Eminem’s Love the Way You Lie has been playing on the radio every 10 or 15 minutes the past few weeks. I won’t deny that the guy’s got talent. The way the song toggles between Eminem and Rihanna makes a catchy tune. However, I find one portion of the song frightening. Here’s boiled down excerpt.
You ever love somebody so much you could barely breathe when you with ’em …. You swore you’d never hit ’em …. Now you’re in each other’s face spewing venom in your words when you spit ’em.
It seems to me that the underlying assumption here is that hitting women is inevitable. Eminem projects that romance follows a predictable cycle. Boy meets Girl. Boy falls in love with Girl. Boy feels different about Girl than any girl before. Boy decides not to make the same mistakes with Girl. Boy gets tired of Girl. Boy hits Girl. Girl leaves Boy. Repeat.
What is particularly disturbing about this excerpt is the way that Eminem discusses violence in a relationship: “[Have] you ever … ?” The rhetorical nature of this question conveys that this experience is common. It’s one that everyone can relate to. In fact, if you haven’t had this experience, there’s something wrong with you. You don’t quite fit within the norms of society. You can’t relate to Eminem’s experience, therefore you cannot relate to the rest of society. Eminem normalizes violence towards women.
Not only that, but the way he portrays the cycle of a romantic relationship makes violence seem inevitable. Not only is it normal to hit a woman, it’s ultimately inevitable. Guys (I hesitate to say men) are fated to hit women. If they can’t help it, they are off the hook for their actions.
Guys who commit violence towards women now have two excuses. It’s normal to hit a woman. Guys don’t have a choice in the matter.
Eminem normalizes violence towards women. This is no surprise. Anyone with minimal cursory knowledge of Eminem is aware of this. Many a good feminists have already crucified him (and rightfully so). My point is not to raise awareness that Eminem is a misogynist, but to sensitize our filters to the messages that we receive each day. Love the Way You Lie has an attractive, catchy sound which easily gets stuck in one’s head. Unfortunately, the lyrics that accompany it may also work their way into one’s subconscious.