In considering my extended family, and discounting my younger brother, I am technically the baby of my family. My parents were both born quite a few years after their other siblings, both of them the results of unplanned pregnancies (well, it’s a little more complicated than that with my dad but we’ll leave that story for another day…) My parents also had me quite late in life, whereas my aunts and uncles had their children slightly earlier for the most part. As a result, the cousin who is closest in age to me is 28, and while most of my cousins are now in their thirties, they range in age up to 46.
The cousins I’m closest to are all around the same age so when I was blossoming into those frightful teenage years–for the sake of having a reference point let’s say I was 14 or 15–they would have all been just a little older than I am right now, 22-27. I idolized these girls, and always wanted to show off to them: what I was wearing, what music I was listening to…they would talk about going out and partying occasionally during their university years, and I couldn’t wait until it was my turn to live glamorously independent like that.
I still remember a couple times at family gatherings when I would go down to the basement where they were hanging out and go overboard in trying to prove how grown up and bad-ass I was, how I could be as cool as they were. It sometimes frustrated me when they would get shocked at the music I was listening to, or when they told me I was too young to know something…I just wanted that same respect and attention that they all gave each other.
In retrospect, although I missed out on the parties and having the same bond they all had, I was very lucky to have so many points of reference for advice about my educational and career goals. And looking back I can also kind of see how much of a jackass I sometimes made myself out to be, trying to prove God only knows what. And the funny thing now is that I know first hand what it feels like trying to be that role model for someone else.
On Mondays I volunteer as a tutor at the Pathways to Regent Park program. If you haven’t already, check them out here: http://www.pathwaystoeducation.ca/en/toronto-regent-park
I go in this past Monday for the evening tutoring program as usual, and one of the girls I normally sit with and help–she’s in grade 12–is talking with one of her girlfriends and mentions the name of a rap song that’s in regular rotation on my own iPod, and I’ll admit, regardless of me being the same way in high school, I’m shocked.
“You’re listening to WHAT?!”
I will openly admit that I listen to and love this song. I will also tell you that it’s very misogynistic and sexist, and includes many offensive lines like “Pop that pussy bitch”.
I’m not kidding.
There’s really not much to this song, and I honestly am sometimes conflicted about why I would listen to this kind of music. I mean, I have the usual stupid reasons like “It’s a good beat, fun to dance to, etc.” I’d like to excuse this lapse of good judgement as “cognitive dissonance”, meaning I’m changing my beliefs to match my behavior (they should have never taught me that term in school…)
But another part of it for me is knowing how the messages and images associated with this song, and many others like it, are problematic. And I also just truly believe that it is so over the top and ridiculous that you can’t even really take the message completely serious anyway. It’s kind of like a joke to me, and I personally do not associate that “idealization” of women–if you can even call it that–as the ultimate standard for what a woman should be. Whenever a woman’s sexuality is so overtly and outrageously presented as in French Montana’s video, it’s hard for me to really take the message to heart.
But I know that’s just my opinion, and that it may be a minority opinion. I also know that these kinds of music videos do have the potential to be harmful and possibly cultivate an unrealistic expectation of what gender relations should be like–in this case the woman being the object of the man’s interest, and only wanting to “Pop that” to please him. On the other side of that however, I think indulging in this kind of pop culture is like anything else: in moderation, and with knowledge of its harmful effects.
We see sexist and discriminatory advertisements everyday that are, in my opinion, much more harmful just due to the fact that we see them everyday and are exposed to them regardless of whether or not we are even seeking them out. It’s about being aware of the hidden messages and knowing exactly why these images are powerful, and having the ability to determine our own realizations of how the world is, and what we want it to be.
What do you think? Do you have any guilty little pleasures like mine and how do you justify it?