A woman in a cowboy hat sings on stage

Shaming of Female Sexuality in Country Music?

Shaming of Female Sexuality in Country Music?

According to country star Marren Morris, women in country music are offered two roles, “[the] religious, virginal conservative, or the wronged woman burning the house down." This leaves little room for female country artists to define their own identities and paths in the genre. Country traditionalists are some of the most intense when it comes to singing by the book, so female artists often face immense backlash from their Southern fanbases when they stray away from these archetypes. Women in country music experience far less creative freedom than their male counterparts, as they are criticized for portraying their own sexuality or exploring a less traditional country sound.

Faith Hill has experienced this toxic masculine gaze in the country music industry firsthand. When she released the music video for her song “Breathe”, Hill received backlash from fans who thought the video was too stylized and sexual, alien from her more conservative, traditional roots. When Hill released Cry, which strayed even further from traditional country sounds and messaging, she felt the repercussions of an alienated country fanbase, as none of the tracks on this album broke in the top ten on Country music radio.

The presence of female artists on country radio is miniscule, and continuing to decrease. Female artists accounted for only 11.3% of the music played on US country radio last year, down from 33.3% in 2000. This disparity only adds to the restriction of female country artists, and intensifies the consequences of exploring themes like casual sex, drug use, toxic masculinity and queer acceptance.

These “traditional” views held by the country music community are highly geopolitical. Country roots run deep in red states like Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Alabama, so it's logical that many fans of country music hold conservative social/political views. The influence of a fanbase’s views on artist livelihood is often overlooked, but this influence is exemplified with female country singers. Expectations about femininity, and how a woman should act are unfairly thrust upon female artists, and some find it difficult to balance their own identity with maintaining the support of a largely Southern fanbase.