Tag Archives: censorship

Violence, Women, and Art

5 Jun

Note: I drafted this post a few weeks ago, but hadn’t published it yet when events in the news spawned the #Yesallwomen conversation. I wasn’t sure I would publish it because I didn’t want to sound too preachy. But now, I’ve decided to, in the spirit of #Yesallwomen. (If you haven’t read the Twitter feed on that hashtag, do it. You will be amazed, horrified, nodding your head, saying ‘yes, me too’ and more).

 

Here’s my original post:

As someone who values and admires creativity, my ideals include validating and encouraging all art.  But reality has come smack dab up against my ideals.  Here’s the problem: violence against women.

The other day, I was listening to a streaming music station on my iPhone as I worked in the yard.  Happily, I clipped along to the playlist of one of my favorite artists. A song came on with a beat and lyricism that you cannot resist singing along to. It included a collaboration with a rap artist, embedded in the song. I love these collaborations – they’re super cool and interesting musically. I’d heard the song before, but had never really paid close attention to the lyrics. All the lyrics. As I did, they hit me like a ton of bricks. And I thought:

“This guy is calling a woman a b* and literally saying he’s going to eff her up because she isn’t pleasing him. And I’m singing it with him. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?” Yes, I was yelling at myself inside my head.

But then I said to myself, “Self, this isn’t the first song you’ve heard (or sung) with lyrics like this. Why are you freaking out now?”  And, then I freaked out even more at the fact that I hadn’t freaked out about this before. 

WHY hadn’t I freaked out before? WHEN did it become acceptable to glorify beating the stuffing out of a woman?  Are we in the Twilight Zone, people?  If you were to replace gender with race in these songs, people would completely lose it. And rightly so, because it would be wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Where is the outcry when these things are said against women?

In art, we explore many things. But when there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of songs which include lyrics that make it sound okay, normal or that glorify violence toward women, we are sending a message. A horrible message.  Millions of small choices make up our culture.  I, perhaps you, and millions of other men, women, teenagers and even young boys and girls are happily listening to lyrics that imply that women are: beneath men, here only to serve men, deserve to be harmed in some way if the men in their lives are not pleased.  And then we wonder why there is so much violence against women in the world. When we buy, stream and listen to these songs, we are saying it’s okay.  And, it’s NOT okay.

So, I’m making a small choice. I can only choose for myself, but I hope you’ll consider joining me. I’m not talking about censorship. I don’t believe in the big brother approach. I believe in the power of the market. The power of the people.  If people choose not to buy or otherwise support these songs, fewer of them will get made. Fewer of these hateful messages will be put out there.  And fewer little boys and little girls will grow up thinking that women are nothing but objects that deserve to be used and abused.

From now on, I will not buy songs that have a mysoginist message, I won’t stream them, and I’m removing them from my playlists. I admit I’ll be sad to see some of the songs go, because I do love me a nasty bassline. But it’s gotta be done.

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The Courage of Judy Blume

28 Nov

If you were a girl growing up in the 70’s, you know Judy Blume.  Or at least feel like you do.  Because when you read her books, it was like she was there with you.  In books like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret  and Deenie she wrote about real life.  Things that you thought about and dealt with but no one talked about.  Of course, in our current world, we voraciously consume reality television and everything is discussed openly 24/7 on this miracle we call the internet.

It’s easy to forget that back in the day, writing about real life often got your book banned or burned.  Judy Blume wrote about it anyway.  She says on her website that she didn’t realize at first what she wrote could be considered controversial, she just wanted to write the most honest books she could.  When her work was indeed censored, did that stop her? No, she wrote more.  She was courageous and it made a difference in many of our lives.  She shone a light for us along that rocky path called childhood and then puberty.

This is not Judy Blume. Or me. But it is what puberty feels like. And probably breast cancer too.

And she didn’t stop there. Even if you’ve never heard of Judy Blume (which is inconceivable), she has been your champion.  In the face of censorship, she stood up for not only her rights, but your rights, my rights and the rights of millions of young readers.  She became very active in the anti-censorship movement.  Once again, her courage was a beacon.  You can read more about her activism here.

And now, Judy is shining a light on another rocky path that many of us will go down in our lifetimes. She announced on her blog in September that she has breast cancer.  This hit home for me because a good friend of mine recently was diagnosed with breast cancer and several other women I know in my community have been diagnosed just in the past few months.  It seems as though it’s blooming everywhere like an evil crabgrass.   It has begun to feel as inevitable as puberty was.  As always, Judy does not shy away from the topic, and in her blog she wrote honestly and openly of her diagnosis and treatment.

My friend is working through her chemo and doing very well, enjoying the good times and plowing ahead ahead in the bad.  I know she will be well again soon.  I wish the same for Judy Blume.  We need her and her courage as much now as we ever did.

Power of the people

30 Jan

I caught part of an interview with George Lucas the other day on CBS and loved what he had to say about the democratization of film.  Charlie Rose asked him about the state of movie making today and he said it’s “soaring”.

Because of the changes in technology, he said, it’s getting easier and cheaper to produce films. The cool thing is, he didn’t see it as a bad thing at all, even though he, as the creator of Star Wars, is now one of the “big guys”. He thought that the democratization of the medium only enhanced it overall.

He also said  the same thing was happening with writing.  And he’s right.  Think of how many more people are publishing their writing in all forms, not least of which is on blogs.  Though it’s not all good quality, there is a lot more good content out there because of the sheer volume.  Some great writing, and some great film, which would not otherwise have been seen, is getting an audience.
Also important: a wider variety of subjects is more accessible to people.

Communication, when funneled through a few channels, tends to get very homogenized.  But people are not homogeneous! We are beautiful and interesting in our variations, and we are all richer for being exposed to these differences.

I also reflected on this during the recent protest against online censorship.  Though there is plenty of content out there I find abhorrent, when we give up our rights, we lose.  I was thrilled to see the people take back their power.

Our ability to wield our power of expression benefits us not only individually but as a society. Whether it’s the ability to make films, to publish books, or to effect political change, the more the people have a voice, the better off we all are.

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