Tonight I am preparing for a class tomorrow morning on gender. I start all my college classes with a song that is relevant to the topic, and my dear partner and I were playing around with music for tomorrow, including The Kink’s Lola, Vitamin C’s Girls Against Boys, Beyonce’s If I Were a Boy, and John Lennon’s Woman is Nigger of the World. (I’ve decided to go with Beyonce’s, for a number of pedagogical reasons.)
As so often happens when we start listening to music on YouTube, we veered dangerously off track into talking about songs that have a different connotation now than they did at the time. Two that jumped right to mind were Baby It’s Cold Outside and Every Breath You Take. In the event that it’s been too long since you’ve heard these songs to hold a good conversation about them, you can read the lyrics from the links above or listen to them below.
Baby It’s Cold Outside was seen as playful banter, and Every Breath You Take was seen as a romantic ode.
When you look at the lyrics, they’re both excessively issue-laden songs that portray unhealthy attitudes about sex and relationships. Baby It’s Cold Outside is particularly rife for deconstructing in a class on healthy sexual communication (as a negative example, of course).
I think it’s all about the tone of voice in the songs, which we pay excessive attention to over and above the creepy, inappropriate lyrics. But this is one glaring place where children and preteenagers, in particular, get their crazy, messed-up notions of romance and dating. They see us adults – or their older siblings – singing along with these songs, clearly enjoying ourselves, and the young people around us do listen to what we’re singing, they do integrate it into their sponge-like-minds as adult-approved relationships. Even when we come back years later during comprehensive sex ed and teach that these kinds of relationships and coercion techniques are indications that the relationship is not healthy we simply can’t compete with the years of singing along that have come before us. And that’s when teenagers get the kind of sexuality education that they need – for all of the young people who never have a conversation about the “wrong-ness” of what’s portrayed in these missives, there is a glaring misunderstanding left standing. These stories are just so integrated into our society that it takes an immense effort to help young people fight against the flow.
More recent songs are rife with meaningless, gratuitous sex. This stuff gets into people’s heads, regardless of what they say about blocking it out. And everyone who comes through my classes claims to be above being influenced by the content of the music they listen to. Who do they think they’re fooling? Half the time they haven’t even noticed the inappropriate nature of the lyrics of their favorite songs – they just sing along, thoughtlessly. And without analysis, how can they be “above” the influence?
Before I bid my computer a good-night, one more song.
Through our Internet musical wanderings, I was introduced the following song, which I’ll leave you with, along with a short Wikipedia history:
(And as a side note, how tired am I of the story in the “new” Taylor Swift song below? Oh that’s right, I’m really, really, really freaking tired of it.)