S&M and Women in Music

I’m a Top 40 girl, always have been. I lived for those noon-hour sock-hops in high school, and still, I love to dance the night away.

Music played an enormous part in my emotional & social development. Despite the “no boyfriends, no makeup, no parties” rules my Tiger parents enforced, being able to discuss the deeper meanings of Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach or Whitney Houston’s Saving All My Love For You, showed the cooler kids that there was more to me than my flute. In Grade 9, I would spend hours with my ear cocked to my favourite station (CKLG 73), index and middle fingers poised over the PLAY and RECORD buttons on my AM/FM/Cassette player, ready to launch into action should Madonna’s Borderline hit the airwaves. And if I was really in the groove, I would record it perfectly, without any of that inane DJ jabber. I would try to dress like Madonna in her Lucky Star video, carefully so not to draw my parents’ ire and argue with my sisters about which one of us would get to marry John Taylor of Duran Duran. I spent countless hours playing my tapes back and forth, meticulously deciphering the lyrics so that I could sing them gleefully while dancing. Music was my happy place.

Now that I’m much, much older, music still moves me. But there are some who would argue that my tastes haven’t matured in accordance with my age. My husband chides me for my so-called teeny-bopper taste in music. But I beg to difffer – Katy Perry, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Pink, Ke$ha – these ladies sing some of my favourite anthems! Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream has actually propelled me up the legendary Grouse Grind. Sometimes after a hard day of skiing, you will find me rocking out at Buffalo Bills, singing at the top of my lungs (without a microphone, thank goodness!)
You.make.me
Feel like I’m living a
Teen.age.dream
The way you turn me on
I.can’t.sleep
Let’s run away and don’t ever look back

Great music moves me and transforms me into a dancing dervish, and I love how that makes me feel. Better than Botox, anyday.

But now, there is an incredible new song that I love and frankly, I’m aghast. Rihanna’s new S&M song is great dance music. Even the lyrics, while jaw-dropping, showcase a powerful woman Betty Friedan would be proud of, but when Ri-Ri showed up at the Grammys in a sheer dress that showcased her butt crack, I had to begin to worry about the legions of not-yet women she is influencing.

Cause I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it
Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it
Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But chains and whips excite me.

Oh, I love the feeling you bring to me
Oh, you turn me on
It’s exactly what I’ve been yearning for
Give it to me strong
And meet me in my boudoir
Give my body some AHH, AHH, AHHHH,
I like it, like it

While her 42 year old fans might be able to appreciate those powerful (and explicit!) words, I’m uncomfortable with the fact that her younger fans have Rihanna as a role model for what is womanhood. I grew up on Bananarama’s Cruel Summer and The Go-Go’s Our Lips are Sealed, and really, that wasn’t that long ago!

It could be argued that every generation has their controversial star(s), and the controversy only served to make them hotter. We had Madonna who wore a rosary while dancing in front of burning cross in Like A Virgin and my mom had Elvis Presley’s gyrating hips that were deemed too hot for television. Are the overtly sexual lyrics and outfits just part of Rihanna’s global marketing strategy? Or should we be more concerned about Rihanna’s ample assets negatively impacting girls’ self esteem as they go through their formative teenage years? And what does Rihanna and her fellow female artists teach boys about women and sexuality? Suddenly, music doesn’t seem so safe anymore.

I’ve switched to an easy-listening station while I muddle this one through. Although the Kings of Leon are probably talking about the same thing as Rihanna with Sex Is On Fire, at least they keep their pants on.
Love Lucie

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A Day to Remember

Today marks the 21st anniversary of the Montreal Massacre where 25-year old Marc Lepine, a self-proclaimed “feminist fighter”, unleashed a semi-automatic rifle upon the female engineering students at École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec. Overall, he killed fourteen women and injured ten other women and four men in just under twenty minutes before turning the gun on himself.

I was in my third year of a Biology undergrad at UBC at the time, probably living on coffee and cramming frantically for final exams. I remember the incomprehensible shock I felt. It was unbelievable to me that someone wanted to harm another just because they were a woman. Universities are places where lofty ideals are cultivated, not witnesses to mass murder. My shock then turned to worry. I remember the worry I felt when taking the bus home alone in the evening. I remember how my pulse would quicken when a man would pass by me on the sidewalk, my fingers clenched tightly around my keys, just in case I needed to poke his eyes out with my Volkswagen key.

But mostly I remember my sadness. That promising lives on the brink of their futures could be extinguished by hate in a country like Canada, a “true North, strong and free.”

I have a friend who lives alone in a tony part of Toronto. When I went to visit her two months back, we went back to her apartment to change before heading out for the evening. We were talking, laughing and walking down the dark hallway to her place, when a man abruptly opened his door (unfortunately, across the hall and just down from hers) to glare at us as we walked past. We shushed ourselves, and didn’t think any more of it, quickly distracted by catching up on stuff. Since then, she has come home alone to find her neighbour in the hall, looking menacingly at her, following her down the hall, intimidating her by not saying a word. She has now installed intruder alarms at her place and is looking to move. She is not free. And I worry.

We raise our daughters to be strong and independent, but most of us can’t block a right hook to the face. The media is helping, getting the message out there. The photos of what Chris Brown did to Rihanna make us flinch, as they should. But the list seems to be growing, or at least, not shrinking enough. Add to the list, Yeardley Love, the University of Virginia lacrosse star, who was violently shaken to death by her ex-boyfriend. Add the Pickton murders and the Highway of Tears. And the over half a million sexual assaults on women per year (source: WAVAW 2004 statistics). It’s utterly shameful that people hurt people, we tell that to our kids, when did they stop listening?

I have 3 beautiful sons, full of vim, vigour and untapped potential. Their father and I promise to honour all women by raising men who love and respect women, and all people for that matter. They will choose brains over brawn, solving issues with empathy and kindness, for themselves and for all mankind.

This is my promise.

Love Lucie