There are two moments I starkly remember hearing a song differently: one was as a teen when I realized what was really going on in “My Sharona.” Oy. The other was yesterday in my minivan.
For some reason, lately my kids have been obsessed with Michael Jackson; particularly his music. I’ve been picking up CDs at the local library of some of his early work with the Jackson 5 and listening to ABC has quickly become one of our family jams. Yesterday as we were all singing along, something at the end struck me anew: the line where the boys say to the girl they’ve been singing to…
Sit down girl,
I think I love ya’
No, get up girl
Show me what you can do
Shake it, shake it baby, come on now
This seems harmless enough, like they’re asking a girl to dance? Hey, I can be generous. But then I contrasted that with what their sister Janet later sang, in what could have been a response to their request for “entertainment”:
I’m not a prude (no)
I just want some respect (that’s right)
So close the door if you want me to respond (ooh ooh yeah)
‘Cause privacy is my middle name
My last name is Control
No my first name ain’t baby
Miss Jackson if you’re nasty
Now, I’m not entirely sure I know why this connection hit me yesterday of all days, though I’m now going to have a conversation with my son so all this Jackson 5 isn’t teaching him to catcall women. But I think it hit me hard because of what transpired last week in California and the ensuing hashtag activism of #yesallwomen. (Trigger warning on that link, there’s an embedded video clip of Elliot Rodger’s self-taped diatribe at the top of the piece, clip does not autoplay).
This hashtag effort is getting a lot of well-deserved attention, which is important because women are notoriously harassed in online spaces. And there are many insightful things being written about the layers of significance involved in this horrific event (links to those at the bottom). But, I also know some people are struggling with what this shooting means. There are times when I’m having conversations about misogyny, feminism, patriarchy, and I see my friends glaze over because I’ve gone too far with them in my social assessments. I usually worry about that: that I’m going to lose someone, alienate them, or go too far in pointing the finger at the (oft invisible) misogyny among us.
I’m not worried about that today. Because women are sharing tips on how not to be raped and telling their daughters to read it, but few people (some, but too few) are talking about how men don’t have to become aggressors (or rapists, for that matter): they are capable of respecting women in a culture that rewards them for doing otherwise. I’m not worried about my audience today because when a man ripped Janet Jackson’s shirt off in front of a national audience, we called her indecent and simultaneously replayed the clip again and again.
I’m not all that scared of offending my readers or my friends because The Washington Post reported yesterday that a Pakistani woman was killed by her family for choosing to marry a man she loved against their wishes, and we think these things only happen “over there” as if woman aren’t killed or abused here in the U.S. for rejecting a man. (trigger warning: graphic image at the link)
Because I saw these two comments on Twitter and even as a woman, I have to do battle to keep myself from thinking/doing these things, too:
“#yesallwomen because people question why women stay in abusive relationships rather than question why men are abusing women.”
“Because we are taught early on that if a boy is abusive towards you, it’s just because he has a crush on you. #yesallwomen”
Because if a white man recorded the diatribe Rodger did about Jewish people instead of going on and on about women, we’d call what happened last week what it is: a freaking HATE crime. (Note: Rodger did include racist invectives in his video and on other occasions and was flagged by the Southern Poverty Law Center for previously made statements). Because if Rodger had ranted about Christians and then shot up a group of us, all my brothers and sisters in Christ would be rightly crying persecution.
I’m emotional about this and I may be dismissed for that, but my question for any dismisser is: why aren’t you emotional about this? How many of us have to die before we start having real problem-solving conversations about violence against women, our unhinged understanding of masculinity, racism, sexism, gun-slinging, all of it?
If Columbine was the wake up call that got us to consider how to work against bullying when are we going to wake up from the nightmare of patriarchy?
I realize that this post may be off-putting. Most of us, myself included, are uncomfortable with open displays of grief or anger. We want someone to fix it. We want to get back to the happy place so bad, we’ll anesthetize ourselves to the truth, avoiding pain at all costs. But lament is powerful. We see it time and again in the Bible and we really suck at it here in the Western world, unless it’s directed at a political candidate. The biblical precedent shows us that lament is cathartic and it moves the heart of God. So I’m having a public sackcloth and ashes moment, in case you want to join me here.
I’ll get back to happy soon enough. For now, I’ll shake my little arthritic fist at the devil and promise him this: my God is powerful, He hears us and those who raise their voices in solidarity with us, and He’s coming for your woman-hating, man-hating nastiness. We will do better. We must.
Come, Lord Jesus.
A place to act and send your elected officials a “Not One More” postcard.
Links to worthwhile reading on the subject:
Grace Hwang Lynch’s Race, Gender, and Rage: My Peek into the Twisted World of Elliot Rodger (includes discussion of Rodger’s biracial identity factored into the tragedy)
Racialicious’ round-up of articles in Voices: Racism and Misogyny Fuel a California Tragedy (many links from an intersectional understanding of racism and misogyny)
Feministing’s collection of Essential Feminist Writing on the Isla Vista Shooting (several of my favorite bloggers are among these links)
An interesting twist with #yesallbiblicalwomen
Arthur Chu, Jeopardy! winner and blogger’s piece, Your Princess is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds
Noah Berlatsky on how the stigma of male virginity is misogynistic in Elliot Rodger and Poisonous Ideals of Masculinity