeton: Contradiction or reality?

Accused of having explicit lyrics and massifying sexist ideas for years, this music genre has been evolving thanks to the voices of artists who support feminism.

Still from a music video clip by Lola Indigo

In recent years, several artists have emerged who seek to change things with feminist messages. Photo: YT-Lola Indigo

LatiAmerican Post | Yolanda González Madrid

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Leer en español: Feminismo y reguetón: ¿Contradicción o realidad?

Listening to reggaeton in Latin America (even outside of it) is inevitable. Regardless of our age or where we are, the popularity of this genre has been so great that it is already part of our daily lives, especially for Latinos. It is no secret to anyone that its lyrics and videos tend to be marked by machismo and by placing women as a sexual object, creating controversies that mostly go under the table. However, in recent years several artists have emerged who seek to change things with feminist messages. Is it possible that both are compatible?

A sector of society continues to ensure that this type of music is synonymous with women´s oppression. And if we put a context, the dance floors where people usually play this music have over time become intimidating places full of predatory glances towards them. Despite this, these types of difficult scenarios have enhanced the inner strength of many girls, who have learned to raise firm glances, stop in their tracks and say no (or consent) when they consider it. That kind of feminist resistance has also moved to the musical plane.

We live in a time when social networks and the media have given feminism a more visible space. However, this trend is not new when we talk about reggaeton, since at the time the singer Ivy Queen sought to demonstrate with her lyrics that this freedom is possible in any space, even in the urban genre. Just to name one example, the Puerto Rican in 2003 reached the top of the world rankings with her song "Yo quiero bailar", an anthem that is still in force and that talks about consent and the power of decision of women.

Sexist reggaeton and its controversial lyrics

Music is a reflection of society, and it also influences it. Although reggaeton has crossed borders thanks to its catchy rhythm, it is no surprise to anyone that the base of many of its songs is full of controversial lyrics that have been the subject of complaints and protests by various sectors. With all this, the genre continues to gain followers on a daily basis and the different artists have managed to quickly position themselves in the music industry regardless of the consequences of their work .

«Loco calla'o, no ando ladrando. Una mala en calor es lo que yo ando buscando. Te pongo en cuatro pata', tú ere' perra, no ere' gata» - J Balvin ("Perra")

Finding the origin of everything is not an easy task, but if we point out a precedent that caused quite a stir at a time of heyday of reggaeton, it was in 2005 with the duo Trébol Clan, who with the song "Agárrala" caused controversy due to its lyrical content full of violence. The years continued to pass and the new generations "got used to" hearing this type of song, which was becoming more and more explicit.

In 2016, two young men who were making their way into the industry like Ozuna and Maluma were the center of criticism from hundreds of people around the world. The Puerto Rican had in "Me reclamas" a denigrating song that placed women as a sexual object. In the other hand, the Colombian and his song "Cuatro babys" raised the voice of various organizations that defend the rights of women for their macho lyrics.

«Te juro que no aguanto las ganas. Y te voy a dar bien duro, como Chris le daba a Rihanna» - Farruko ("Amarte duro")

Another example that can be mentioned is that of Farruko and Victor Manuel with "Amarte duro", who were accused of promoting gender violence for referring to Chris Brown's aggression against Rihanna. And it is that although these controversies have been repeated, 2021 has not managed to escape from that. Recently, J Balvin and the Dominican Tokischa attracted attention with "Perra", a single full of double meaning and sexual references that raised a sea of both negative and positive comments.

Also read: 8 Must-seen Latin American albums in 2021

Has feminist reggaeton been successful?

More and more women are venturing into reggaeton and also claiming themselves as beings capable of ruling over themselves without attending to man's desire. From Ivy Queen in the nineties to the current generation with Anitta (and many others), the feminine message has been gaining ground in a genre that has become used to treating them as sexual objects. But this is where the question arises as to whether feminism has really succeeded in urban music.

If we refer specifically to the numbers, the reggaeton woman does triumph, just not so much compared to men. Their appearance at the top of the music rankings is usually linked to the collaboration of male artists, although this has more to do with marketing. What is certainly undeniable is the fact that the empowered urban artist sells more than ever, and this is because the message comes from themselves.

Apart from the fact that figures such as Becky G, Greeicy, Anitta or Karol G have greater popularity in the industry, there is a huge list of other artists who are also showing that reggaeton has its feminist side and that this transformation goes hand in hand with equity in every sense. Lola Indigo, Ms. Nina, K-Narias, Miss Bolivia, among many others, have not had the impact they deserve; but that has not taken away from the fact that their contribution is also valuable, and that inclusion, empowerment and independence are issues that are here to stay.