Target shelves Frank Sinatra next to Britney Spears. Ol’ Blue Eyes getting a posthumous eyeful. I found myself in the “pop music” section a couple weeks back, ostensibly to research a Rihanna tune.
The middle school choir at the Big E’s school staged a protest last year: TAYLOR SWIFT OR WE WALK! Taylor speaks to this demographic in a mesmerizing language incomprehensible to anyone capable of dialing a rotary phone. The choir director, a PhD level lyric tenor, chewed a hole in his lip trying to keep quiet about the kids’ musical choices.
As the accompanist, I suddenly found myself in possession of tunes written for Pink and Rihanna, and by Taylor. I set a strict practice schedule consisting of glancing at the music the week of the concert. ”Stay”, “Try”, and “Holy Ground” are easily accessible to even the beginning keyboardist. (Note how I phrased that in a positive light.)
I actually like “Stay” – a fine example of the beauty of simplicity – simple tune, simple accompaniment. Stuff this bare often relies heavily on either overproduction/effects or, less often, true vocal talent. (For some examples of artists who can pull off bare, see here, here, or here. Unfortunately, all three are dead.)
The music director and I chatted before the performance about how to present “Stay.” He suggested sarcastically that we could plop the kids in bathtubs on stage, fully clothed, of course, to mimic the music video. I watched about thirty seconds of YouTube before my Oberlin sensibilities forced me to abandon ship. Seriously? Rihanna spends four minutes writhing around in a bathtub (naked) while her duet partner Mikky Ekko broods, fully clothed, in a remote location.
I had planned to launch an Onion-like campaign to #DemandEqualObjectification and #PutMikkyInTheTub. Then hundreds of girls were abducted, an entitled misogynist killed seven people, and Maya Angelou died.
What can we do? I feel overwhelmed. I don’t have the energy to dive face-first into the issues of narcissism, gun control, and culturally-entrenched misogyny. Instead, I’m starting with the woman in the mirror. What can I do, particularly as a mother?
1) Watch My Words: Am I speaking respectfully? Am I teasing in a manner that is fun for everyone and not degrading?
2) Speak Up: I’m practicing my scripts. ”When you say _____, it sounds like you’re being disrespectful.” ”The puppy is telling you clearly that he doesn’t want to play with you. Do you see what he’s doing with his body to tell you that?”
3) Dis-Enable: My goal is to raise an emotionally and logistically capable son, to help him learn integrity and responsibility.
4) Change the Dial: Research in neurolinguistic programming suggests I shouldn’t even passively expose my child to degrading lyrics or images.
5) Let My Money/Vote Talk: No to Abercrombie & Fitch, yes to candidates who will reduce disparities in health coverage, no to the KDWB Booty Cruise (presented by Bud Light Lime – because alcohol and misogyny are such a swell combo).
6) Pay Attention To My Body: I felt physically ill for twenty-four hours after reading a wildly-popular YA series. The violence soaked into my being, squelching positive thought. I need to help my child process what he reads and hears so that he can manage his response, acknowledging that it may mean limiting his exposure in the first place.
7) Open Communication: If I establish a safe environment for talking about anything (silly, serious, funny, mundane, profound) with my son, I can hope that he will come to me as a teenager or adult, knowing that I will always cherish him.
What else can we do? I’d love to hear your ideas.
Musical Moment (I don’t have one in mind. Do you?)