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I Think My Playlist is Sexist... (3 min read)

I think my #cleaning playlist may be #sexist ... is what I said to my partner over the weekend.

It was #familyday in #ontario recently. I had made us breakfast and was tidying up some of the dishes and she was sitting down to do some work with our finances (which are combined and she manages) as I made my way to clean the bathroom. I took our mobile speaker in and was searching for some music to play as I attacked the #soapscum on the shower door.

When I search #applemusic for playlists, I generally type in a keyword or two as a way to find something new, interesting, and fitting the moment. There are many #playlists that have music that I have not heard before and so I often skip those ones.

I typed in the keyword #cleaning to find something #energizing and #motivating for the next while as I channeled my inner #domesticgod (tongue placed firmly in cheek). After scrolling through a few, I found one that had some artists that I recognized, pushed #shuffle and set to work (who doesn’t like to clean listenin to ‘ABC’ by the Jackson Five?

As I was furiously #scrubbing away, and cursing myself for not cleaning sooner as the soap residue was winning against my vinegar and water solution, I started to notice the songs that were playing as my #soundtrack to tidiness.

Some of the tracks that I heard were ‘Wannabe’ by the Spice Girls, ‘Run the World (Girls)’ by Beyoncé, ‘Respect’ by Aretha Franklin, and ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ by Cyndi Lauper.

Now, I have nothing negative to say about any of these songs or artists, but what was really interesting to me was that here I was (self-identified male) cleaning the bathroom listening to songs by strong female artists (I love the song ‘Crazy in Love’ for example) while my partner (self-identified female) was working away on finances. The #irony was thick and interesting.

I started to think about my reaction if I had a daughter and what the message attached to a playlist titled #cleaning may be sending by nature of the artists and, potentially, a demographic that the playlist may be targeting?

It was a very interesting moment and a very subliminal message being sent. Now, this playlist was created by a user and NOT by apple, so there is nothing suggesting that apple is preaching traditional #genderroles to anyone seeking a good jam to clean the shower to. However, I started to think about that person who made the playlist and if they had a reason to add ‘Respect’ to a playlist titled cleaning?

There are so many messages that we receive that go unnoticed, which urge us toward antiquated gender roles. What are your thoughts? Was the playlist sexist?

Recently, I was fortunate enough to facilitate an evening event based on just this with Eric Arthrell, currently on parental leave, and Nikita Stanley, from The Rebel Mama, joining us at Wolfpack YYZ’s event on ‘Parenting and Partnership.’ Wolfpack was created by Next Gen Men as a space for men to come together and have conversations that they may not be having in other areas of their lives. Wolfpack seeks to create a safe space for all to come and talk about their experiences and how each month’s topic is affecting, or being experienced by, themselves or men in their lives.

One of the interesting topics that came up while I was speaking with Eric, was the idea of value and how society assigns status to a caregiver. His feelings are that the status of a caregiver is missing for many men and that many men do not identify as a caregiver because there is not a high amount of perceived status in the role when juxtaposed with earning a high salary or receiving a promotion for example.

Nikita also was able to share her own experiences around societal messaging and being a mother in the workplace, how hiring practices can discriminate due to not wanting to have the ‘disruption’ of a maternity leave. Both of these speakers gave such tremendous insights into their individual, and generalized experiences, from different perspectives and their identified gender.

There was much more conversation that ensued around all of the above, but it was really interesting to sit with both of these individuals and hear about their journey as the thought of this playlist experience bounced around in my head.

I challenge everyone to think about the subliminal and overt messaging that we are sending to people in our lives about their value, expected roles and responsibilities, and where our lens of gender and privilege collides with these.

OR, just to create a better playlist to clean on a Sunday!

Eric Arthrell has a website named where he shares his insights on his own ‘evolving maleness.’

Nikita Stanley is a co-founder of that is ‘set out on a mission to re-imagine motherhood.’

I highly encourage you to check out both of these sites as they are both a wealth of interesting information and experiences!

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