Media & TechnologySex and Sexuality

Oh My Gosh, Look at Her Butt, Bass, Rape Culture, Macaw!

The other day I was mindlessly listening to the radio and heard my 23-month-old son singing along in the back seat. Awww cute. Wait a minute. What song is this? Anaconda. What did my sweet boy just say? I quickly changed the radio station when I realized that my son had sung the words “skinny bitches.” Not that he understood what he was singing, but, still.

Later that same day, my five-year-old daughter was singing along to Bang, Bang, by Jesse J, a song of which I can understand maybe three lines, which is probably a good thing. I stopped her and asked her what she was singing. Her response:

Bring baby into the room
Bring baby into the room
Wait a minute, and I’ll take you there
Wait a minute.
Bring baby into your heart
Come and see my macaw

Those of you who know the song, know that those are the not the actual lyrics. I had to look them up. They are:

Bang bang into the room (I know you want it)
Bang bang all over you (I’ll let you have it)
Wait a minute let me take you there (ah)
Wait a minute tell you (ah)
Bang bang there goes your heart (I know you want it)
Back, back seat of my car (I’ll let you have it)

Her five-year-old version included words and concepts she understood, sung along to the catchy tune. It gave me warm fuzzies to think that for her, the song is about a baby and a tropical bird. But, I am probably going to pay more attention to what’s on the radio from now on.

I listened to a lot of music as a young child. On the radio and on my parents eight track player – ABBA, Prince, the Flashdance soundtrack, Pink Floyd, Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer. It was the 80’s. While music contained adult themes, it wasn’t nearly as graphic or mature as pop music today. And while I don’t want to censor music for my kids – everyone who has been a teenager knows how well that works – I want to make sure that my kids don’t learn the values of a misogynistic culture by osmosis. So, I pay attention to the messages that my kids may receive when they listen to songs on the radio.

  • Blurred Lines (Robin Thicke): Who needs consent? Even though you say you don’t want to have sex with me, I know you really do. Here, have some drugs, because that will help wear you down.
  • All About That Bass (Meghan Trainor): Your main goal as a girl should be for boys to view you as a sexual object and want you. It’s okay to make fun of thin people who are unhappy with the way they look, as long as you add the words “just playing” afterwards.
  • Anaconda (Nicki Minaj): My goal is for men to view me as a sexual object. Although I am thin, I sing about how horrible “skinny bitches” are, while taking pride in what I consider to be a fat ass, which enables me to attract men. Ironically, I replace the word – “God,” with “gosh,” yet include the phrase: “Fuck those skinny bitches in the club!”
  • Animals (Maroon 5): You broke up with me. I am going to stalk you and possibly rape or kill you. You say you don’t want me, but you are lying. (excuse me while I vomit)

 

Please don’t misunderstand. When it comes on the radio, I find myself singing along to All About That Bass. It has a catchy tune and a message of empowerment and self acceptance. I am definitely pro-sex positivity and self-confidence. Incidentally, K thinks that the lyrics to that song are: I am all about the best, no trouble. Awwww. I wish that more artists would create music with positive messages, and I feel sad that Ms. Trainer probably thinks that a girl’s value is determined by what boys desire. If her mama told her that, it must be the case. Yuck. I try to reinforce the messages that self-worth is not determined by how you look or what size clothes you wear. To me, the message that boys like big butts is just as detrimental as the message that boys like skinny bitches, because it gives the power to boys, not to a girl to determine what she likes and how she wants to look.

Likewise, the first time I heard Blurred Lines, I loved the tune – before I listened to the awful lyrics. However, this is probably because I love the song from which he stole that tune – Got to Give it Up, by Marvin Gaye – ironically, a song about someone finding their confidence on the dance floor. Jam break!

 

 

I am angry that Mr. Thicke took such a great tune and made it so rapey. Who is his target audience for that message? Wait. Don’t answer that.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some pretty positive messages in pop songs, too. Some of my favorites:

  • SecretsShe Keeps Me Warm, Body Love, (Mary Lambert) – pretty much all of her music makes me warm, fuzzy, confident and empowered. I am good no matter what. I don’t need someone to want me to be good.
  • Raise Your Glass (Pink): Let’s celebrate being ourselves.
  • Stronger (Kelly Clarkson): I left you and am stronger for it. I don’t need to be in a relationship to be awesome. I rely on myself.
  • All of Me (John Legend): I love everything about you, even your imperfections, even when you are sad. We are equal partners in our relationship.
  • Same Love (Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis): Love is love. Everyone should be able to love whomever they love.
  • Happy (Pharrell Williams) – I am happy and won’t let others get me down.

 

I will always be a music lover. I don’t think I will get to the point where we only listen to the Frozen soundtrack in the car, and I am prepared to talk about concepts as they come up and my kids have questions, if it’s possible in an age-appropriate way. I will also change the channel when Anaconda, Blurred Lines or Animals come on the radio, because my kids don’t need a dose of sexism and rape culture with their car ride to school.

Embarrassing Disclosure: Until last year, I thought the words to Little Red Corvette by Prince were “Baby, come back!” I guess, like mother, like daughter.

Feature Image: Steph, all rights reserved.

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Steph

Steph

Steph recently traded single parenthood to two awesome kids (3 and 7) for marriage to a great guy with two awesome kids (5 and 10). Their adventures in parenting are set in a tiny town in the middle of a corn field. Their newest edition is due in February 2017. In late 2015 she left her stressful, more than full-time job with a victim services agency to pursue writing and activism. When she's not busy writing, chasing kids around, cleaning up messes and engaging in social justice warfare, Steph enjoys snuggling, making pies, engaging in debates on the internet, yoga, and fitness. A recovered natural parent, Steph now considers herself a semi-crunchy peaceful parent and trusts science, evidence and common sense to lead the way. She has been actively involved in the reproductive and women's rights movements for more than 20 years and is a passionate pro-choice feminist.

7 Comments

  1. October 3, 2014 at 3:04 pm —

    Oh boy. I understand this and am having such a tricky time deciding whether and what to censor. What’s even more difficult for me is the dance moves that she’s picked up from music videos which are SERIOUSLY inappropriate.

    • October 3, 2014 at 3:21 pm —

      It is such a challenge. Not to mention the fact that I listened to music my parents hated as a young teen. I would like to think that I would be okay with my daughter listening to Robin Thicke, but I am not.

  2. October 4, 2014 at 10:56 am —

    I’m so glad you wrote this. The first time I heard Bang Bang and heard the lyric “(I know you want it)” I thought, I sure hope people call this out the same way they did Robin Thicke.

  3. October 4, 2014 at 4:17 pm —

    This is a huge issue for me right now. My son loves to sing along with the radio but, ugh, the songs are so bad. I have always tried really hard to find stories or movies with positive images of women (which is a whole ‘nother can o’ worms). But I can’t control what gets played on the radio. And he begs for top 40 stations. Even my coldplay cd’s just do not cut it. How do you talk about elementary school children about the content of song lyrics?

  4. October 4, 2014 at 4:56 pm —

    If I may suggest a current artist who is pretty reasonable in his descriptions of relationships: Bruno Mars

    Just The Way You Are, When I Was Your Man are both refreshingly healthy depictions of an adult. Instead of raging about losing his love, he writes her a song about how he should have treated her better.

    Grenade is also an interesting song, where several voices in the song warn him against this relationship because of its imbalance, but that’s more of an advanced song.

  5. January 18, 2015 at 10:53 am —

    I know this post is from Oct of 2014, but I wanted to make the comment that it is our job as parents to monitor and filter what our kids are exposed to. There are many things in this world that are appropriate for certain ages and I for one will not allow my children to be exposed to things that are inappropriate for them. When we are in the car I do not put on the radio, I will plug in my phone and play their music. My 2 yr old only knows the lyrics to Raffi songs, some of her favorite cartoon theme songs, and songs she makes up. I happen to have 2 stepsons (ages 8 and 13) who are obviously influences in her life. When they are home they know I do not allow mainstream music, I do not allow certain shows to be on TV, and I even regulate what games they can plan. I do not want my daughter seeing the trashy outfits my 13 yr old stepson dresses his Sims characters in. Am I strict? Yes, and proud of it. Am I shielding my daughter from the real world? No. Is there any reason why my 2 yr daughter should listen to mainstream music? Not at all. It’s not good for her in any way. When she’s 13 will I allow her to watch videos similar to Nicki Manaj? NO WAY. Will she hate me for it? I don’t care. It is far more important to teach her to respect herself and to demand that respect from the people in her life. She doesn’t need to learn to twerk, bump, grind, striptease, lapdance etc. I myself and disgusted at what people think is appropriate. It is not ok to use sex to sell, it is not ok to alter images to give our children warped ides of what is sexy, it is not ok to say that drugs are ok, it is not ok to sing about rape as if it is ok. Entertainment is not longer entertaining. It is filth that is poisoning the minds of everyone who is exposed to it, youth and adults. We need to take control of our homes and determine what we will allow in and what we teach our children is to stay away from. I am fully aware that when my daughters are older that I can’t protect them from “the world” but I can start the learning process now so they can make those choices for themselves to keep their minds clean, to respect themselves, to be confident women who refuses to let any man treat her like trash that saturates the music and film industries. I love them far too much to not care and to allow anything into my home that I don’t approve of. And this goes for the boys as well. I have no problem telling my stepson that he is not allowed to wear is shirt that says “twerk team manager” in my house. I will do what I can to teach the children in my house to have respect for themselves and everyone they interact with.

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