By Gretchen Wehmhoff
About twenty years ago I was driving my 13-year-old daughter and her friends somewhere, I don’t know where. Can’t remember that, but I can remember listening to words come over my car speakers that alarmed me. The girls had chosen a radio station that played mostly rap. I’m not against the format and I enjoyed some good RnB, but this was nuts.
The rapper was addressing women in his song, telling them to do what he thought they should do for him. Move on over here … do this … let me do this. Basically suggesting things that were demeaning, controlling and disgusting. (This is a PG-13 publication, so I’m limiting my descriptions of the lyrics.)
I turned the volume to zero. The back seat was instantly annoyed.
“Whydcha do that? We were listening to that.”
“Did you hear what they were saying?” I asked.
“No, we don’t listen to the words.”
“Well you should. They are awful. They say terrible things about women,” I said changing the station.
I might as well have declared war.
Any parent can imagine the conversation that followed which ended with me saying, “My car. When you get a car you can play anything you want.”
I wasn’t worried about the argument. I was appalled at the lyrics I heard as I flipped through stations. They were sexual, aggressive, demeaning and disrespectful. Not all rap was that way, just a certain number of rappers. I determined there was decent rap and crap rap.
This past year I’ve been driving my 14-year-old granddaughter, my daughter’s daughter, and her friends from Anchorage to our home and back for sleepovers. They asked if they could listen to their music.
I gave the girls a chance. The four teenagers excitedly hooked a phone to the car and I was enamored with their choices. They knew the words, singing them loud and strong, bouncing the car as we drove down the highway.
These were songs of strong women, supportive of girls in a media world. They played, Scars to Your Beautiful by Alessia Cara (listen) and the car rocked as the girls sang, “There’s a hope that’s waiting for you in the dark, you are beautiful just the way you are.”
Then Bruno Mars starts singing about his love that was tossed in the trash and the car starts moving.
“Turn it up,” they plead as they join Mars in singing “I’d catch a grenade for you, throw my hand on a blade for you, I’d jump in front of a train for you, You know I’d do anything for you.”
I think my favorite was Victoria’s Secret by Jax. Jax starts singing about what she wished she had been told when she was younger. Soon the car starts to rock with, “I know Victoria’s secret, and girl you wouldn’t believe. She’s an old man who lives in Ohio, making money off of girls like me.” The song berates commercializing unrealistic body types and how it impacts young women. The volume of the singing girls was crazy as the they sang, “Victoria was made up by a dude.”
These young women weren’t settling for music, they were selecting music that made them bounce a car, sing together and dance on the bed. I sang with them.
It was hard not to.