One popular criticism of popular music is that it perpetuates gender stereotypes. Although it is more common to see female stereotypes perpetuated than male stereotypes, it is not difficult to find such stereotypes in popular music. One song where it is somewhat difficult to find the perpetuation of stereotypes is Craig Morgan's “I Am.” Although there are instances in which male stereotypes are supported, the majority of the supported stereotypes are positive and many of the lines in the song denounce the negative stereotyping of men.
“I Am” is essentially an autobiographical country song. The lyrics consist of questions inquiring as to different personality traits that Craig Morgan possesses. At the end of each verse and the refrain, Craig emphatically responds “you bet I am!” These traits range from Morgan being a so-called good ol' boy to being down to Earth. Several of the traits that Morgan says he possesses, however, come in direct conflict with negative male stereotypes.
The first time that a negative male stereotype is quashed by Morgan is in the first line of the refrain. He asks, “[a]m I strong enough to cry?” The notion that men who cry are as weak is a key element of the schema that is the male stereotype. However, this element of the stereotype is problematic because it teaches men to hide their emotions. This can lead to a variety of problems ranging from difficulty making friends to post-traumatic stress disorder (United Press International, 2009; Salters-Pedneault)
Another important yet less-discussed stereotype that Morgan denounces through his song is that men tend to be unfaithful. It is not uncommon for males to be portrayed in the media as having multiple love interests. This can be harmful because Morgan denounces this stereotypes by singing “[a]m I a lover, a one-woman man, you bet I am!” By using this line in his song, he sends the message that it is okay to be famous and faithful.
Not all of the lines in “I Am” combat male stereotypes, though. In the second line of the refrain, Morgan sings “[a]m I weak enough to show my tender side?”. This line seems to perpetuate the notion that it is not acceptable for men to be emotional. This is a problematic line for two reasons. As was previously mentioned, suppressing emotions can have negative effects on a person's health. More importantly, however, is the fact that this line seems to contradictory to other parts of the song. It contradicts what Morgan sang in the line previous to it when he said that he is “strong enough to cry.” It also sends a conflicting message because he infers that it is acceptable to “show your tender side,” but uses the word “weak” to describe why he is able to do it. These conflicting messages may lead to some listeners to be confused about what the lyric actually means.
However, Morgan does sing about some male stereotypes that are considered favorable. He uses lines about whether he is “willing to take a stand” and “tough as nails when push comes to shove.” These lines signify that Morgan is encouraging men to be tough but not overly violent or aggressive. The media often does not portray men as such, as even Disney has portrayed many of its main male characters as violent and aggressive at times.
Although Craig Morgan’s song “I Am” is one of his lesser known songs, it has a more message about what it means to be a man than the majority of today’s popular music. It breaks through some of the stereotypes of men, including the notion that it is not acceptable to cry or be monogamous, and reinforces other traits such as being tough but not overly aggressive. Although there are conflicting messages at times, Craig Morgan did a very good job of cutting through some of the stereotypes that surround males today
Morgan, C. (n.d.) I Am. In Youtube.com. Retrieved September 29, 2009, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXmpHeKmr5Y.
Salters-Pedneault, K. (n.d.). Suppressing Emotions. In About.com. Retrieved September 29, 2009, from http://bpd.about.com/od/livingwithbpd/a/suppress.htm.
United Press International (July 25, 2009). Study finds suppressing emotions can hurt. In UPI.com. Retrieved September 29, 2009, from http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2009/07/25/Study-finds-suppressing-emotions-can-hurt/UPI-36381248566093/
About BMC 277: Media and Diversity
This course asks students to critically examine the role of the media in facilitating and challenging the social constructions of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in U.S. culture.