So I went to a party last night and I must say I am conflicted because:
1) Dancing at parties is awkward for me and more importantly….
2) I have a problem with singing and dancing to music that degrades me
Now the music that was played at this event was popular rap music. I am sure you don’t have to search very hard to find a song that objectifies the female body in any genre, and especially not in rap.
What I find interesting is my reaction to the music when I hear it played. When I am in the car, I try to sub in my own funny ad-libs to make the song make sense for me. I joke with the obvious illogical statements made by the artist that involve parts of my anatomy detaching itself from my body and walking across the dance floor to the artist that is rapping. When I am at parties, I have a really hard time dancing to the music because I disagree with the message, so I look like a stick in the mud with my back against the wall a majority of the evening.
You may be asking by now, so why do I even listen to this music or go to parties that play it? The conflict I am having can be explained in the Individual aspect of the social change model. Being conscious of myself and where my values lie and being congruent and consistent in them has proven most difficult especially when I want to fit in, to feel like I belong to an integral part of my culture surrounding music, to be around people who are having a good time, and just to stay current with my peers. I am working out the kinks of growing into a socially responsible individual that can serve as a role model while still supporting my community. I also struggle with the societal and community values in relating to individuals being a part of something larger then themselves. How can I even address this issue I am having for the betterment of others? (Hopefully sharing my thoughts in blog form is a start)
I care that these messages are reinforcing oppression and are damaging to all who participate in them. There are popular artist who are successful and make a good name for themselves by not producing damaging music and the images that come with it. At the same time I understand (and appreciate) the need for self-expression through music. I also know that selling these images make a lot of money, and people will do whatever it takes to sustain themselves.
This year I will reframe my thoughts around this popular music. I know it makes me uncomfortable (the beats are terribly catchy though) and I know there is better music out there and venues that I can go to, and I have always wanted to learn ballroom dance. I will try to find ways to identify with my peers, who really do like these songs, in a different way and I will try not to beat myself up when I do catch myself singing some oppressive lyrics.
Music is powerful and it really influences the way people think, act and feel. I don’t yet know how to address a culture that thrives off of sexist, violent and oppressive music. All this may make for an interesting action research project………
Jalisa Holifield is an undergraduate student in the WILL Program at the University of Cincinnati. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.