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Baby, it's December 6th

It frustrates me that on this December 6th (in Canada, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women) there's more heated debate about radio stations choosing not to play an old song than action to end gender-based violence. The song's defenders say those who don't like it aren't interpreting it properly, that it's "just a song" and that people who find it offensive should "get over it".

I'll be the first to admit the lyrics aren't be the worst example of misogynist song-writing but that doesn't mean they're not objectionable.

Think about it. If the woman really wants to stay, why doesn't she just say so? Why does she instead offer excuses, insisting she really "must" go. Because society - then and now - judges, devalues and punishes women who express their romantic and sexual desires too frankly. 

If she doesn't want to stay, what does she have to say to get him to back off? Why does he assume she doesn't mean what she says? And what does his pride have to do with it? She doesn't "owe" him anything - not an explanation, not patience with his unwanted advances, and certainly not sex - and he has no right to expect them. But women - then and now - are taught it's easier - and often safer - to be "nice" to men, offer polite excuses and/or give them what they want than to say no unequivocally. 

I don't know whether banning the song is the best response to people's concerns but it's good we're having the discussion. Violence against women won't end until we dispel dangerous myths about what girls and women want and what men and boys are entitled to once and for all. 

Comments

  1. Agree totally. Wrote a slightly different version as a comment on a Facebook thread you probably can't see, but same sentiments. I've heard that in fact the writer of the song had no idea/intention of disrespecting women or romanticizing assault. None the less, the words are there.

    The difficulty is in moving forward with this and so many other songs, movies, books, and other cultural artifacts. If we ban them completely (Goldfinger was the example I used in the other comment thread) there isn't going to be much left to watch. If we leave them accessible so they can be used as a 'learning moment' as the saying goes, who is going to provide the learning that that is what sexual assault looks like?

    Look at the old movies. Everybody smoked. There's times you can barely see across the room for cigarette smoke. Yes, some directors could use it for artistic effect, and maybe some of those actors didn't actually smoke. Now very few people smoke in real life, and those that do are segregated and shamed. (Mostly rightfully, as an aside, though I've hung out with the black lung guild (carefully standing up wind) because sometimes that's where the best stories were.) Even in the movies, someone smoking is probably being used to make a point, like the Natalie Portman character in Leon the Professional.

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