I borrowed a friend’s car for a couple of days. I got in the car and listened to her already set radio stations. She and I have very different music tastes so I was hearing songs for the first time and really paying attention. It is fairly astonishing to truly listen to the lyrics of music.
On one short commute, I heard first a catchy pop song, “Thumbs” performed by Sabrina Carpenter. I was singing along and thinking wow this song could be an anthem to engage people in worker’s rights; a call for a Labor Party. I was hyped. Then immediately after, another equally catchy song came on, “Boys My Age” performed by Hey Violet. I immediately felt unsafe and violated inside the vehicle. Why was this song allowed on the radio? It was an excuse for statutory rape and gave license to so many of the things that we’ve been working against in the anti-sexual violence movement. Hey Violet, a very young, mostly girl band was actually singing encouragement to put on clothes that show skin and “get the attention of a grown up”.
I continued to listen because I was absolutely sure that I had somehow ended up on an NPR broadcast of a media deconstruction workshop. Someone, anyone, was going to break this down. There had to be a moment that encouraged young girls to ask for their needs to be met, but to do that in a safe space with a man that wasn’t by his age overpowering you.
The song really upset me. But, even more than that I’m upset that the song played as equal to other music. This song shouldn’t be equal on the radio; this message shouldn’t even be breathing the same air. I hear someone out there saying we have to be tolerant. Tolerance? I don’t think that is tolerance!
Tolerance is not holding my values and beliefs as the norm. Tolerance is saying marginalized people should not be punished or given less access and rights. Tolerance is re-positioning groups of power, not as the center of the wheel, but one of the spokes on it.
I think what they mean is tolerate this. Tolerate is not tolerance, and I don’t have to tolerate. When something is wrong, I should not give it as much space and weight as what is right. Social justice should not share the same space as rape jokes right next to an invitation to the Women in Leadership Breakfast invitation. I don’t have to tolerate injustice.
How do I decide what is the difference between right and wrong? Who made me the decider? I’m not the decider; any of us can easily tell the difference. What is the impact that it will have? Daisy Hernandez was recently here giving a talk at UNM and she made it very clear. She said, freedom of speech isn’t hate speech; if it incites hate or violence it isn’t free speech.
And, just a final thought. Dear Ariana Grande, “Hood Love” is not one that leads you to “Bad Decisions”; it is one that leads you to caring about, Loving, your community.