Kendrick Lamar’s verse, “I’m so f****** sick and tired of the Photoshop / show me somethin’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor/ Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretch marks” is being praised as a breakthrough from traditionally misogynistic rap verses.
However, even while moving past common themes of Eurocentric beauty and the idea of perfection in media, misogyny still exists within Kendrick’s line. He does not say that women, especially black women, should stray away from using Photoshop and perming their hair because they are beautiful without it. Rather, he implies that black women should be natural and keep their afro for his own preferences. He makes this clear in the next line when he says that he would “still take you down right on your mama’s couch.”
The danger here is that girls will want to be natural and flaunt their stretch marks not because of their own choices and empowerment, but, according to Kendrick, for his pleasure. This leads to mass media urging young women to follow certain beauty standards because “boys like it.” While Kendrick’s preference does go against most mass media produced ideals, it is still not particularly feminist. In fact, by urging girls to be natural and flaunt stretch marks only for his sake, Kendrick is being quite misogynistic.
This further complicates the already problematic self-image of young women. While first being only exposed to skinny, seemingly perfect images that value Eurocentric beauty standards, young girls are already aiming to achieve those same standards. By listening to lyrics like Kendrick’s and other sexist rhetoric, young girls are now trying to achieve a different, natural look only to satisfy the needs of a man.
Problematic lines in music do not stop with Kendrick Lamar and rap music. Sexist lyrics and toxic portrayals regarding self-image are also present in other genres of music. For example, All About that Bass by Meghan Trainor promotes loving one’s curves, but only to seem more attractive to men. The song also disappoints in its message by putting down skinny girls. Clearly, Kendrick is not the only artist failing to eradicate misogyny in his music.
The more complex issue here with Kendrick’s line is that it masquerades itself as promoting a healthy self-image based on natural features. In reality, the line supports the harmful idea that a woman cannot even choose how to present herself without being burdened with the wants and desires of men.