Last week, as an afterthought, I popped this short statement at the end of Feminism can be frivolous fun:
A parental afterthought – please stop calling each other “bitches”. You are just popularising the images from rap songs which glorify mistreatment of women. Parents battle to teach their sons to respect women and this undermines all our hard work.
Virginia Duke was interested in how the whole situation had played out and read all the articles involved. Thank you, Virginia for your input and your interest! Virginia’s comment on that article included the following:
Your parental afterthought, for me, and please don’t take offense, really highlights the leagues of difference between your generation and mine. I don’t know how old you are, but you write about being old enough to simply roll your eyes at the infantilism, etc. So I’m thinking you’re old enough. Anyway, without going into great detail, suffice it to say I’m a 35 year old educated white woman, I was raised in the military, have traveled the globe and I grew up on rap music. I also spent ten years working in the domestic violence/sexual assault fields. For me, the term ‘bitch,’ denotes a million things, but for whatever reason, images from rap music never even come into my frame of reference. But for someone from older generations or totally different cultural spheres than my own, I can see why it might. (Again, I feel like I have to say I’m not calling you old, just making an observation based on the tone of your post.)
When I wrote the paragraph in question, several aspects of society were running around in my head, most of which I have previously written about. I am going to try to demonstrate the interconnectedness of previous writings to show why I wrote that paragraph, where my brain was going at the time. Many of the readers who read that particular article were either not regular readers of this website and/or not Australians (hence local conditions may not be known to them), so I believe some explanation of my reasoning is in order.
I am an atheist and as such had never really paid an awful lot of attention to the attitudes of the mainstream religions to women. I did after the USA presidential elections late last year and wrote What is it with religion and women? The comments on that article contain some particularly enlightening information, so if you read that article, do read the comments.
I would point out that even the Bible contains some protection for women, believe it or not, given the historical context.
Sex with a married or betrothed woman is adultery and was to be punished by the death of both if consensual, or the death of the man if it was rape (Deuteronomy 22:22-27). http://www.gotquestions.org/Deuteronomy-22-28-29-marry-rapist.html#ixzz2X5sxEmBX
No such constraints over rap music lyrics, however.
We can safely move forward in this discussion accepting the premise that women have been subjugated by men for centuries. If that wasn’t the case, we’d have no need for feminism!
We then come to sexism TODAY. Not back in the 1950s when women were instructed by the doyens of the day to pop their lippy on at 5pm to look lovely for their tired, overworked husbands coming home to kiss the bathed children goodnight. TODAY. Australia has a female Prime Minister, the FIRST female Prime Minister of this country, who has been subjected to some of the vilest sexism I have ever witnessed. Admittedly, I do originally hail from the first country in the world to grant women the vote, New Zealand. For those unfamiliar with the situation in Australia at this time who want to see some of the detail, please visit Anne Summers’ speech “Her rights at work – The Political Persecution of Australia’s First Female Prime Minister”.
There are two versions of that speech. The one I have linked to contains some of the images to which the speech refers: images of a graphic and sexual nature. There is a “vanilla” version of the speech and the link is given at the top of the above article.
Parents have a very special role in society, we shape the values and beliefs of our children. When I was a child, we didn’t even have TV until I was 10 (we lived in a remote area, before you decide I am 100). There was no internet, no iPods, no computers or computer games. My parents had far more control over what I was exposed to than parents have today.
I am not about to spout academic theory: I’m spouting in-the-field experience as a parent. Mothers are the primary female in children’s lives. They start learning how to treat women OR how to expect to be treated as a woman from what they see at their mother’s knee. I am clearly speaking of both sons and daughters here, for just as we influence boys in the treatment of women, we also influence daughters: how is it appropriate to be treated.
Rap may not feature prominently in the world of many of my readers. Frankly, it doesn’t feature prominently in my life either. It DOES feature prominently in the lives of young people today. In my article Sexism roundup I linked to an article by Mandy Nolan (a mother of five), sub-titled “Should rape be legitimised or represented in art?” discussing the lyrics of some rap music. I do encourage you to read Mandy’s article in full.
Let’s take a closer look at the lyrics provided by Mandy. This snippet is from Eminem, in the song Celebrity:
‘See me I’m all up on your bitch means I’mma rape her, All I got for these hoes is dick, duct tape and a stapler, So bitch you better look for the table scraps to scrape up.’
Desensitisation to graphic images and glorification of rape has put our young men at risk of being indoctrinated into believing misogyny and violence is a legitimate and desirable approach to women.
Rape jokes, rape art, rape videos, rape fantasies and rape lyrics degrade and demoralise every woman on the planet, disempowering us, leaving us bound duct taped to the rapist’s chair.
It should be illegal.
I’m with Mandy. I can ban this sort of music in the house, but I can’t ban it from other kids’ iPods at school. I can’t police every file downloaded onto their computers. I can’t stop our kids being exposed to this, nor other types of media so readily available these days. I think it is a little like subliminal advertising: the kids don’t really analyse the lyrics, but they get the message.
Our sons come home from school saying things like, “The bitches like it” (whatever “it” might be on any given day: the colour of their shoes, the latest joke, whatever). I can tell you the definition of “bitch” they are being tuned into is not a feminist celebrating her freedom, it is the lyrics of the latest rap song. Yet if I say the use of the word is not appropriate, they come back with “but your friends use it on Twitter”. So you tell me how, as a parent, I deal with that with a 13 year-old and a 15 year-old?
That’s the boys. What of the girls? They are hearing the same lyrics, hearing the same words. We are teaching them never to be Nigella Lawson (see related reading links below), yet that behavior is being “normalized” in popular music and senior feminists then use the same word. Which message are schoolgirls getting? How do I tell our girls “bitch” is OK to be used by the feminists, but they don’t mean it like the rap song lyrics? Oh, I can tell them, alright, but what are they really absorbing?
Some time ago I wrote an article about genitals: women requesting plastic surgery to look “neater”. All part of the same influences now so freely available to developing minds.
We see so much violence against women:
Of all physical assaults against women, 74.9 per cent occurred in the home, often repeatedly, by a man they knew. One in four children and young people have witnessed domestic violence against their mother or stepmother. And violence against women and their children cost the Australian economy $13.6 billion in 2009 alone.
There are many reasons why sexism, domestic violence and other crimes against women are so prevelent in society, yet times are changing. Society is changing, music is changing. Let us not confuse our children in their formative years by using words in such different contexts. Especially those of us (and there are many such parents in Australia) raising children in a new land, new culture, new social values. Much is confusing enough already.
Let us ensure we do not inadvertently support the very thing we are trying to eradicate. Sexism. The abuse of women and children. I put the B-word in the same category as the N-word (further reading, below). It seems to me both are being used in similar ways by their respective demographics: attempting to take the word back, change the popular meaning, wear it as a badge of honour. In my view, this approach doesn’t work. Some words, due to their historical or current alternate use, are just best left to die a natural death. They will never be a badge of honour.
There, good readers, are some of the thoughts running through my mind when I wrote that paragraph. I’m a parent of young people, trying to raise them with humanist values in an often inhuman world.