Saturday, March 28, 2009

Don't forget the lyrics

Let’s get something straight here. Helen Keller didn’t talk with her hips. She talked with her hands. Amazing lady, that Helen.
Confused? Google the lyrics for 3OH!3’s “Don’t Trust Me.” If you’re too lazy, here’s what I’m talking about. Catchy tune, but check out the lyrics:

Shush girl, shut your lips
Do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips.

There’s also several lines where he sings about not trusting a ho. Lovely.

I always figured I’d be the cool parent when it came to music. After all, I love music. I exposed my babies to a variety of music, from the classical CDs they market to parents who want their babies’ brains to grow to the Sunday school songs on tape and the old time rock ‘n’ roll I loved. When the kids began to develop their own musical tastes, I put up with Radio Disney in the car and even took to singing along with the Cheetah Girls.

But admittedly, I wasn’t hip to popular music. Popular music lost me in the ‘90s, when grunge took over. It wasn’t that I didn’t like grunge music. I couldn’t stand to look at the musicians. I’m a child of the ‘80s. Tailored clothes and two showers a day. I’d watch the music awards and shout, “Dude, comb your hair and put on some clean clothes!”

My middle school daughter’s schoolbus driver plays one of the “popular” stations on the bus, though, and my daughter is quite taken by the music. Radio Disney’s preset button in the car has been changed to the popular station, causing a nice little battle when 3OH!3’s words fill my minivan.

“Mom, it’s just music. They’re just words.”

Are they? Or are they filling my daughter’s mind with ideas, ideas that women are just objects who should shut their lips? Are those “harmless” words the reason why young girls are suggesting that maybe Rihanna was asking for a Chris Brown beating? Are words enough to solidify these notions, or is it worse when the child is growing up surrounded by other people who believe this way? What if they're hearing a different message at home, one that says girls should never have to shut their lips, and a guy who tells them to do so should be shown the door? Will that make a difference?

I’m no fan of censorship, and I realize that my parents may have been equally horrified by “Sugar Walls” if they had ever actually listened to the lyrics. I also realize that a music gap is a requisite to growing up; that most kids take comfort in being different (read: cooler) than their parents. I mean, if I were singing along with 3OH!3, would that cause my daughter to seek a new sort of music, just because she can’t abide sharing musical tastes with her old mom? Maybe I should try it. I'll sing about doing the Helen Keller and I'll leave a copy of the soundtrack from "Sound of Music" lying around, with a note that says "Don't let the kids listen to this!"

I miss the Sunday School song tapes.

1 comment:

Nancy Weidner said...

Nice blog entry. As usual, current to your life and to the point. Looks like adolescence with your first born is going to break you in good! My first question would be "Why does the bus driver have a radio on?" and the second questions is "Why does the bus driver have that station playing?" Maybe that makes the bus driver cool but at what price to those young, impressionable girls? Who is this bus driver anyway? Does he/she have children? Do they believe this music and accompanying lyrics are good for their child to hear? Someone should talk to them pronto! Just my opinion as a golden ager who's been down the road, so to speak. Who has seen and experienced firsthand what damage misogyny can do to young girls. I thought that the women's movement of the '60's and '70's was going to change all this. Yet I still see sex selling and usually at the woman's expense.

How do we help our young girls understand that words and pictures are not just words and pictures taking up space. That they do influence us whether we think they do or not. And if they don't influence us directly they're having an impact on others with whom we interact. Eventually all of those "just words" may come back to bite us in the butt.

Yep, rock and roll was thought to be radical and was going to ruin all the young minds in America. And although the words might have been tame at first, they've progressively gotten more and more suggestive and demeaning to women. Let's hope that talking with girls about the fact that they are not "just words" will make a difference. That they will listen with a bit more awareness than they had before. And that most of all, they'll see the possible damage that words can do if we don't question what we hear. Words are never just words. They always mean something.