It's not "just a song" when someone believes in it

Moby (as in the musician) apparently has a blog. On this blog, he blogs about stuff that’s not music. Apparently he’s pretty outspoken about many issues surrounding intolerance and hatred. I don’t know if it’s real sentiment or just an attempt to get more fame, but I really don’t care. What I do care about is his post on misogyny. I care not only because I’m a feminist who focuses on how pop-culture influences individuals and society, but also because the link between misogynistic lyrics and abuse/domestic violence is a very personal issue for me.

I’m not going to reproduce the post here (except to yoink quotes as my section headers). You can find it at the above link to read it. This post is not about moby, really, this is about me and my experiences with misogynistic music, domestic violence, and my “friends” who thought it was appropriate to marginalize my experienes by saying, “it’s just a song!” and other excuses like that. Just in case it wasn’t clear enough: the following material is triggering for domestic violence an abuse surviors. Read at your own risk.

I. Making a big issue out of something that no one else seems to care about

Go through enough of my “personal” section and you’ll find out that I was abused by my first boyfriend. He never took a bat to me, or even smacked me around, but all he needed were words to systematically destroy my life for the year and a half that we were together.

I’ve gotten used to the idea that most people don’t understand the form of abuse I went through because most of them have either given it or recieved it in lesser doses as a part of their “normal” relationships. When I bring up potential red flags with my friends they say I’m being “oversensitive” or when they see one of their friends being verbally abused they make excuses like, “Well, she’s not perfect either! I’ve seen her go off on him before.” Emotional violence is seen in our society as an acceptable, if not ideal, part of a relationship.

Case-in-point: the “boys will be boys” mentality. Just this weekend when I was out to dinner with my family, the subject of my female cousin’s now-ex boyfriend came up. I made the case, as I always do, that his behaviour (ditching her on their aniversary to get drunk with his friends, getting into fist fights with people, etc) was unacceptable. They – my uncle, aunt, uncle’s cousin and his wife, everyone except my male cousin who removed himself from the situation – ganged up on me, telling me that “he’s 20 years old.” And I, being 23, said, “Yes, that’s my point. He is 20 years old. He should know better.” But, no, they argued things like “girls mature faster”, “he won’t always be this way” (really? if no one tells him it’s not okay to act that way, why would he ever change his behaviour?), and my uncle even had the audacity to say that “men aren’t in total control of themselves.” He compared men to rabid dogs. Rabid. Dogs. It took all my willpower to not make a pithy remark about rape and rape culture, because that would have only served to make the situation worse.

The point I’m trying to illustrate this is misogynistic culture and the way even the most innocuous things can contribute to it. My family sincerly believed that “accepting” his behaviour (ie. dismissing the real hurt it caused because my cousin would “move on” eventually) was not the same as “condoning” it. But if we don’t speak up about these things when they happen, does our silence not imply our complicit acceptance? And if we continue to defend injustice because “that’s how life is”, does that not give a green light for the injustice to continue to perpetuate itself? My family members may never have raped anyone. Or physically abused them. Or even systematically mentally abused someone. But, even if they have never engaged in the “lesser” forms of emotional violence (which I doubt; I’m fairly sure that all of us have in some way or another), they are contributing to misogynistic culture by dismissing the importance of recognizing all violence as unacceptable.

II. Music that glamourizes misogyny

It’s no secret that misogynistic messages are part of many song lyrics, but yet so many people act shocked – shocked! – when you point that out. When you use clear-cut examples that talk about doing violence to women people pull up the, “Well, the musician wasn’t serious!” defence or say, “Chill out, it’s just a song!”. Instead of engaging in a discussion on how, and to what extent, these songs may contribute to Western culture’s continued silence on violence against women, they dismiss the possibility as unimportant or unreasonable. Or they act as if I was trying to say that there is a singular and direct causation between misogynistic music and violence against women. Please, these people know better than to confuse correlation with causation.

As with all problematic expressions of pop-culture, the “extreme” – and I use the term loosely in conjunction with the subject of domestic violence – examples are often dismissed out of hand. While I can understand the rationale – that a sane, rational person wouldn’t take a baseball bat to a woman in this day and age – it also misses a bigger picture: the impact isn’t confined to major violent outbursts, but can and does affect the way women are viewed and treated by our fathers, brothers, friends, and even other women. You can’t listen to music that degrades women without being affected by the message. And when you couple that with a blanket refusal to critique the music, and the culture it is a part of, what that means is that you internalize the messages and begin to see what they preach as normal and acceptable.

III. Maybe there’s no connection. Maybe there is. It’s disgusting that we even have to ask that question.

When I was still with my abuser, and quite aware of his hatred of women, I learned that he and his brother listened to Eminem. Loved his music. Loved to sing along to it. Especially the parts about raping and killing women. They’d be singing it while I sat in the room. I tried to bring the subject up, once. I was told that it was funny, you see, because Eminiem was just being offensive to create controversy. You know, singing about raping and killing women is funny. Ha. Ha. Okay, well, I expected that from him. I was too used to his other BS remarks that I just asked him to not listen to it/sing it in my presence and went on with my life, filing Eminem as another artist I never wanted anything to do with.

Who I did not expect it from, however, was my friends. On several occasions I got into arguments with them about the impact of the lyrics.

“Come on,” they said. “Eminem doesn’t really endorse that kind of stuff. He’s just a showman. And a good one at that, look how many fans his controversy has gotten him!”

“That’s not the point,” I replied. “The point is that there are people who listen to his music who believe in it. The message behind his songs is that it’s cool to treat women this way.”

“Well, it’s not like I’m going to run out and buy a bat to beat women with after I listen to his songs.”

The conversation would continue on in this vein with me explaining, for what seemed like the thousandth time, how Eminem’s violent lyrics had directly connected to the violence that I had experienced in my own life. Not that my personal anecdote swayed them in the least. One of them, who was intimately acquainted with many of the scars I carried from my abuse, had the audacity to respond to my story with, “Men get abused, too, you know.” I had no response to that; I was so shocked that he’d dismiss my arguments, and my very real and very painful experiences, with such a callous remark. Without Eminem, or others like him, would my abuser still been abusive? Certainly. But if we lived in a culture that condemned expressions of violence against women, it would have been a lot harder for him to pass off his violence as “normal”.

IV. You have blood on your hands, and you should be deeply, deeply troubled at the culture that you’ve helped to create

Musicians, actors, video game designers, journalists, writers, families, friends… we all have blood on our hands. We may not be criminal, or evil, but every time we condone violence with our silence, or our excuses, we are contributing to the problem. It is not enough for us to simply be against violence, we must actively be against it. And I, for one, am deeply troubled at the culture we’ve all helped to create.

Via feminist.

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17 thoughts on “It's not "just a song" when someone believes in it

  1. The idea that men aren’t in complete control of themselves is just a thinly veiled excuse for them to do what they want and then blame women for allowing them to do it.

    But you knew that already.

    I wonder if it would ever work in reverse…”Oops, honey, you pissed me off so much that I took a baseball bat to your testicles and now they’re a shapeless mass! Well, you know, girls will be girls, and I just can’t control myself…you shouldn’t have acted like such a prick, maybe then you’ll still be able to reproduce!”

  2. No, for us, it’s supposed to be, “Gee, honey, I couldn’t help myself and I bought three pairs of shoes. Please don’t take my credit card away.”

    It’s SHOCKING when women are violent. It’s normal, even encouraged for men to be this way. It brings up something I saw not long ago that I may blog about myself, though I don’t feel as strongly about it as tek-Andi (I thus christen thee, girl, wherever you’re at) and am more inclined to dismiss things, she IS right, just as you say, DS. And maybe I send mixed messages when I dismiss some things, I don’t know.

    Gives me a lot to think about.

  3. Great post!

    I also have problems with some song lyrics.

    Its hard not to turn on MTV without being slightly annoyed.

    As for the comment about Moby being real, I can’t help but believe he is since he is vegan afterall 😉

    Btw, I didn’t know you were only 23, its funny but you tend to see other bloggers as the same as you, and I course thought that you were at least a few years older, closer to my age!

  4. Andrea,

    Moby’s half-right, and I’m not surprised. We know that the criminality of men in abusing their spouses is one possible reason why men abuse women. I concur with Darth Sidhe, however, in coming to the conclusion that placing the blame on anyone or anything but the perpetrators is not appropriate. It’s not the misogynistic music that abuse women: it’s the men.

    I disagree that Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up” is misogynist because, last time I heard it, that’s about all the lyrics in the song. Eminem and his ilk are not alone: Guns ‘N’ Roses, as one of the premier bands of the late 80’s and early 90’s, have songs that are full of drug use, police-defying, and women-hating. I listened to them when I was a kid, and I have not, to this date, deliberately hit any girlfriend of mine, let alone any woman.
    I can listen to this music without letting the message affect the way I think about women. As a character witness, I call upon Monkey! to back me up.

    The greater problem is not the message itself but the concept that one can use the message as a legal defense against violence. Society condones it. We recognize the pervasive and invasive nature of cultural media — music, art, literature — but I have yet to see one person claim that “Trainspotting” encouraged them to get hooked on smack as a defense to any sort of crime or criminal behavior.

    The responsibility of identifying with any cultural media is on the person seeking an identity, not on the media that provides the image or the persona. I don’t accept “pimping and ho’s” as a way of life, or something that I would condone in the slightest on my own behalf. I would also feel no amount of hypocrisy or guilt in prosecuting people that abuse women. I do not think, however, that the social disease of “personifying with media figures” is enough to warrant any sort of attack on cultural media, legal or otherwise. If you wanted to start, however, I’d start with reality TV.

    Even so, you’re also very right. We are complicit when we do not report. Every person should have a duty to report crimes when they come across them. You don’t need to intervene: merely reporting the crime is sufficient to bring authorities to monitor the situation. Although many victims do not want intervention, they are hardly in a position to make a reasonable decision about their own position.

  5. LD: Thank you for that. It makes me so happy to know that, in sharing my own experiences, I have helped someone else talk about theirs.

    Ganymede: You’re doing exactly what I’m angry at my friends for doing: dismissing the argument as unimportant because it’s not a causational link.

    I’m going to pull a direct quote from the original post:

    Instead of engaging in a discussion on how, and to what extent, these songs may contribute to Western culture’s continued silence on violence against women, they dismiss the possibility as unimportant or unreasonable. Or they act as if I was trying to say that there is a singular and direct causation between misogynistic music and violence against women. Please, these people know better than to confuse correlation with causation.

    To clarify my point, I’d like to draw from a article I wrote back in February:

    This is possibly the number one argument I hear against critiquing popular culture – “it’s only a game/TV show/movie/whatever!” It is said as if, because it’s considered to be “entertainment,” no messages can be, or even are meant to be, gained from it. I doubt that anyone would argue that games, TV shows, books, commercials, etc. are not real life, but they are as involved in persuading people and getting their propaganda out there as this article, or a book, or any other “acceptable” medium is. And, like any other medium, they use varying tactics – both subtle and obvious – to get their message out. Those messages, whether we want to admit it or not, do have some sort of impact on the way we view ourselves and others.

    About the subject of influence, I have seen two (simplistic) extremes:
    Questionable pop-culture media makes people do bad things
    There is no evidence that proves that pop-culture makes people do things, so obviously it has no affect on us at all!
    I disagree with both sides of the argument; the problem is much more complex than that. In this, I will bring up one of my favourite phrases: correlation does not equal causation. What does this mean? In short, questionable content will influence the way we think (correlation) but most people will not take the questionable content at face value (causation).

    This is the point that both extreme groups often miss (or perhaps ignore). Pimp: The Backhanding can’t coerce Gamer X into trying to pimp slap his female friends. But if Gamer X is a misogynist and has had his behaviour/thoughts validated by pop-culture, then he will seek out games like this to reinforce his growing feelings. Should the game be pulled off the market because people like Gamer X can use it to further their perversions? I don’t think so. However, that also doesn’t mean that I give a green flag for any person (or any company) to callously treat a sensitive issue.

    I’d like to draw your attention to the last paragraph in that quote because that’s the argument you were using when you said, “I listened to them when I was a kid, and I have not, to this date, deliberately hit any girlfriend of mine, let alone any woman.” You use that as an excuse not to examine the way misogynistic messages may have affected you and others. You use it to dismiss my very real experience, and very real example, as not worth discussion.

    How much of a “good guy” move was it to hop on the defensive and dismiss my entire argument about the influence of pop culture simply because you have not “deliberately hit any girlfriend of [yours]”? Having never hit a woman isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for your views; my abuser never hit me – deliberate or otherwise – but he was no less affected by the prevalence of messages like those in Eminem’s lyrics that degrade women and make it seem “normal” to treat us as sub-human. My family is no less affected by the same culture that allows them to see my cousin’s ex’s inappropriate behaviour as “acceptable”.

    It is often painful to look at our own privilege, but implore you to do so now. As a male, you have the privilege not to see how our culture (popular or otherwise) encourages the dehumanization of women. You have the privilege to discourage the critique of institutions (in this case, misogynistic music) that 1) provide no tangible harm to you, and 2) continue to perpetuate the harmful culture that you indirectly benefit from.

    But, guess what, I don’t have that privilege. Neither do any of the women who commented on this thread. Not Darth Sidhe, not Lake Desire, and not Monkey. We are the ones who suffer the consequences of people like you who outright dismiss us, our experiences, and the very idea that our culture needs to be critiqued. Being a “good guy” isn’t just about not hitting women; it’s about helping us to be seen and treated as people. And, I’m sorry, but your dissmissal of culture as a valid area of critique just doesn’t cut it.

  6. Gany-dear said: We recognize the pervasive and invasive nature of cultural media — music, art, literature — but I have yet to see one person claim that “Trainspotting” encouraged them to get hooked on smack as a defense to any sort of crime or criminal behavior.

    As an aside, I’ve known two (morons) people who thought Trainspotting was romantic and wonderful and it made them want to get on heroin. Yes, they’re stupid. But we do see these sorts of arguments all the time; look at the gaming controversy with all the “violent games cause violence! gasp!” so to say that people aren’t saying it seems a little off. Maybe I’m misunderstanding.

    I do agree with tek-Andi here on one major thing. Because I think people tend to be smart enough not to do something because, say, Eminem told them to, I don’t find it a matter of causation either… but rather a sign of something deeper that is wrong with society. It is considered somewhat socially acceptable for a man to smack his woman around. The opposite is not true (nor should it be), and violence in song lyrics illustrates that acceptance.

    However, I have to say, since it came up, that I’ve always been a non-fan of the privilege argument. I’ve seen it used so often to END open, honest dialogue (you can’t talk about racism at all because you’re white! You can’t talk about homosexuality because you married a man! you’re dismissing!) and I don’t think that’s the case here, nor in many of those situations. I think instead of Gany speaking from a necessarily male position (and boy could I get into years of history on why that probably isn’t so, but won’t) and it being a matter of privilege, it seems that you two are coming at the same argument from 90 degree angles.

    Causation and even correlation isn’t the real issue, and the music isn’t a cause — it’s a symptom of a deeper ill in society.

  7. I’ve seen it used so often to END open, honest dialogue

    And I found Ganymede’s argument to be the self-same one that is so often used to END open, honest dialogue about a very real issue. And, whether or not he is privy to all forms of male privilege, he was excercising his privileged right of dismissing an argument because it doesn’t affect him.

    Recognizing one’s privilege shouldn’t be an END to something, it should be the BEGINNING of recognizing that, just because something doesn’t affect us, it doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate to dismiss it as an unimportant issue. And he was being dismissive of the larger issue by flat out saying that we shouldn’t “attack” (ie. critique or speak out against) cultural media.

    Not being afraid of using word “privilege” is a way for us to recognize that we have power over other people. It is a way of talking about oppression without using words like “oppressor class” that imply an active participation in the oppression of others. Most men (whites, rich people, etc) don’t actively oppress people, but (and I was trying to make this point in my post) by not actively working against oppression they (we) are passively being part of it. Bottom line: we are all privileged in some form, which makes it doubly important for us to be able to call each other out on expressions of privilege when discussing oppression. And until we can be comfortable with the idea of privilege – on being called out on it and calling out others – then we can’t ever truly have an honest discussion on oppression.

  8. tekanji,

    With all due respect, if I were dismissing your argument entirely, it would hardly serve my motivations to reply to your blog. I will admit that might point is buried in a prelude to ensure that readers do not think I /side/ with the casually-dismissive, complicitous dullards that would not give the time of day (or night) to such an argument, but let me present my opinion in a clearer light. I assure you that I do not, and have not, dismissed your argument.

    Also, with all due respect, declaring that I have dismissed an argument or that I am in a position of privilege neither the truth nor the cognizable as a truth given the entirety of my statement. On what grounds do you base this conclusion? Is it simply because of what I have said? Is it because I /seem/ to be from privilege? I am not one that so easily points to human flaws or coincidences as grounds to dismiss an otherwise valid counter-position, but when I do, I usually try to bring up one or two facts that may be verified.

    I’m going to decline the offer to trade blows with regards to “privilege,” but I’d like to point out the poignant fact that you obviously do not know much about me at all, if anything. Just because I listen to Guns ‘N’ Roses and don’t hit my girlfriend does not put me into that oh-so-easily-cast-aside group of men that speak out of a lack of experience with abuse, child or spousal, or that I have any less outrage with misogyny that still exists. Your dismissal is inasmuch a “conversation ender” as my apparent dismissal was.

    In response to your accusation that I have dismissed your entry, I point to the following statements as being the crux of my argument. Aside from the noted concurrence with your opinion in the last paragraph, the following statements neither dismiss nor disregard your argument. They do, if anything, attempt to elaborate on them:

    1. “The responsibility of identifying with any cultural media is on the person seeking the identity, not on the media that provides the image or the persona.”

    I stand by this statement. If one were to place the blame for the abuse of women on men, let us take a look at the state of “man-hood” that exists in America. Just as we deplore the condition of female role-models, the condition for men is equally as deplorable. You couldn’t even consider Jack McCoy a role-model. Men come from boys, and the shocking state of boyhood is … well, shocking. Ask any boy what their role-model is, and you’ll probably get: 1) a sports star; 2) an anime character; or 3) George W. Bush. Heaven forfend.

    My point is that men are vulnerable to fall into the role of abusers because abusers are all that men have left to cling to. Making the assumption, as Moby does, that a majority of men emulate the media personas that are found on television or in the newspapers. A well-intentioned but indicative expression describing how men form their morality can be summed up as “What Would Jesus Do?” Since religion is on the decline, you may insert any number of characters in for Jesus.

    If the media is sending a misogynistic message, and men are following that message, the quickest conclusion is that the media is responsible. This diminishes the responsibility on the men, and that is, in my opinion, wrong. I’m not saying that media is /not/ misogynistic, and I’m not saying that this is /not/ a problem. This simplistic syllogism, however, requires a choice: affect the media or affect the man. Given that the United States hinges on the concept of freedom of the press, of speech and of ideas, no matter how reprehensible they might be, the more likely subject for change would be the men. That is why I place the blame there.

    How you could see my comment as a dismissal of the problem is beyond me.

    2. “I do not think, however, that the social disease of ‘personifying with media figures’ is enough to warrant an attack on cultural media, legal or otherwise.”

    My reluctance to attack the media is not only because it is protected by the Constitution but also because of the inherent strength that a marketplace of ideas creates. Perhaps I have spent too much time arguing about the scope of the First Amendment to objectively approach this outside of myself, but bear with me as I admittedly stumble through a poorly-formed construct.

    There is a deeper issue than the music, as Monkey! has stated. In my opinion, Moby is attacking the surface problem. This is not to say that it is not valid to criticize misogynistic messages in the media; I am simply stating that said action only attacks the surface problem. The real problem, in my opinion, is the subsuming of the media message as some form of creed or belief that would lead an otherwise reasonable person to believe that the behavior is acceptable. It is the very act of accepting the message that is a real problem, and probably a symptom of a greater “evil.”

    I see it when people claim that they committed murder after seeing “Natural Born Killers.” I see it when courts accept the possibility of an “irresistible impulse” that is not the product of a recognized mental disease. I see it when courts condone any violent behavior where an individual elects to premeditate the killing of their spouse, both male and female, where they could easily contact the authorities. In short, I see it when people attempt to justify their behavior by pointing to something else which may or may not have influenced them.

    Like you, I don’t buy that your abuser thought Eminem was funny. I don’t buy that any abuser becomes so influenced by music or television or video games that they cannot resist the urge to commit an act of violence. Instead, I believe that these people have been and will always be violent. And, somehow, society accepts media as a possible trigger for violence without recognizing that the violence was simply waiting to happen. That’s the great problem: people accept justification where justifications are not due.

    “I hit my wife, but I didn’t mean it because I was stressed from work.”

    “I hit my wife, but I didn’t mean it because I had a couple of drinks too many.”

    I do not buy it.

    “I hit my wife because I got it in my head that I was Eminem, and he wouldn’t take shit.”

    I do not buy it.

    Yes, media provides a stage for misogyny to play itself out. Yes, media should tone down the misogynistic message. But, as I stated before, we must place the ultimate responsibility where it belongs: on the abuser. Any less than that is unjust.

    I don’t think I can make my point any clearer than that.

  9. As much as I want to, I’m not going to write a novel back. This subject is an itchy one for me, as it is wrapped up in my own abuse experiences, and I’d rather give you the benefit of the doubt that this was a miscommunication.

    You seem to be addressing what Moby rather than what I said, which was slightly different. If you’re making the argument that Moby is coming from the extreme position (ie. media = full responsibility), then I can’t really say either way. But my post isn’t parroting Moby’s or even agreeing with everything he said, as I think he missed the bigger picture of the more subtle ways that misogynistic lyrics cause harm. I was trying to illustrate that with my post.

    And, if you were addressing Moby’s points rather than mine, can you read the part I quoted in my reply to you and try to see why I thought your argument was dismissive? I read your response, and since you didn’t elaborate on Moby beyond one mention, I took it as a reply to my post and what I was saying about how dismissing popular culture as a factor that influences us creates real, tangible harm (and not just the “beating your girlfriend” kind, but the dismissing-your-friend’s-experience kind).

    I would like to try to make one point on the media, though. You seem to be seeing popular culture as an either/or dichotomy (the kind I addressed in the quoted article). It isn’t that simple. This is where it stops being about larger issues like violence as control and starts being about smaller issues. Which is where a fundamental understanding about privilege is necessary. I urge you to read White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, as it talks specifically about the harm that isn’t as cut-and-dried as smacking someone around.

    It is the very act of accepting the message that is a real problem, and probably a symptom of a greater “evil.”

    Which is exactly my point. But, I believe that uncritical participation in the media that spreads the message is accepting that message.

    Like you, I don’t buy that your abuser thought Eminem was funny.

    You misunderstood what I was saying about my abuser. I do think he thought Eminem was funny; he and his brother thought singing about raping and killing women was fucking hilarious. No, I don’t think Eminem caused the problem, but I sure as hell think that the misogynistic culture helped him to rationalize his own pathology. And, more importantly, helped to pass him off as “normal”. Even after getting into some fairly heavy detail with an old “friend” of mine about what my abuser did to me (to the point that I was in tears), I heard from a mutual friend of ours that he (the “friend”) thought that I was just a “bitter ex” and that what my abuser had done to me wasn’t “that bad”.

    Aaaaaaaand, I just wrote a novel. Readers Digest Version: In order to fully understand personal responsibility, we must put into the greater social context that we live in.

  10. I sure as hell think that the misogynistic culture helped him to rationalize his own pathology. And, more importantly, helped to pass him off as “normal”.

    This, in a nutshell, is exactly what frightens, depresses and enrages me more than just about anything tied in to abuse does — apart from my realizing that about half of the women I know have been raped or abused. Everyone else thinks that kind of thinking is okay, therefore it is okay, to the point where a victim will even accept it as what should happen.

    You heard about Paul Martin moving to ban handguns? I should likely learn to shoot sometime soon…

  11. I guarantee people will hate me once I post this, but I have to ask a question.

    To everyone who defends the music with “I listen to it and don’t hurt women as a result” —

    Why do you enjoy it if it doesn’t speak to you on some level?

    And I don’t mean to judge. I really can’t, being a fan of several violence forms of entertainment myself. But everyone’s talking about violence in entertainment as a symptom of a greater societal ill while they completely dismiss the idea that enjoying the entertainment could be a symptom of a personal ill.

    Me, I’m well aware that I’m a violent person. I think about it, I write about it, I read it; but I don’t act on it. Neither does most of the population. Most of us have self-control, and would like to distance ourselves form the few who don’t. So, we condone when we can, we dismiss when we can, and when we condemn we do our damnedest to seperate ourselves from what we condemn.

    We don’t want to look at the Abuser and see ourselves. We want to see a monster, an aberration — nothing like us. So, any similarities we cshow must be purely coincidental. Even the same taste in art and entertainment — the most personal tastes we have — can’t possibly mean anything. Because if we do admit, even just a bit, that this could possibly be an indicator of an abusive personality, we have to take a long hard look at ourselves that we don’t want to take. Because, you know the only difference between me and the woman who hits her child until he’s black and blue? I have control over my temper. It’s a huge difference, it keeps people out of jail, but it’s still the only difference. The capacity for this violence is in each and every human being, but the majority of us don’t want to admit it exists.

    Andrea’s Family defended that boy because they could relate to him. They were basically defending themselves. As a result of people defending their own inappropriate impulses, instead of laying down the law between correct and incorrect behavior, we get “Boys will be boys” and a chuckle. What should be happening is their accepting that they’d feel like behaving that way, that msot people ahve moments where they’d like to blow off their girlfriends, party irresponsibly, and hit someone who is ticking them off — but a responsible member of society would not behave that way, and they would condemn impulsive, reckless behavior like they should.

    Andrea’s friend is rightr about the man personally, but wrong about the art itself. Of course Eminem is a showman. But he’s a showman speaking to the darkest parts of humanity. He can’t blame society for his music. He must have somthing violent inside of him to express such violence. His fans can’t just write it off as joking either, because in order to enjoy such expression, they must have a similar piece of violence in themselves. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be pleased, they wouldn’t be disgusted, they would be indifferent. They wouldn’t even consider it worthy of calling “crap” because it wouldn’t have enough emotional resonance to them.

    I’m often the first person to dismiss a complaint that “violent entertainment is influencing others to be violent.” That’s not because it’s true, or that I even thought about it long enough to have an opinion either way. It’s because I want to continue enjoying violent entertainment without feeling guilty about it. I want to enjoy that entertainment without examing myself, or the people who make it. Because when I examine myself I find a sadistic, vicious young woman at the worst part of me. To be brutally honest, the only difference between myself and the lady on the news going to prison for child abuse is the ability to control my temper. Not everybody has that.

    It doesn’t usually make me stop enjoying the entertainment, and I’ll probably be back to the same music, movies and comics when I’m done with this post, but there’s no denying what these tastes say. Even if I go through my entire life and never get into a fight, the capacity for great violence exists within me. And anyone who likes the same art, and enjoys the same entertainment likely has the same capacity within them — with varyigg degrees of self-control.

    Having had that realization, I find it extremely hard to dismiss Andrea’s arguments.

  12. I can’t dismiss Andrea’s arguments but I would dearly like to because, like Ragnell, I have a “sadistic, vicious young woman at the worst part of me”. I can no longer claim to be ignorant and unaware but I don’t quite know what to do about it yet either.

  13. tekanji,

    Thank you. I’m willing to accept the miscommunication as well, and want to continue the dialogue. No, I don’t think that abuse is cut and dry. Yes, I’ve read White Privilege (a long time ago).

    Darth Sidhe’s point is well-taken: the danger is in the rationalization of behavior. Misogynist or misandrist, it doesn’t matter; society permits a sort of rationalization that, to me, is bordering beyond reason. Perhaps this is because of the rise of psychology, and its growing acceptance as a form of finding “true causes” of behavior. It has been taken too far, in my opinion, as to provide a “rational connection” between two otherwise unconnected events.

    I disagree, however, with the statement that uncritical participation in the media that spreads the message amounts to accepting the message. If I overheard someone talking about committing an act of violence, but I do nothing about it, that does not mean that I condone the violence nor accept the message. If someone tells me to go and commit an act of violence, and I neither perform that act nor speak against it, I do not accept the message by silence. Supporting the cause, perhaps by buying a CD, may be considered an act of acceptance in my book, but not silence. It simply isn’t logical.

    I would take offense, however, if anyone were to suggest that I condone or promote any form of abuse of any kind. I certainly take offense if I were accused of not giving the subject its fair time of consideration, and have simply dismissed it because music does not affect me as it affects others. I understand that media messages can be accepted as experience; MacKinnon wrote such in Only Words (1993). And yes, I recognize that media can create a construct which people substitute for identity. I recognize that media such as pornography can create a set of experiences that a person can assume as how to treat a woman. I do not agree with MacKinnon, however, in the absolute dictum that this is the case, and that this provides for reasonable grounds to suppress pornographic expression by law.

    I assure you that I have not dismissed your argument; I merely disagree with certain parts of it. It may be a matter of opinion, experience, or privilege.

  14. Just came upon this today. It’s not a funny subject, but it caused me to smile wondering if the poster above ever hit a woman, unintentionally. When preteen boys & girls are listening to woman are ‘ho’s, etal, it becomes part of their personality. I have asked many men, how they would feel if it were their mother/sister/daughter/wife/lover/grandmother that was getting beaten/abused/raped sang about like that.

    I read blogs by young boys, that show clearly they are buying into stereotypes about female as bitch. There is nothing funny about woman being killed by abusive spouses and boyfriends. “We don’t know what went on” was said, about a young man that shot his ex and killed her. What went on was he went to her apartment with a gun and killed her.

    If isn’t “just music”, it’s a symbol of how females are regarded in society.

  15. If isn’t “just music”, it’s a symbol of how females are regarded in society.

    I agree. Not just that, but it’s become so much of a part of society, that it is completely invisible and people fight tooth and nail anyone who tries to point it out. 🙁

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