In my "Women and Criminal Justice" course at Michigan State, I assign an extra credit project for the students in which they identify and discuss a popular song whose lyrics reflect an issue discussed in class.
For example, "Goodbye Earl" can encourage discussion about domestic violence and violent retaliation (and also, is it OK to sing about domestic violence and homicide in this fashion?):[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw7gNf_9njs]
On another topic, I like using the song "Sex" by Berlin when we cover the "Madonna/Whore" duality. Consider the lyrics:
(Sung by a man, sung by a woman)
"I'm a man, I'm a goddess
I'm a man, well I'm a virgin
I'm a man, I'm a blue movie
I'm a man, I'm a bitch
I'm a man, I'm a geisha
I'm a man, I'm a little girl
And we make love together"
A man is always "a man", but a woman can be--and maybe is expected to be--many different things.
The song "Bitch" by Meredith Brooks is another good one for this discussion:
"I'm a bitch, I'm a lover
I'm a child, I'm a mother
I'm a sinner, I'm a saint
I do not feel ashamed
I'm your hell, I'm your dream
I'm nothing in between
You know you wouldn't want it any other way."
I'd love to hear from others if they've done similar projects, or if they have any feedback on this one. I've found that it really engages the students and encourages them to reflect on course material outside of class. They also start paying closer attention to how women (and gender issues) are portrayed in our culture.