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Mandy Stewart, Ph. D. Headshot

I'm Not That Girl in the Country Song

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KNEE HIGH BOOTS
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I'm a country girl, born and bred, with the small town accent to prove it. Me and the country girls I know, although some of us have found a new home in the city, are smart, capable, hardworking and determined.

But that's not how we are presented in today's country music.

Country music today has become very male-dominated. In fact, I can listen for my entire one-hour commute and might hear only one female solo artist.

The good 'ole boys, and a few posers, have found a way to make their millions with a simple formula: Trucks, Beer, Dirt Roads, Pretty Girl. Repeat. Add a reference to guns for an extra point. Mention Jesus for two.

Yes, it sounds crazy that I like this. I'm a liberal college professor who has lived in a major city for all of my adult life. I have never owned guns or pickup trucks. Perhaps the old adage is true; You can take the girl out of the country, but...

The problem is I've become numb to this formula. I don't even realize essentially every song is about the same thing with the quintessential country girl. Of course this girl doesn't have a name. She is referred to by her bikini top, tight jeans, "money-maker," sun-tanned legs or by the alcoholic beverages she delivers to the man in the truck (or tractor.

Mainstream America will celebrate this music on the CMA Music Festival: Country's Night to Rock on Tuesday in Nashville during prime time television on ABC.

I know I'm certainly not the country girl in these songs, but I sing along anyway.

Until now.

Finally, some women have the nerve to stand up to this via their own country song. They are vocal duo Maddie and Tae, although you've probably never heard of them. One: Because they are female and their names are not Taylor or Swift. Two: Because they veer from the formula. Their new song and video, "Girl in a Country Song," points out the huge elephant in country music radio and the one in my small eco-friendly car as I'm jammin' out on my commute: The way most new country songs depict women is demeaning.

And, it's simply not true.

But I realize no one will make their millions singing about a country girl who in lieu of the bikini top and cut-off shorts, wears a matching sweater set and knee-length pencil skirt while handing out college grades, not beer. My life as a professor, as a woman who actually has a name, a terminal degree, a career and intellect, will never be as fascinating as these ghost women who appear in these songs.

However, I wish the so-called "bro-country," the men of country music, would remember who they are objectifying with every song they sing. Maybe it's not that each of these songs is bad by itself, but taken as a whole, this is what country music has become. It's the only perspective they have of me, a girl from the country.

I hope other country girls will also demand more respect. If every song that allegedly represents us, presents us as nothing more than a bikini top, sun-tanned legs or tight Levi's riding shotgun in a pickup truck, they do not know us.

So, along with my country sisters, Maddie and Tae, I want y'all to know, I might have the small-town southern drawl, the boots, the long blonde hair and maybe even the Levi's, but I'm definitely not that girl in the country song.