Thursday, May 7, 2009

Meditation on a Radio

Yes, I actually listen to the radio. Sometimes I think I'm the only person left within a hundred mile radius who does. (What can I say? I drive an old truck with no CD player, and cassettes are a pain to record.) Still, listening to the [insert humorous noun] box is educational. I do like to think I know a bit about music - that means listening to the songs that most people listen to, not just Sleater-Kinney, Ani, and the Indigo Girls!

As it turns out, of course, I'm hardly the only one listening. When we include internet radio and other 'new' radio-like technologies, just as many people are listening now as ever. Radio is still huge. Music is still amazingly influential. Pop culture is still king. And realizing that makes listening to the radio frightening.

There I was, driving down the road, innocently listening to some random top 40 love song, when suddenly he sings, "I want you/I'm gonna make you miiine." Or something along those lines. Lovely, I think. More possessive gender roles. I change the station. A female singer here. Perhaps we'll stand a better chance for something decent. But no, "I need you to touch me, make me crazy all night long..." She's completely dependent on men for all forms of pleasure, and I don't want to hear about it. Before long, I'm listening to NPR news. The music is just too awful!

Now, I'm probably being a bit hypersensitive. What else should I expect, given the patriarchal culture? Internalized sexism, implicit homophobia, assumed racism, you name it, it's everywhere. But it's becoming subtler. It's tricky, subversive, almost as if it were planned. Now, I know that feminists insist that there's no patriarchal conspiracy to oppress, that it's just a name for the culture state, unconsciously perpetuated for the benefit those with privilege. But the media really couldn't be any more effective at promoting the *archy if it had been planned.

Don Imus says something racist? He gets fired. Enough people complain about an objectifying commercial? It gets pulled. And nearly everyone's mad at Miss California. Yet all the while, people are learning how to really behave from those little cues in music, movies, TV, and the internet - not to mention family and friends.

'Cleaning' the media isn't enough to stop oppression. I'm not sure it even counts as a first step.

It might even be easier if the hate and bigotry were still all out in the open where we could see it. As horrible as that 3OH13 song that Aviva posted about a while back is, I think most people (minus the trolls - including the troll band that made it!) would see it as at least mildly offensive, enough that they would only admit to liking it around the 'appropriate' audience (other sexists). And despite all of the anger and disgust that has been aimed at Asher Roth recently, it's not him, but the white suburban kids who actually like him that worry me. He'll go away soon, after people get good and mad. We'll suppress the overt idiocy. But his audience will have learned their lesson for the day: being a racist jerk is really cool.

I don't really have an overall point to this post other than to say, sure enough, womanists/feminists/anti-ablests/everybody-else-who-cares still have a whole world's worth of work to do. And each day the problem is becoming more and more obfuscated.


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