Monday, September 28, 2009

But it's just a (fill in the blank)!

I get so very tired of hearing this comment. People make it in reference to movies, song lyrics, jokes, books, TV shows, you name it. Most recently, I heard it in reference to this horrendous song by the "band" 3OH!3 (I use quotes because the word "band" implies music, and music implies art, and to associate this particular monstrosity of pop culture with art would be like shelving Danielle Steele "novels" among tomes of feminist literature at the public library). Among other sparkling gems, "Don't Trust Me" includes the lyrics: "Shush, girl. Shut your lips. Do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips."

I don't even know where to start with this. It reduces women to walking vaginas who threaten to shatter the fantasy if they open their mouths for any reason other than to offer a blow job. I won't even get into the Helen Keller reference, lest I lose my cool entirely and send my laptop sprawling.

The thing is, when I try to point any of this out, I am almost invariably greeted with the protest, "Geez, lighten up! It's just a song!"

I will interject here that another of 3OH!3's "just" songs includes the lyrics: "I think I should know how to make love to something innocent without leaving my fingerprints." Yes, you read that right. And there are videos on YouTube of young girls dancing and lip syncing to those very lyrics. Am I alone when I see things like this and feel absolute horror?

But yeah, it's just a song.

Well, everything is just something. But all those little somethings begin to add up to a frighteningly powerful and oppressive force in a culture where young women see nothing at all wrong with getting down to song lyrics that outright glorify rape, to say nothing of the less obviously horrifying messages which degrade and deny the inherent humanity of women, period. We live in a world which is full of "just" movies and television shows that portray women as naive, two-dimensional sets of tantalizing orifices, here to parade around in uncomfortable and impractical clothing so that we might fulfill our ultimate goal of inducing hard-ons in any man who happens to be nearby, making occasional self-depricating witty asides so that it's clear to all observers that we enjoy being contextualized in this way. Hell, it was our idea in the first place. Right?

But what disturbs me more than anything is how many of these comments come from other women. The minute I open my mouth in defense of my own sentient and inherently worthwhile existence, outside the realm of serving the status quo, I begin to hear it: "Relax! Why are you so angry? It must be that some guy hurt you once upon a time, and now, in true feminine form, you are hell-bent on some kind of melodramatic quest for vengeance that somehow involves the subjugation and dehumanization of all men!"

Yeah, because that's what feminism is about. And it continues...

"Why don't you go burn some bras or something, you man-hating feminazi?"

Somehow, speaking up for my right to be viewed as more than a not-quite-human, second-class afterthought in the garden of Eden has become aligned in the minds of what seems to be the majority with a breed of so-called radical feminism that has little to nothing to do with anything that feminism is actually about. And it makes about as much sense as, say, denigrating all Christians because that David Koresh character was a freaking nutjob.

But I digress.

My point is that people need to wake up to the reality that the sum of many misogynistic parts can and does add up to a seriously disturbing pattern. When a popular band can sing about rape in a way that makes it seem sexy and alluring without giving radio deejays even a moment's pause as they click "play," there is something very deeply wrong, and it's not with the chorus of female voices who protest that this is not okay. The band, the song lyrics, the accompanying video...these are not anomalies but symptoms of prevailing cultural attitudes and perceived norms, and it's time that people, especially women, rise up and stop minimizing and justifying each "isolated" occurrence of the perpetuation of these twisted values in one medium or another.

When a song diminishes and contextualizes women within a system which diminishes and contextualizes women, it is no longer just a song.