|My girlfriend Maxee and her little girl, marching for the ERA in the 70s|
Words have power. I believe this wholeheartedly, and that’s why I am disappointed in myself today.
This weekend I had to prep for a big gig in Beverly Hills. The client requested all the current dance tunes: Lady Gaga, Kesha, Katy Perry, Black Eyed Peas…some which I knew but some that I had to learn. So I’m studying the lyrics, trying to commit them to memory, and I just get this sick feeling in my stomach as I realize that every one of these songs is women telling other young girls to go out and get wasted and have random sex.
There has been a lot of outrage over the T-shirts J.C. Penney was selling with slogans like “I’m too pretty to do homework” but where is the outrage over what little kids are singing along to on the radio?
Let me illustrate:
Lady Gaga “Just Dance”
Where are my keys? I lost my phone.
What’s going on on the (dance) floor
I love this record but I can’t see straight anymore
We’re all getting hosed tonight.
Keep it cool. What’s the name of this club? I can’t remember but it’s alright.
(and this woman is richer than Oprah, by the way…)
Kesha "Tik Tok":
Brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack cause when I leave for the night I ain’t comin back
Everybody gonna get crunk (wasted) Boys tryin to touch my junk
ain’t got a care in the world but got plenty of beer
aint got no money in my pocket but I’m already here.
Katy Perry "California Girls":
Sippin gin and juice…lying underneath the palm trees undone.
Sex on the beach
We don’t mind sand in our stilettos
We freak (have sex) in my jeep
All that ass hangin’ out
And the video for the Black-Eyed peas song “I Got a Feeling” ( that tonights gonna be a good night) made me cringe. It’s such a happy anthem, I usually love hearing that song. But in the video, what a “good night” consists of is girls dressing like strippers, drinking themselves to a point that they are literally falling-down drunk. The very last shot of the video is a girl in a mini dress passed out cold, lying alone, sprawled out on a New York street. That is someone’s definition of a good night? Am I the only person who is outraged about this? This is how girls get raped, or end up on missing posters. NOT COOL, people.
On Saturday I went to a carnival, where I watched a singing group made up of teenaged sisters, the youngest was eleven. There they were singing the Katy Perry and Kesha songs. Adorable girls, great harmonies, but…an eleven-year old singing about getting wasted and having sex? All of this “fun music” that kids are singing along to is being embedded in their subconscious minds. Words have power.
Great songwriters have the power to change the world. Dylan, Lennon, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne...where are those voices today? The times...they are a changin', alright.
Sunday night I had to sing these songs, and with every lyric I felt like I was betraying myself and young women everywhere. I am very careful about the words that I use in my life. But I was being paid, so I had to promote a message I didn’t believe in. When I was singing the Katy Perry song, a little girl about ten years old jumped up on the dance floor. Here I was glittering in sequins, under a spotlight, and she’s looking up at me with her big round eyes, mouthing the words about having sex on the beach wearing stilettos. I felt like a total sellout, ashamed of myself for sending this message to a child.
When I later complained to my daughter Cristen that these songs are taking feminism back to the dark ages, it prompted an immediate eye-rolling from her. “I love those songs,” she said. She ribs me for being too serious. "It's just a fun song, Mom. Don't make it into such a big deal." I get what she's saying. I listened to radical music growing up. We had Alice Cooper and KISS and Joan Jett. But you know, “Schools out for Summer” or "I love Rock N Roll" doesn’t quite compare to women singing about loving “rough sex” (both Rhianna and Lady Gaga) and getting wasted out of their minds. Is this the kind of freedom we fought for, ladies? Is this where equal rights has brought us? I’ve encouraged my daughter to watch “Iron Jawed angels” about the suffragettes fight for the vote. Not interested. And you know, it made me realize, when you haven’t had to fight for something yourself, it just doesn’t mean much. How many of our young girls know anything about the ERA, and yet they are in the know with Gaga lyrics, Jersey Shore and the Kardashians, because this is what they are spoon fed by the media. Where is the voice of today's generation? And what is the message?
I’m sure some will say I’m the next Tipper Gore, but I’m not talking about censorship. People should have the freedom to listen to what they want. I’m just concerned about the words we use. The words that become engrained in our subconscious minds. The words that shape our children’s perspectives.
So where does this leave me? I’ve been hard hit by this recession and I need to work. Can I continue to work in this industry, singing these songs, and still call myself a feminist? As a young girl I played guitar and sang the battle cries of Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell, and now?
Is feminism dying in the Gaga generation?