Does Some Popular Music Encourage Domestic Abuse?
My Opinion About Why Some Music Seems to Condone Domestic Abuse, Especially Abuse Against Women
Sometimes, I believe I am amongst very few sane people left on his planet; in fact, in most I.Q. tests I've taken, I always score well above average, perhaps even borderline genius, which is why it's reasonable to conclude that I'm also amongst the most unhappiest people on this planet.
The iconic Ernest Hemingway said it himself: "Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know." And the brilliant, reportedly socially inept Isaac Newton was never known to have formed genuine friendships. Abraham Lincoln was notably depressed for much of his life, blahblahblah, you get the idea, but these are included in the many reasons I feel perpetually uncomfortable living in a world like ours, and why I can't simply shut up, stop whining, and enjoy popular songs like a good little music fan just like everybody else. (Grrrr, I suck).
To approach this topic more optimistically, after I listen to the lyrics of songs like Opposites Attract, by Paula Abdul, and Fooled Around and Fell In Love, by Elvin Bishop, I think it's fair to conclude that it's somewhat miraculous that I don't have a solid fraternity of fellows during Happy Hour by now.
Of course, the above mentioned tunes are both catchy treats for the ears; I find Opposites Attract fun to dance to. And, naturally, any masterpiece that features the gorgeous and sensational pop diva Paula Abdul always rocks.
There's also always the nostalgia factor. I remember when the latter hit first made its debut, blasting from the radio of my older sister's car as she drove me to school with her, reminding me not to tell anyone that I was related to her so as to avoid embarrassing her, (ahhh...the memories). So as a little lass growing up in awe of Ms. Abdul and all of her delightful works, I never found anything about the lyrics in Opposites Attract offensive.
The lyrics of this late 80's gem are as follows:
Who'd o' thought we could be lovers. She makes the bed, and he steals the covers. She likes it neat, and he makes a mess. I take it easy. Baby, I get obsessed.
And my personal fave:
She's got the money, and he's always broke. I don't like cigarettes, and I like to smoke. Things in common, there just ain't a one. But when we get together we have nothin' but fun!
And then the chorus repeatedly chimes out:
I take two steps forward, by the lead female and I take two steps back, by the lead guy.
"Very intriguing and awe-inspiring," was my enlightened response. "Clearly this means the song's hero pulls down its heroine, who clearly deserves, and can do, so much better." It was all I could do not to drink the following Sunday away.
The accompanying music video is more interesting, however. The choreography and animation is fantastic. I also appreciate the classic 80's classiness, creativity, and passion that had been put into it. Further, there's a part in which the character played by Paula Abdul has an anthropomorphic boyfriend, an animated character named MC Skat Cat, who performs a hand stand on the head of the lovely Paula's part, in which her leading lady role doesn't look particularly comfortable or happy, and another in which the cat dude appears to have a roving eye..among many other memorable, uplifting moments.
To be fair, differences in relationships don't automatically spell doom. They can even add spice, and complement differing personalities in varying and creative ways; but the types of differences that allow one partner to exploit and abuse another just can't settle right with me. The red flags listed in this song are subtle enough, I suppose, and no doubt the male character may have many redeeming qualities..but they are red flags nevertheless, and well on their way into escalating towards something more damaging, perhaps even dangerous.
From my former perspective as a kid, this song was cool. Now, from the perspective of an adult, and a survivor, I know it's all wrong.
Songs that Promote Domestic Violence
Having met and dated a series of abusive men, I find that the underlying themes to the Paula Abdul hit are in direct correlation with the early warning signs of an unhealthy relationship. I now know that Opposites Attract grossly discounts the pain and misery of domestic violence. While I understand that the media likely doesn't wish to intentionally upset anyone, I find that this seems among many instances in which it can come off insensitive in its ability to distort, trivialize, and make light of the reality. Having long since recognized abusive patterns in a toxic mate, I now find that the song hits me inside; even though I respect its legions of fans, I've realized that it is not unreasonable of me to have an adverse reaction towards attitudes that laud it because I now know the truth. Small things, unfortunately, do tend to lead to big things. With anyone who believes otherwise, I must agree to disagree.
To summarize the song in question, the male character is flakey, useless, and a lowlife, while the female character is perfect, does nothing wrong, and will ultimately thrive with a broke dude from the street who smokes, uses her for money, and because of that will turn out to be a wonderful provider for her and any children they may eventually have. Got that loud and clear, y'all.
I don't know how other women would feel if the men in their lives who were as exciting and life-embracing as the one in the above mentioned song would one day be caught red-handed in bed with someone else, but I, personally, would be relieved.
That said, a man can be manly and hard and edgy and rough and not be abusive. Women have a right to date whoever they want to date or to be attracted to whoever they want to be attracted to. Contrary to popular belief, a guy with earrings, tattoos and saggy pants could be a sweetheart whereas a guy with a suit, tie, and eyeglasses could be a jerk. It's not about the victim or whatever he or she likes in a mate, it's about the abuser, who can come in all personas, all forms. Abusers don't bully just one person, they attempt to dominate others in this way as well, which is why I want to emphasize the reminder to all victims that regardless of whatever others tell you, please know that abuse from your partner is never your fault.
Songs that Encourage Abuse of Women
The good news is, listening to emotionally triggering lyrics can be very stabilizing. After all, it's how I remember to take out the garbage and pay all my bills, and read and reread all of my self-help books, otherwise I'd never get anything done.
It's also a solid reminder of how selective we need to be about who we associate with. For instance, one day, you might be driving to the store with one of your hang-out buddies, and the next thing you know, you're the getaway driver.
Intimate partners are no different in that regard. My ex and I hit it off real well when we first started going out. It's why I eventually thought all the initial little insults, cut-downs, and nifty gaslighting witticisms that slowly ate away at my self-esteem, digging into me and making me feel bad couldn't possibly form a strong basis for a lasting, nurturing, healthy relationship. Oh, and neither was the fact that he later pulled a seven-inch butcher knife on me.
I know none of this will jive well with what I'm about to say next, but if I were to approach this matter from a religious perspective, I want to reiterate that because abusive men come in all types, shapes, and sizes, it's important to marry only in the Lord, and to find someone with whom you are equally yoked. Despite what the aforementioned song espouses, opposites may sometimes attract, but similarities are really what bring individuals together. The more adamant you are about finding someone who loves God and his standards as you do, the more likely you are to find a loving, stable, "three-cord" relationship that can't be broken.
To additionally spoil everybody's fun, the 70's classic, Fooled Around and Fell In Love, by Elvin Bishop, doesn't appear much to support this idea. From what I understand of the lyrics, the song is about a [cough]male[sneeze]whore who becomes miraculously cured of his slut[excuse]ti[ness[my allergies] because he supposedly later meets the one, and I actually find this song quite fabulous. Except, perhaps, for the fact that no man in his right mind would ever hand his chaste and respectable daughter to a man like this, and that a man who never ends up lucking out and marrying because he treats women with respect may end up lonely but with no doubt a cleaner conscience and a stronger character than a man who married and found love because he used and abused multiple women in the process...if he somehow escaped picking up AIDS along the way, that is. Really, though, it's as they say, it's how you play the game, not whether or not you win, that matters. If you didn't win your prize fair and square, I don't know that your victory is all that satisfying or character-building, as it would be for one who genuinely worked for and deserved what he eventually achieved, whose victory only then is that much more golden and sweeter.
It's an awesome thing that the song's leading male role eventually found love, of course, I just don't think that the way in which he found it is the best idea to promote. I'm also not a happy camper that the song encourages the concept that it's a woman's job to change a man. If one believes that all the women he says he used and abused set themselves up for being used and abused by him, then by that logic, the woman he says he eventually fell for was setting herself up for being used and abused by him as well. For whatever reason, most likely a selfish one on his part, she simply escaped being a subject of this poor treatment, and, if he is still abusive, and has made no effort whatsoever to do the inner work that he needs to do in learning to treat women properly, or in preparing his personality for marriage, he more than likely will mistreat her in other ways. The fact that she and all the other women before her can and should do better than a creep like this and should not be made to settle for the likes of him, that she herself is more than likely not promiscuous, and that he in turn, might not want her if she had lived as he had, feels like an abusive concept in and of itself.
But, because it is far more societally acceptable for a man to be sexually promiscuous than for a woman to be, and, there really are some men who somehow get away with skating through life using others for their own temporary pleasure, and end up in happy prosperous marriages with children who grow up happy and healthy and never traumatized by their fathers' past actions, I'll stop bellyaching with my oversensitive self and end the article right here. Thank you for reading and I wish you all a great life.
What? You're still here? Wowza, I guess some folks are more evolved than I think. All those who left, I can't believe you really thought I was serious on that last part.
Getting back to all the fanatic evangelizing stuff, even if one dies all fat and satisfied and happy despite a lifetime of immorality, it doesn't necessarily mean one has approval in God's eyes; and even if one might not suffer any physical repercussions, in one way or another, psychological repercussions are always inevitable. Sure, an abusive person's physical circumstances might seem glorious, but how does he or she feel inside?
Additionally, even if immoral people are not affected personally by their own actions, is it so guaranteed that others are not? Will their children, for example, necessarily escape STD's, unwanted pregnancies, etc., as a result of walking in their fathers' footsteps?
As another case in point: a pregnant woman might smoke, drink, and do drugs throughout her pregnancy, and then by some fluke, her baby turns out okay, and then the mother brags to everyone about how healthy, bright, and beautiful her child is despite all she has done...need I trace the rest of this out for you?
Chalk it up to, "If these types of songs offend us so much, let's just not listen to them anymore," right? True enough. But the fact still remains that others are still listening and being impacted, and in turn impacting others. For instance, women everywhere are probably being raped because of the Elvin Bishop song, and young boys are growing up thinking that exploiting women, not only for casual sex but for money and other things as well, is completely okay. Ultimately, there is no benefit to corruption. No one gets a free pass for ignoring God's laws. I honestly believe there is a great deal of accuracy to the scripture, "You reap what you sow." Whenever I see others grooving to this ditty and I'm hit with these "little" offenses by this, I now know this is God's gift to me, regardless of how much others might viciously and childishly disagree. It's why I no longer take personally anything four-year-olds, (including those with hairy legs, beer bellies, tons of male pattern baldness, and possible venereal diseases), might say to try to put me down, or anyone else who shares my beliefs. Ignorance will always be bliss for some folks.
I must add that it's shameful that nowadays that those who are past 17 who wish to practice celibacy until marriage are considered weird. It may be difficult to find a partner in this way, but it's important to remember that this expectation will continue to weed out the ones who aren't right for us. In my opinion, everyone should wait until marriage, but in our society, almost everything is accepted now and there are no standards or morals; nonetheless, don't get discouraged. Know your core values, stay true to who you are, and one day, you will make that other rare gem feel special, especially if you waited for that person to come into your life where you're comfortable giving that part of yourself to them.
Music that Empowers
Music that glorifies stuff like violence, drug abuse, crime, debauchery, misuse of women, and murder is cute for what it's worth, but I ideally would like to see the music industry take more of a stand in considering what is portrayed and how others, especially victims and survivors, are being affected. Artists might do well to sit down and educate themselves about the dynamics of domestic abuse before they consider how they present song lyrics and how vulnerable individuals may be triggered, as well as how abusers might be invited to further abuse. When it comes to abuse of any type, to any degree, I would like to see society eventually develop a zero tolerance policy. To learn more, I'd urge everyone to Google the Power and Control Wheel, to visit peaceoverviolence.org, or to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 for more information.
For now, because I've spent a good portion of this article mopping the floor with music, I've listed others besides the two I've been knocking with songs I hope might be empowering, for a change. Although the videos I've embedded below are from my personal playlist, you may come up with a few of your own. Think the best of yourself, stay safe, and rock on.