Music censorship used to be a tool of old conservatism, but is now a popular weapon with modern feminism.
I’m trying, man. I’m really trying not to get infuriated to the point of exhaustion every time I see another article about trigger warnings, censorship or any other act of “feminism” that aims to snuff out anything that isn’t voted upon as being 100% morally and politically correct. But it’s hard. It’s hard because when somebody cries over the content of deviant art, it’s almost impossible to take the side of “singing/writing about rape/violence is okay”. That’s what it sounds like to the modern day feminist, and like the true political activists that they are, they will spin it to make others hear the same.
This one, though. Woof.
That’s the headline. In it, author Lynn Stuart Parramore traces her account of hearing the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb” in a grocery store. She then proceeds to go home, print the lyrics out, and present them to the customer service kid working the counter. The kid, who she rudely calls out by first and last name, basically shrugs her off, which in turn makes Parramore contact a customer service line that again gives zero fucks. This outrages her. You see, in “Under My Thumb”, in Parramore’s words, “the singer boasts about how he’s gained control of his girl, comparing her to, among other things, a squirming dog.” This prompts the outrage and the article. TRADER JOE’S PROMOTES SEXIST MUSIC. Jesus, where to start….
Let’s begin at the grocery store. I am uniquely qualified to talk about this because I happen to work customer service at a grocery store. I became a manager when I was 20 years old. In my first few months, I had an encounter with an older woman about our music. At the time, we played nothing but “oldies” – back when that meant songs from 1955-1963, not the 70s and 80s stuff that you hear on oldies stations now. The woman asked to speak to a manager. I was the only manager on duty. This prompted a grimace on the woman’s face*. She went on to rant about how we are playing “The Devil’s Music” and we should be ashamed to play such filth. I remember this very clearly, because it was my first real “unruly customer” moment: the song playing at the time was Elvis Presley’s “Blue Suede Shoes”.
*Women might be great when it comes to sexism, but in my ten years plus of working in the grocery business, about 99% of all customers that are visibly upset to find a young person in charge are women. Ageism seems to still be an issue.
I explained to her, much like the young man in Parramore’s story, that the music was set by corporate (not the case, but you learn rather quickly how to deflect when you work with the public) and that I would speak to my manager about it. This wasn’t enough. “Turn it off or I’m never coming in here again”, she snapped. “I’m sorry, but that decision is up to my corporate office. Would you like their number?” This unsurprisingly did not please her, and she left with her nose in the air. It’s worth noting she grabbed her cart and checked out before leaving the Seventh Circle Of Rock And Roll Hell.
What Parramore and many other modern day feminists can’t seem to grasp is that you can inact social change without being an awful person to those who are not responsible for whatever wrongdoings you perceive are happening. She wanted to send a message, and the first thing she could think of to bring equality to women was to harass some kid working at a fucking grocery store that has nothing to do with it. “Flustered, [name redacted*] said he had no control. The music was up to “corporate.” If I was in the store and the song was playing, I could ask him to turn it down. That was all he could do.”
*I redacted the name. I’m not is the business of outing innocents like Parramore. I can almost guarantee that kid had to talk to corporate bosses about “representing” the company after the article was posted, which is completely unfair.
Parramore makes a point to illustrate how the kid didn’t know how to react. This is to show the reader how right she was. “Yet he also admitted that probably a lot of the songs were “racist, sexist, and misogynistic.” I’ve had customers say a number of dumb shit to me, and I agreed with them, because when you work customer service at a grocery store, you’re not there to fight. You’re there to make the customer feel as if they’re right. This isn’t an admission of guilt, it’s a kid trying to deflect onto corporate, something I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of times in the exact same position. Her “gotcha” moment is nothing more than an underpaid retail employee trying to figure out a way to get a crazy person waving rock lyrics in his face the hell away from him.
This is where all of this goes wrong. The biggest talking point in the new wave of feminism is that everything we thought was cool is actually sexist, and too many men easily shrug off songs like “Under My Thumb” even though they are degrading to women. The basis of that point is that men don’t know. The modern American male needs his thoughts restructured to identify that the music, books and movies he used to enjoy are actually on the wrong side of the war against women. Well, you know how not to change somebody’s mind on an issue? Treat them like dirt. Don’t go up to a grocery store trying to capture a “gotcha” moment from some kid who probably is trying to work his way through school. That’s not how you treat people. The caricature of the angry feminist is something I’m sure every woman wants gone, but what do you expect when the common rabble among the feminist community is “SHUT IT OFF, IT’S ANTI-WOMAN! ARE YOU FOR SEXISM OR AGAINST IT TELL ME NOW!” There is no discourse, just an attempt at public shaming that leaves most people rolling their eyes.
Now, to get to the root of the issue: sexist rock songs. I could spend another 5000 words explaining how illogical this outrage is, but I’ll keep it short. Basically, what a lot of Millenials don’t understand is that a good portion of rock music is written in the persona of someone else. For example, Alice In Chains’ “Rooster” (sung from the point of view of the guitarist’s father in Vietnam) or Iron Maiden’s “Run To The Hills” (sung from the perspectives of both Native Americans and the white oppressors running them out of their homes). Those are easily to dissect. What’s trickier is when the message is sung from the writer himself, and is purposely wrong.
Take Ozzy Osbourne’s “Suicide Solution”. This song was famously a point of ire from the PMRC, the Tipper Gore-led family advocates that tried to censor rock music in the 1980s. The song’s lyrics were seen by all accounts as a pro-suicide anthem:
Wine is fine but whiskey’s quicker
Suicide is slow with liquor
Take a bottle and drown your sorrows
Then it floods away tomorrows
Taken at face value, that verse is telling you to drink. The reality, of course, is quite the opposite. Ozzy was a recovering drug and alcohol abuser, and one of the ways the tortured artist healed was by getting into his own head and singing his impure thoughts. It’s a way an artist recognizes his or herself, by taking an outside view that “Rooster” did when it got into a Vietnam veteran’s head. It illustrates sick thoughts by a sick man, but without explaining it. Think about that verse if it was written as such:
Wine is fine but whiskey’s quicker
Suicide is slow with liquor
But if you take a bottle and drown your sorrows
Then it will flood away your tomorrows
Adding the second person narrative turns this painful yet cathartic song into a preachy anti-booze protest. This vastly changes the impact, and would probably have been regarded as Ozzy going “soft”. The reason this song was so popular among his fans is the humility in which the singer presented it. If you did not know anything else about the song or the singer, you could easily find yourself reacting like Tipper Gore – emotionally, not intellectually.
I don’t know if Mick Jagger sang “Under My Thumb” with the same kind of introspection. He has said in interviews that the song means the exact opposite of what a lot of women feel it represents, much like Ozzy. But this doesn’t matter in the world of modern feminism, where emotions are deemed more valuable than education. It’s why I get sad when people roll their eyes when I try to explain rock music to them: I know the damage that can be done when art is misinterpreted for one’s own cause. There are nuances to songwriting that can only be understood if you care to understand, not if you’re too blinded by your preconceptions. Women like Lynn Stuart Parramore are leading us onto a path of prejudice. It doesn’t matter what the truth is, what only matters are her feelings and what she deems as righteousness. This isn’t progressiveness, it’s the same old conformism that the ladies of the PMRC tried to force upon this country when they heard songs that didn’t fit their values. I wonder what women like her would say if men tried to do the same?
Now, change the music, grocery boy.