Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Decency Laws

First of all, Hooray for the Bill of Rights! Rah rah rah for the First Amendment! Moving right along.

Discussion of decency laws and censorship issues is usually framed as a critique of inattentive parents who don't control what their children are doing/watching/listening to.

That's hogwash.

I mean, I'm sure that's part of it. But it's nowhere near the whole story. For example, yesterday I was getting gas. The two young guys in the car next to me had their windows rolled down and doors open wide. They were blasting their music so loudly that I could feel it through the soles of my orthopedic sandals. Over and over and over again I got to hear "Suck my dick, Bitch" until the woman parked behind them - with two toddler seats in her car - asked them to turn down their music. Snickering, they complied. But they didn't have to. Toddlers are great little mimics. I bet her kids - and mine! - learned something new that afternoon.

Seriously, If someone wouldn't stop screaming, "Suck my dick, Bitch!" at me, I'd have some legal recourse. But when it's music? Nope. Not even when it's extremely loud at the gas station. Not even if I could hear it from a neighbor's apartment or yard, unless they were breaking noise code regulations. But you don't have to be illegally loud to be harassing.

Another big thing is what it means for us as a culture that hundreds of thousands (millions?) of us choose to listen to this stuff. I don't deny the appeal of the music, I like it myself. But the lyrics and videos? Chilling. I can tell you how it made me feel to be enjoying my sunny June afternoon and then suddenly to hear "Suck my dick, Bitch!" from right next to me. It wasn't a very good feeling. I admit that I didn't seriously consider asking them to turn off the music. As soon as I heard that, I felt invisible. I felt like they wouldn't respect anything I said anyway. I wasn't a person. I was a bitch. I was there to be ordered to do sexual favors.

How can we ever talk about "equality" in a society where women are raped, beaten, and killed by men every minute of every day while we listen to music celebrating violence against women and objectification of women? How can little girls grow up to be "equal" when this is what they've learned growing up? How can little boys grow up to be men who treat women with respect?

So. That's what I'm thinking about today. Have a nice weekend!


Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

Little boys grow up to be great men that respect women when Mamas take the time to teach it. I know cause that is what I am doing. My ex left my son a horrible example to follow so the job has been shifted to me. You post hit a mark. It should be EVERY parents call to arms. Until we do something about it and start RAISING children nothing is ever going to change.

Jessica said...

Wow. As the mom of a nearly 15 year old boy, I get sick at the notion that he would ever be so degrading - or hang out with a group of boys who would be.

We have an obligation as parents to pick up the pieces that society has tragically dropped. I feel responsible for educating my son on the inappropriatness of such lyrics as well as being considerate of the feelings and rights of others.

PPB said...

I had an interesting conversation with my work study student the other day. He was talking about eminem, who I agree with him is a talented musician, but whose lyrics are so degrading and awful. He and his wife share an ipod, and he doesn't understand why she won't allow him to put the eminem music on the ipod. He came to me looking for sympathy, knowing that I'm a big fan of the widest diversity of music possible. He got none from me. He argued about musical freedom and I disagreed, as I hold a line. Music in a concert setting is one thing, but music played over the airwaves that has 8 year olds repeating lines like the ones you just quoted has to be held to a higher standard. I think we underestimate the power of music. How many lyrics do we remember versus lines of poetry. Music carves words into our psyches and our souls, and lyrics like those ARE remembered.

Ms. Polkadot said...

I used to say things to guys like that, and then I got sick of just being disrespected more for doing so. The scary thing to me is how much the acceptance of this type of "art" reveals about our society at large. Men's complaceny is truly chilling.

Anonymous said...

You could always just let it slide. I mean seriously, you've wasted how much of your time being offended by other peoples' tastes. Really, who cares? The only way you'll ever live without the outside effects of others is to move waaaayy out in the country... You'll find life much easier if you don't let others' lives bother you so much.

I know plenty of people who lose their minds when they see a Jesus Fish on the back of a car too. They express similar sentiment to yours regarding loud music:

"What if my kid sees that and starts asking a million questions about God and religion? That's not our family's beliefs. I don't want to raise my kids to be religious."

Sound familiar? (and YES, it IS the same thing)

It has nothing to do with obnoxious music, it has nothing to do with Jesus Fish, it has to do with tolerance for the lifestyles of others.

A good quote to live by:

"Oh sure I can accept it, but don't ask me to understand it."

Nobody is asking you to like it. Just accept that others are different.



Sarahlynn said...

Feragoh, this has nothing to do with "being offended by other peoples' tastes." In fact, I'm not at all certain that you actually read my post; your response is a generic, knee-jerk response to any sort of criticism about misogynistic music.

A bumper sticker is not the same thing at all, which should be obvious but in case it's not I'll explain.
1) I believe in X (be it Jesus, the tooth fairy, myself, whatever) is a personal statement of belief. Very young children can't read it, and older ones can discuss with their parents why a particular message is or is not appropriate for him/her to repeat aloud at school, or is not what the parents believe.
2) Public profanity and description of sex acts is another thing all together, since it's unavoidable for children to hear - even very young children who are young enough to hear and repeat the words but not to engage in philosophical discussions about the meanings.
3) And there's simply a HUGE difference between a personal statement of belief (or disbelief) versus attacking another group of people. "I believe in X" vs. "You are Y," for example.

You wanna put "I don't believe in Jesus!" on your car? Be my guest. I see lots of Darwin fish eating Christian fish on the backs of cars all day long. I believe in evolution, of course, but even if I didn't, comparing that to blasting music like that described above in a public place is apples and oranges.

Your right to your "lifestyle" ends when it starts impinging on others' right to the same. You do not have the right to hit me because I've offended you. Nor do you have the right to scream and swear at me.

In cases like this - where more than half of the population is popularly disparaged and disrespected, treated as less than human - it's more than just "accepting that others are different."

I accept that you're different. Also that you're still human. All I ask is the same.

tomreynolds-ejzak said...

At the end of your response, I imagined you saying to Feragoh, "so suck my dick, bitch!" I can't tell you how profoundly I hate people that go online to post comments about "relativism" claiming to be more liberal than thou, and you made an excellent counterargument that I will definitely be using in the future to combat them. If it's an argument about personal taste and free speech, then you have the right to think that that kind of music is offensive and to talk about it in your blog.
But for fuck's sake, men aren't complacent about this. Offensive music gets listened to BECAUSE it's shocking, because it's empowering to listen to someone willing to throw the rules of decorum completely out the window, not because it's empowering to degrade women. I'm not going to deny the sexual aspect of this, but the focus of the song is shock value. Men don't actually act like this--it's like watching movies or playing video games, people don't actually go out and kill people because they play counter-strike, they play those video games because they could never and would never behave like that.