Friday, October 3, 2014
Can You Stomach This?
Can you stomach that, coming out of your child's mouth? That's the punchline of a joke that is going around in some kids' social circles right now. It's not much different from those I heard when I was 10. How does that inform our sons' social and emotional judgments? What does a little girl feel about herself when she hears that? How does that validate her as a human being? Does she laugh? It's funny, right?
My daughter watches the Voice. It's just a singing competition, right? And unlike in some other talent shows, the judges are not cruel to the contestants. And one of the judges is the Sexiest Man Alive!! Have you seen Maroon 5's new video, Animals? Yeah it's just that one where the blood-covered Sexiest Man Alive, Adam Levine, chases his wife around in a butchershop, trying to "prey on" her, "hunt [her] down and eat [her] alive" (link to article here because I would never link to the video). Yeah... Adam is one of the main coaches on the Voice. Let's talk about some of the others: How about the always-drinking Blake Shelton (cue endless jokes about his Special Lattes and inebriation), who characterizes himself as father and uncle to the little girls he tries to woo onto his team? Or Cee-lo Green, who was charged with rape after he slipped a woman ecstasy and had sex with her. After his court appearance he tweeted "if someone is passed out they're not even WITH you consciously, so WITH Implies consent." and "People who have really been raped REMEMBER!!!" Wait... but he's not on the Voice anymore, right? He's been replaced with another black guy (because you know it's always important to show gender and racial variety: 1 sleazy masochistic white pop star, 1 blond lady, 1 black guy, and 1 older drunk country guy). So the new black guy is Pharrell Williams. He's not sexist - oh no. On the contrary, in response to criticism of the song he wrote called Blurred Lines, which smarms "I'll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two", and displays men in suits being served by near-naked women, he says, “I want to support women, but that doesn’t mean I won’t make another song where girls’ behinds are everywhere.”
Don't worry. The Voice always has a woman coach. She's not one of the two main coaches, because women just simply don't have dominant positions like that in most cases. Who is it this year? Gwen Stefani. She tours with 4 diminutive Japanese girls, and has made a perfume line of their caricatures. Lisa Wade, Phd. says on her blog post, "I think that Stefani’s use of Asian women as props (they may or may not be Japanese) fetishizes Asian women and reinforces white privilege. The Harajuku (sic) Girls serve as contrast to Stefani’s performance of ideal white femininity." We don't hear much debate about Gwen Stefani, because in comparison with other popular female role models she's actually top-of-the-line. That's just desperately sad.
"Our findings indicate that about 20 million out of 112 million women (18.0%) in the United States have ever been raped during their lifetime." (2007 National Study) But is this issue only about reported rape? These statistics alone don't include the multitude of relationships (both sexual and otherwise) that we as women seek out and involve ourselves in, where we willingly submit to social, emotional, intellectual, financial, sexual and physical abuse. We can blame men all we want, but that's not going to get us anywhere, and we know it as well as the woman who has just been slammed against her own bathroom floor knows that she willingly walked into that relationship. We are raising our children in an environment where gender inequality is normalized in our homes, in the media, and in our children's lives outside of our homes. Our boys - those same angels who curl into their mothers' arms and dream about finding true love and caring for baby kittens - are learning to laugh at jokes like the one I opened with. Our girls are learning too.
At first I just watched the Voice with my daughter, talked to her about all the issues I noticed, encouraged her to watch critically, and when I felt that the ideals and inequality of the show were still twisting her mind, I tried to limit the show... but now I have banned it. She'll watch other things - I know that. These sick and harmful ideals will work their way into her mind. But I'm going to take both of my children as far as I possibly can, without them, first. Inequality harms us all.
At the moment I have a daughter who still thinks her body is beautiful; who still thinks she's valuable as a human being, and I have a son who not only trusts his own value and judgments, but is also genuinely deeply offended when other boys joke about non-consensual sex. Over twenty years of marriage, my husband and I are learning to see the inequalities in our marriage and lead a lifestyle of equality. I feel valued and respected, and I hope so does he. But we're still growing. There is cause for hope. There is enormous cause for hope. Let's find that hope, as a species, together.
at 3:08 PM