Monday, February 15, 2016

Casual Misogyny: An Open Letter

Dear Y98 DJ:

I can't remember your name.  You're not one of the regular DJ's.  I heard you over the weekend, during some off-hour.  You were introducing a Taylor Swift song and said, "Y'know, for having such a clean-cut, good girl image, she sure has a lot of songs about being a bad girl."  And then you mentioned another song coming up, by someone "Taylor hasn't dated."

Here's the problem with everything you said:

What exactly makes Taylor Swift a "good girl"?  Is it because she's pale and blonde and (to quote her own song) "has that classic, red-lipped" look?  Perhaps it's because she went to a private Christian high school and had a 4.0 GPA?  Maybe it's because many of her first songs were somewhat "innocent" in their subject matter or stories of crushes on boys (which is probably because Swift was only 16 when her first album was released)?

And what about these new songs makes her "bad"?  Because she talks about breaking up?  About having sex?  About being an adult?

Let Leonard lay down some Gender 101 for ya because clearly you don't know.  Here's an exercise usually done in the first day or two of class.

List all the words you can think of for a woman who has a lot of sex:  slut, whore, easy, skank(y), hooker, prostitute, loose, trollop, tramp, harlot, strumpet, hussy, tart, floozy, etc., etc.
List all the words you can think of for a man who has a lot of sex:  stud.
See the difference?  Oh sure, sometimes we can throw "man-whore" in there for the guys, but we even have to add the qualifier "man" to indicate this whore is not female.  Women with healthy sex lives are treated as "bad" women, whores, et cetera, while men are celebrated for the same fact.  You, sir, are perpetuating this age-old stereotype with your comments about Taylor Swift's "goodness" or badness."

But, Leonard, it was just said in passing!

Welcome, my friends, to the world of casual misogyny.  Women of all ages face comments like this on a daily basis.  This DJ's comment is yet another thrown in our collective female face. Please stop reinforcing the "Madonna/whore" false dichotomy.  Please stop implying women can't have healthy sex lives (and also sing about those lives).  Male artists sing about relationships all the time.  When was the last time someone commented on their works in a similar fashion?

Lastly, let Leonard get all "New Criticism 101" on you:  please don't confuse the speaker/narrator (the "I") of a song, poem, or work of art with the actual artist.  Yes, even if it sounds just like that person, down to some of the biographical details, we still allow a small amount of "space" between the two.

But Leonard, it was only said by some DJ whose name you can't even remember!

People in the public eye (or ear, in this case) like DJ's and broadcasters must be especially careful with their words as their words reach a larger audience.  That's part of the job and responsibility of being/having a public persona.  People listen to you, and you never know when someone like me is going to quote you verbatim to point out your casual misogyny.  Every piece of daily sexism adds up; the only way to break it down is to take personal responsibility and STOP SAYING IT, whether you be a DJ or listener, artist or audience.

Try to make sure yours don't suck.

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