controversies, nostalgia, slut shamers, social media

Partial repost: Let’s keep ’em closed (and covered up), people…

Today’s entry is a partial repost, some of which I originally composed on September 5, 2015. I am reposting part of my blog today, because I feel like being kind of funny, and I’m not in the mood to write about Kevin McCarthy’s ridiculous Speaker of the House vote. I also don’t follow football, so I can’t opine about Dahmer Hamlin. And I’m not quite done with Jamie Lynn’s book… so here goes.

Before I repost what I wrote in 2015, here’s a brief briefing. The repost was based on a 2013 era viral blog post that was written by an Austin, Texas based mom, Kim Hall, who complained about teenaged girls posting pictures of themselves in various stages of undress. It went viral, with many people sharing it, and quite a few people writing snarky rebuttals, about what they considered “slut shaming”. This morning, I’m struck by how innocent we were in 2013, when so many of us were up in arms about pictures of scantily clad girls on Facebook and Instagram. Kim Hall wanted teenaged girls to cover up their bodies if they were going to share photos and videos on social media that her sons might see. Little did she know that a few years later, people would want them to cover up their faces, too. She had no way of knowing about the challenges that teens would face when a novel virus came to town. It’s almost comical…

Anyway, below is my 2015 post. It’s relatively brief by my standards, and most of the links still work.

***Two years ago (in 2013), a woman’s blog post about “slutty” looking teenagers went viral.  The post was called “FYI– If you’re a teenage girl…”  Why am I remembering this?  Because I checked Facebook’s “On this day” app and noticed that I had posted a link to a blogger’s funny rebuttal (I highly recommend reading the snarky rebuttal, which is still up. It’s hilarious!).  The post that had spawned the rebuttal was removed, but not before it was viewed millions of times and shared all over the place.  Indeed, I even responded to the post myself– but my rebuttal is on the old blog… maybe I’ll repost my rebuttal. Why not? 

A couple of days ago, another blogger wrote a post about an entirely different teen related topic.  Her post obliquely referenced the FYI post that has now been deleted but still exists all over the Internet.  Christine Organ writes:

Don’t worry; this isn’t going to be one of those letters. You know the kind. Some well-intentioned and wise adult writes with a just-trying-to-be-helpful shrug about how you should stop doing this or change that. Usually it has something to do with your clothing choices or selfie-taking habits or flirting protocols. Believe me, I’m just as sick of those “letters” as you are.  

Two years later, I’m remembering that post and how it caused such a stir.  An Austin, Texas mom named Kim Hall wrote somewhat eloquently about how she was going to block girls who post inappropriate photos and YouTube videos from her sons’ Facebook pages, because she didn’t want her boys seeing girls in their pajamas without bras, or wrapped in just a towel.  She didn’t want her boys to be unable to “unsee” the sexy teens in their midst, and think of them in a sexual way.  I’ve never been a teenaged boy, but my guess is that it matters little how girls are dressed when boys are at a certain age.  A good stiff breeze can make them think of sex. (I remember Mrs. Hall got in some hot water, too, because her post was originally littered with pictures of her shirtless sons, flexing their muscles in their swimming trunks. People thought that was very hypocritical, and it was! She later reposted it with the boys in street clothes, did some creative editing and rephrasing, and then took the post down altogether.)    

For the record, I don’t necessarily disagree with all of Mrs. Hall’s points.  I don’t like looking at scantily clad girls, either.  However, I think it’s pretty hard (heh heh… I wrote “hard”) to prevent people from seeing those images.  Humans are naturally curious beings and they like to see the forbidden.  So even if Mom scours her sons’ Facebook pages every day, they will probably still see some stuff she doesn’t want them to see.  They may end up with hardened dicks, too.  Perish the thought.

What amazes me is that I had totally forgotten about this incident and was suddenly reminded of it due to another blogger’s oblique mention of it.  I don’t know if she wrote her post about teenaged girls at the swimming pool almost exactly two years later on purpose, but it does seem kind of strange.  

I also wonder if Kim Hall knew that her blog post would take off like it did.  I mean, when she wrote her “open letter” to girls two years ago, did she know that it would be the subject of so many blog rebuttals, Facebook arguments, videos, and online magazine articles?  I wonder why she took it down, too.  It made her kind of famous.  Her blog is still up and was recently updated.  My guess is that she got tired of the attention.  Taking the post down was kind of like closing the barn door after the horse has already gone… but hell, it probably made her feel better.

The overwhelming message I got was that people should keep their legs closed… and their minds closed.  Because sex is bad.  Thinking about sex is bad.  And teenagers in towels are bad.  Especially on Facebook and Instagram.

My thoughts are a little scattered this morning.***

Now, on to my fresh post…

This morning, I noticed that someone in Alabama hit a post I wrote in late June 2020. It was about face masks and the totally nuts– over-the-top– reaction a lot of people on social media were having to COVID-19. At the time I wrote that post, I was feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and hopeless about the future. I was giving serious thought to getting rid of Facebook… a notion I’ve had a bunch of times over the years. It was mainly because I felt inundated with the prospect of a bleak, dystopian world, post COVID. I was tired of all of the annoying, sanctimonious preaching being done by all of the Google experts on social media. In 2020, COVID was very scary, but so was the public’s polarized reaction to it. I was genuinely feeling a bit crazed by it. I’m sure I wasn’t alone.

In the post someone hit today, I noted that I expected face masks to be a temporary measure. Fortunately, my predictions and expectations regarding the pandemic have mostly come to pass. Even here in uptight, but stoic, Germany, people have calmed down a lot about COVID. I was afraid that we would all be forced back into masks this winter, but that hasn’t come to pass. Masks are still required on most buses and trains, although Bavaria– which had the strictest regulations for a long time– recently dispensed with them on local trains. The masks are no longer needed on flights. They are still required in any medical office, including veterinary offices. But, I suspect, they will eventually be phased out, even though COVID is still a problem and there are new mutations. Life has mostly gotten back to normal, and that is a really good thing. Thank GOD.

I guess the one message I take from reading my post about face masks, before reading about a mom who was concerned about her sons seeing girls in towels and braless in pajamas on social media, is that our battles have a way of changing. There was a time, not so long ago, that people were all upset about a woman admonishing girls about being too “sexy” online and asking them to cover their bodies. That was what a whole lot of people were thinking and talking about, blissfully unaware that they would soon be angry about people not wanting to cover their faces. And there was a time, not so long ago, when the topic of the day was face masks, and how we not only needed to cover our bodies, but we also needed to cover our faces… forever. How very depressing. I’m glad most of us have moved on from that idea, at least for now.

In 2015, Donald Trump was still just a very rich and famous guy talking about running for office. No one had ever heard of COVID-19. The idea of wearing a face mask in public was just for germ avoidant freaks. In 2023, we’re all older, wiser, and wearier. I’d say most of us lost some innocence.

Just for shits and giggles, I went to see if Kim Hall is still blogging. It looks like she still is. Her blog was updated within the past few months, anyway. It appears that she’s a dedicated conservative Christian, and lately, her posts seem to be about the evils of allowing transgender teenagers to access treatment that would allow them to transition. She writes about how devastating it is when some of these folks wind up “de-transitioning”. To be honest, I don’t know much about how many people decide to de-transition. It’s not a subject I spend a lot of time researching. Apparently, Kim Hall is upset about it. I see in the summer of 2020, she posted about the “hysteria” over COVID, and how God has “lovingly” numbered our days. So we all might as well simmer down… those were not her actual words, but I think it was kind of the attitude she imparted. I don’t think we were in disagreement about that, based on what I wrote in 2020, although my reasoning has a lot less to do with God’s plan and more to do with how extreme reactions often do more harm than good.

Anyway… Kim Hall is probably better at blogging than I am. She has a Facebook following of about 11,000, while I recently took down my Facebook page for this blog. So what do I know? 😉 Looks like her kids are pretty much grown now, too, so that means she doesn’t have to concern herself with what they see on Facebook anymore. See? Battles change all the time!

And, what the hell… I think I’ll repost my 2013 commentary about Kim Hall’s post. Stay tuned.

 

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communication, complaints, controversies, modern problems, social media, true crime

Sometimes it’s okay to complain…

Yesterday, I wrote a couple of posts that were kind of on the same theme. I wrote the first one for this blog. It was about how surprisingly hateful some people are about Brittney Griner being released from a Russian prison, while Paul Whelan stays in custody. Griner, who endured ten months of incarceration in Russia, was sent to San Antonio for medical treatment before she goes home to her wife in Phoenix, Arizona. Many, many people are apparently pissed off about this. They’d rather Brittney rot in a freezing cold Russian prison, where she’s too tall for a regular bed and her hands are too big for the usual labor of sewing. Most of these folks who are so salty toward Griner, and to Joe Biden for helping her, also claim to be Christians.

If you ask these people why they’re angry about Brittney Griner’s release, they’ll tell you it’s because she disrespected the flag by taking a knee during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner”. They think she hates her country, and for that reason, she should endure years of inhumane conditions in a prison behind the borders of our biggest enemy. I suspect they also don’t like Brittney because she’s not like they are. She’s 6’9″ tall. She’s Black and queer, and has a deep speaking voice. She uses marijuana. Deep down, people who espouse that much hatred are terrified by people who are different. They see Brittney as an immoral freak, and they want her banished for it. They also seem to think that she has no right to complain about racism. They tell her, “America– love it or leave it.” If something is wrong, you have no right to gripe. Because in their eyes, she’s less than they are.

Of course, Brittney has already shown us that she’s definitely NOT like the the people who want her to suffer. That’s a good thing. We need fewer people in our country who can’t embrace diversity. And we need fewer people who want to silence those who have legitimate concerns about the way things are going in the United States for anyone who isn’t a Christian, white, conservative male with a gun.

The other post I wrote yesterday was about how Bill and I complained about bad service we got at a wine shop in France. That entry was inspired by the reactions I got in a Facebook wine group I run. I posted about that experience because it was about wine shopping. The reactions I got initially blamed Bill and me for our bad experience. No one said it outright, but I got the sense that some people thought maybe I was being a “karen” (for lack of a better word). Somehow, ever since the term “karen” became popular, people seem to think that anytime someone complains, particularly if it’s a middle-aged, white woman of means, they’re acting like an entitled whiner.

In response to my post, I got some not so subtle chastising about my so-called lack of cultural sensitivity, lack of language skills (because I took Spanish instead of French when I was in school), and overall bad attitude. Another person assumed I had somehow “misunderstood” what had happened. They wanted to excuse the salesperson for serving straight up bad service, with generous side orders of disdain and disrespect. All we were trying to do was spend some money on local wines. For our efforts, we got the wrong wines, and egregiously rude treatment.

Then, when we complained, we got even more rude treatment, dismissing, discounting, and blame. I guess we shouldn’t have said anything? What really astonished me, though, was that the American people who were blaming ME for my bad experience were people who have never met me and don’t know the first thing about me. Why would they assume it was my fault that I had the misfortune of doing business with someone with a very obvious STANK attitude? All I did was go into a wine shop for a few minutes because I wanted to buy wine. Isn’t that what the wine shop is for?

I think it’s because in America, we’re quite fond of pushing toxic positivity. We discourage people from being negative, even if they have every right to complain. We like to blame the victim, even in situations that are egregiously unjust or horrific. Brittney Griner was arrested at the airport for having a small amount of hashish oil and vape cartridges in her luggage. Yes, it was against Russian law to have those items in her luggage, but it’s not like anyone was killed. I also highly doubt that the people who felt the nine years in prison was a just sentence would say the same thing if it was them or a loved one who got such a sentence, even in the United States. Mention harsh penalties, though, and you’re no doubt going to hear “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” Some people seem to think that if you do something wrong, no punishment is too harsh… especially if you’re different and dare to speak up about things.

This morning over breakfast, I was reading about the world’s most “welcoming” countries, in terms of which countries will allow visa free visitors from the most nations. Singapore was mentioned as a very “welcoming” country. I’m sure Singapore is a beautiful place with kind and interesting citizens. But when I think of Singapore, I can’t help but remember the 1994 case of Michael P. Fay, and how he wound up getting four strikes with a rattan cane for vandalizing cars and stealing road signs. When he committed his crimes, Michael Fay was 18 years old and had moved to Singapore to live with his mother and stepfather.

I remember, during Fay’s fifteen minutes of fame, a lot of people were saying that Fay had asked for the caning, which was originally set to six strokes. He also got four months in jail and had to pay about S$3500 (Singapore dollars). The United States government intervened in that case, too, and Fay wound up getting only four strikes of the cane, which caused bleeding and scarring on his buttocks. Then he was deported, and when he got home, he promptly got into more legal trouble.

I don’t think Brittney Griner is going to do what Michael P. Fay did, once she’s been released from the hospital. Moreover, I don’t think Brittney’s initial crime was of the same magnitude as Fay’s was. What Griner did ultimately didn’t harm anyone. Fay and his friends actually did significant harm to other people’s property, costing them money and inconveniencing them. Personally, I thought the caning was barbaric, and it obviously didn’t teach Fay anything. But Griner’s punishment was much worse, and not only did she endure inhumane conditions, but her own countrymen are hurling abuse at her. I wonder if they’d be this vicious if Brittney Griner was a straight, white woman with conservative proclivities.

Besides being male and Caucasian, Michael Fay had something going for him that Brittney didn’t. He committed his crimes at a time when social media didn’t exist, and the Internet was only just getting started. He also became infamous at a time when our country was less polarized and weird. Or maybe it just seemed that way to me. I do remember though, at the time of Michael P. Fay’s crime, some people were calling him a spoiled brat. But they weren’t gleeful about the prospect of his ass being literally shredded by the caustic strikes of a rattan cane. They weren’t calling for him to rot in a foreign hellhole. They weren’t telling him he had no right to complain.

Sometimes, things are just plain wrong. Sometimes, they’re flat out terrible. People should always have the right to point out the bad things, because that’s how things get better. Keeping silent when there’s been an injustice sends a message that everything’s okay. Sometimes a complaint might seem “silly”. I’m sure some people in my wine group thought I was posting about a first world problem. I’ll admit that getting the wrong wine isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things… although I mainly wrote that post because my wine group is pretty dead lately. Brittney Griner’s situation is, of course, much more serious. Before she went to Russia to play basketball, she had the gall to “take a knee” against racism. She had the nerve to speak up and be noticed, and point out that America isn’t all that great and needs improvement. For that, there are people who literally think she should be suffer for years. I’ll bet that a lot of those folks, fine upstanding Christians that they are, also secretly hope she dies. That’s how warm and tender these supposed “Christ loving” people are…

Anyway… I suppose I’ve gone on long enough. I feel inspired to do a little music today, so I think I’ll sign off and get to work on that. Have a great Saturday… and embrace your inner “karen” if you are so inclined and a situation merits it.

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communication, complaints, controversies, ethics, law, true crime

Why do so many people like to blame the victim?

Yesterday was an interesting day. It started in the usual way and ended with a couple of situations that have led me to ponder this morning. Why do so many people seem to think others deserve anything negative that happens to them? Why do some people have this innate instinct to spin any tragic or awful situation into something that could and should have been avoided or prevented? And why do so many people seem to want to see other people suffer?

Take Brittney Griner’s situation. Griner is a basketball star who won gold medals at the Olympics and played for the W.N.B.A. She went to Russia to play basketball. In February, she was arrested at an airport in Moscow when customs agents found vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage. Griner’s arrest happened just before Russia invaded Ukraine. Her case was soon international and daily news, especially when in August of this year, she was sentenced to nine years at a Russian penal colony.

Yesterday afternoon, Europe time, it was announced that Griner was exchanged for a notorious Russian arms dealer named Viktor Bout who was doing time in a U.S. prison. Bout had been languishing in the United States for eleven years, and was sentenced to twenty-five years.

My first reaction, when I read about Brittney Griner’s release, was relief. I always like to hear about Americans who are locked up abroad– especially when they are obviously being used as political pawns– being released and coming home. Yes, I know that fellow American, Paul Whelan, is also locked up in Russia, serving sixteen years of hard labor, and President Biden wasn’t able to secure his release. But he was able to get Brittney out, and now she’s coming home to her wife, Cherrelle Griner, and her parents. Yes, I know she broke Russian law by having hashish oil in her luggage, but I don’t think that crime should warrant being locked in a Russian hellhole, being tortured, starved, and forced to work in inhumane conditions. I don’t think ANY prisoner should be treated that way, regardless of their crimes. Russia is well known for mistreating prisoners.

Maybe trading Griner for Bout was an “uneven exchange”, but what was the alternative?

I read a number of puzzling responses to the news that Brittney was released. Some people were actually ANGRY about it. They cited the fact that Whelan is still locked up, and he is somehow a “better American” than Brittney is. One woman, upon reading that Griner would be going to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, wrote that she should be happy, since “medical marijuana is legal in Texas.” Was that response that really necessary? Why can’t people simply be happy that an American citizen is not going to be tortured for nine years for a very minimal offense? Whose side are they on, anyway?

One of the comments regarding Brittney Griner’s situation.

I also get that some people don’t like Brittney Griner because they see her as immoral and unAmerican. She’s a Black lesbian who took a knee during the national anthem, protesting racism. She moved to Russia to play basketball instead of staying in the United States. For these “crimes”, she should have to languish for years in a Russian hellhole prison? I know a lot of people are also upset because marriage equality in the United States is about to be made federal law, and Brittney Griner’s “out” sexual orientation and marriage to another woman are very visible displays of what some Christian Americans see as an abomination. It amazes me that so-called Christians enjoy it when people suffer, especially as punishment for things that are beyond their control.

I’ve seen this kind of negative “victim blaming” response in a lot of situations. I’ve also seen a lot of Americans expressing very harsh reactions to people who commit what amount to minimal violations of the law. I’ve written about this a few times in my blog. See my unpopular comments about Debra Hunter, Lori Loughlin, and Skylar Mack, women who did jail time for what turned out to be pretty minor offenses. 😉

Recently, I read about a Tik Tok user named Katie Sigmond who decided to hit a golf ball over the rim of the Grand Canyon. In the course of sending the ball over the edge, she also tossed her golf club. This was all filmed and put on Tik Tok, where Sigmond has almost seven million followers. Officials at the Grand Canyon found out who Sigmond was and issued a fine. The amount of the fine wasn’t specified, but one official said that the fine for what Katie did was usually about $280.

The comments about the fine were pretty ridiculous. I saw more than one outraged person writing that Sigmond should get a jail sentence for her stunt. Really? I could see a jail sentence if Sigmond’s Tik Tok stunt had actually hurt someone. What her offense actually amounted to, though, was littering. Should we really jail people for being litterbugs? I think a fine, community service, and perhaps being banned from the Grand Canyon for awhile is punishment enough.

Why do so many Americans think that jail is the end all, be all for punishment? Do people ever stop and think about how being incarcerated affects the person who is jailed, and their families? Do they consider how putting people behind bars affects society? And do people ever stop and think about when a person has been disciplined enough for a crime? At what point would some of these jail cheerleaders think Sigmond has suffered enough for littering? Would a week be enough, or would they rather see her sit in a prison cell for years? Is that how they would like to be treated if they ran afoul of the law?

The longer I live, the more I think that people don’t really stop and think about the long term consequences of their actions. I’m sure Griner thought she’d get away with bringing hashish oil into Russia. Her mind was probably on playing basketball, not on the fact that she’s an American who was living in country with a leader who has no qualms about finding any excuse whatsoever to use people as pawns. I know for a fact that Russians aren’t inherently bad people simply because they’re Russian. But a lot of Americans seem to think that Griner “asked for” her situation simply because she moved to Russia to play a sport she apparently loves.

Lots of people seem to think Brittney Griner should still be sitting in a Russian prison. They see her as a “traitor” for not staying in the United States. I don’t know what Brittney Griner’s reasons were for moving to Russia. It might have simply been about making money, which I think is fair enough, especially when a person makes a living as an athlete. Professional athletes have a limited shelf life. Maybe she needed the money. Maybe she thought it would be an exciting adventure. Maybe she just loves the game and wants to play during the off season. In any case, she moved to Russia for whatever reason, and got caught up in an international game.

Do people really think Griner deserved nine years in a penal colony for what she did? And why is making money a crime? Especially in our capitalistic society, where people’s successes and worthiness are often based on whether or not they make money?

Awful… and totally unnecessary.

I’ve got more to write on this subject, but I’m going to put those thoughts in my travel blog, because the other situation I want to write about has to do with travel… But the theme is the same. A lot of Americans LOVE to blame the victim. And they love to criticize anyone who has a valid complaint. I don’t understand that mindset, but I notice that it’s especially prevalent in military communities. Bill calls it the “suck it up and drive on” mentality. I call it annoying as hell… Anyway, if you want to read about that situation, have a look at the travel blog later, after I’ve vented my spleen. 😀

I’m glad Brittney Griner is going to be free. I hope she has the best holiday season this year. Her life is meaningful, and Americans should be glad that she’s out of prison instead of wishing to see her rot.

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controversies, modern problems, music, sex

Repost: Getting a little sick of hearing about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”…”

Here’s a post I wrote on December 14, 2018. I’m reposting it as/is, because it goes with my fresh content posted today. And yes, I would probably pause if Bill Cosby sang this… but it wasn’t written with guys like Cosby in mind. Why should a classic song be banned because of a few “rapey” bad apples? Why don’t we ban rapey creeps like Bill Cosby and Donald Trump, instead? The song is innocent.

Last year, I wrote a post on my music blog about the controversy surrounding the holiday classic, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”.  I remember a few murmurs last year about the “rapey” lyrics of the song, which was written by Frank Loesser and originally intended as a “parlor act” for himself and his ex wife, Lynn.  Someone wrote a very informative Facebook post about the history of the song, and its original intent.  I decided to write about it on my blog.

This year, it seems “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, which was never meant to be a holiday song, is more controversial than ever.  Radio stations across the United States have been pulling it from their playlists in the wake of the #metoo movement.  The song, which was written in 1944 as a “call and response” between a man and a woman, was never intended to be a date rape anthem.  In the 1940s, it was improper for unmarried couples to spend the night together.  In order to look respectable, a woman had to protest an invitation to stay the night, even if she wanted to stay.  And the man who was inviting her had to appear to be concerned about her welfare.  Otherwise, her reputation might be negatively affected.

Unfortunately, people have a tendency to see and hear things through modern lenses.  In 2018, lyrics like “Say, what’s in this drink?”, especially in the wake of Bill Cosby’s drink drugging scandal, seem inappropriate and tasteless.  But in 1944, no one gave a thought to a man spiking a woman’s beverage.  It was more a comment about the potential of a drink going to one’s head.

Although I’m definitely not a fan of “rapey” comments or song lyrics, I do think it’s ridiculous that people are clutching their pearls over an old song like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”.  Of all the things a person could get outraged about– like, the fact that our president brags about grabbing women by the pussy– a classic parlor song that was never meant to be inappropriate seems like a poor choice to me.  “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has never been a favorite song of mine– especially when James Taylor sang it with Natalie Cole– but I don’t necessarily dislike it because of its lyrics.  It’s just that there are other holiday staples I like better.

The larger issue, to me, is that I believe there is a place for “the inappropriate”.  I don’t like to see books, songs, movies, or artwork banned.  I remember in the 80s, there were conservative Christian groups lobbying to ban classic books like Slaughterhouse Five and The Catcher in the Rye.  I remember some people were outraged that students were reading books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird.  In those days, it seemed more like banning books was more of a conservative idea, to keep students from reading things deemed indecent or immoral. 

Now, it seems like the liberal left wants to do the same thing with certain classic songs, like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”.  Maybe some people would say it’s different because Loesser’s classic seems to promote “date rape”.  I don’t see a difference at all, though.  Even if the lyrics were “rapey”, which they really aren’t, the song is still a classic.  It should be heard and examined by people.  You don’t have to agree with the content.  Just don’t presume to make that decision for other people.

I just read an interesting New York Times piece about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” which, once again, explains the song’s original intent.  I’m glad to read that many folks aren’t taking this song banning business lying down… although I have read some surprisingly vitriolic arguments with people over this issue.  People like controversy, and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is enjoying new popularity as a download, even as radio stations are striking it from their holiday playlists.  Good.  Frank Loesser wasn’t intending to promote date rape or anything else untoward.  His song was intended to be a lighthearted, flirtatious, fun look at a couple in an era when respectable unmarried folks didn’t spend the night.  I think people should consider the context before they start demanding bans.  And then, after they do that, perhaps they should read a classic banned book.  The opportunity to learn will present itself accordingly.

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controversies, music, religion

I didn’t know “Mary, Did You Know” offends some people…

Most people who know me well, know that I am very passionate about music. I love all different kinds, from classical to country to R&B. I have an enormous music library with songs from almost every genre you can think of. Even though I’m not a very religious person, I have a lot of religious music in my catalog. That catalog includes a large number of different interpretations of religious songs, many of which are usually enjoyed during the Christmas holidays. Music helps keep me sane, and before I was married to Bill, it kept me company.

Back in the fall of 1990, when I first started attending what was then Longwood College, I took a voice class for my degree. The class was taught by an adjunct professor named Ann Ory Brown, who also taught at the University of Richmond. Because my parents were involved in music in my hometown, Ms. Brown knew my dad. Her mother was once a concert pianist, and Ms. Brown’s mother directed some locally run choral groups that counted my dad as a member. I, of course, did not know these people at all. I was mostly uninvolved in music when I was growing up, mainly because I didn’t want to do what my parents were doing. But then I took Ms. Brown’s voice class, and she told me I should consider studying voice privately with her. I ended up taking private lessons from her for three semesters, until she stopped teaching at Longwood.

At one point during our time together, Ms. Brown gave me a copy of a Kathleen Battle CD. I don’t remember why she chose to give it to me instead of one of her other students. I remember a voice major who was in my studio actually asked me to give it to her, instead. I chose not to do that, and fell in love with Kathleen Battle’s beautiful, distinctive, crystalline voice. I started collecting Battle’s music, and sometime in the late 1990s, I acquired a Christmas CD she made with a classical guitarist named Christopher Parkening. On that album, there was a song called “Mary, Did You Know.”

Ahh… so pretty.

This was the very first version of “Mary, Did You Know” that I ever heard. I thought the melody was very pretty, especially coupled with Parkening’s intricate guitar playing. It never occurred to me to be offended by the lyrics of this song. I didn’t know anything about the songwriters, Mark Lowry, who wrote the words in 1984, and Buddy Green who wrote the music in 1991. I just enjoyed the music for what it was to me– peaceful and appealing. The whole album, Angels’ Glory, was just relaxing and good for studying, which I was doing at the time, as I was a graduate student when I first bought it.

Some time later, I came across another version of “Mary, Did You Know” done by The Isaacs, who are known for performing bluegrass, gospel, and spiritual music. I love Sonya Isaac’s voice, and she does a gorgeous rendition of “Mary, Did You Know” with her family members– mom, Lily, sister Becky, and brother, Ben. Lily’s ex husband and the father of Sonya, Becky, and Ben, Joe, was a member of the band until 1998, after he and Lily divorced. Last year, The Isaacs were invited to become members of the Grand Ole Opry.

According to Wikipedia, Lily Isaacs’ parents were Polish Jewish Holocaust survivors; she was born two years after they were liberated from a concentration camp and two years later, they moved to New York City, where Lily’s musical talent soon became evident. She got her first recording contract in 1958, when she was just ten or eleven years old. In 1970, Lily married Joe Isaacs, and they became Christians after Joe’s brother died in a car accident. Their group exclusively performs bluegrass gospel music.

A live version of The Isaacs’ rendition of “Mary, Did You Know?”

There have been many different interpretations of this song, done by a huge gamut of performers. Kenny Rogers did a version with Wynonna. Dolly Parton has also sung it.

A more pop country version of this song…
And the grande dame of goodness, Dolly Parton, has also sung it.

And so has CeeLo Green!

It’s a long way from his big hit, “Fuck You”.

By now you can see, this song has been recorded to great success by MANY fine musicians, coming from an array of different racial and musical backgrounds, and even representing a broad array of genders and sexual orientations.

Clay Aiken has sung it…

Most of the performers have sung this song earnestly, with great emotion and warmth. While I can’t say that this particular Christmas song is my favorite, I have generally enjoyed most of the versions I’ve heard. It never occurred to me to be affronted by this song. Until last night, that is… when I ran across a very active post on Father Nathan Monk’s Facebook page.

Yikes!

Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I’m really getting sick of people trying to tell people what should or should not offend them. I’m no fan of mansplaining, which regular readers of my blog will probably notice, but honestly, I have never thought of the lyrics to “Mary, Did You Know” as offensive in any way. I certainly never thought of them as “mansplaining”! Maybe it’s because the versions with which I am most familiar are sung by women! To me, the lyrics express wonderment and awe. They aren’t about trying to school Mary, the mother of Jesus, about how special her baby is. I’m quite sure Mary knew very well. It probably started with that whole immaculate conception thing, followed by her talk with the Angel Gabriel, and the Magnificat. It’s the regular rank and file people who didn’t know about Jesus… and to me, it would make sense for them to ask Mary if she knew. In the song, Mary doesn’t answer. I picture her smiling serenely and nodding, not getting pissed off and offended that a man would ask such questions. I think Mary would be above being offended by mansplaining. 😉

As one might imagine, Father Nathan Monk’s post blew up, with many people opining. Quite a few people heartily agreed with Father Nathan Monk and Jezebel Henny (aka Ally Henny) that this song is “offensive”. Ally Henny, herself, also weighed in, clarifying that the tweet originated in 2019, and that Lowry deleted the tweet without apology.

Does Lowry owe anyone an apology? Maybe he was offended, too, for people trashing and misinterpreting his song.

I totally understand that when someone puts something creative out there– be it a song, artwork, a film, or even a blog post, they invite criticism. I’ve gotten some pretty salty remarks on things I’ve written. In fact, until quite recently, I used to occasionally get nasty comments via this blog’s now defunct Facebook page. I disabled the page because I was tired of getting abuse for simply expressing myself. I don’t mind having respectful dialogues with people who might disagree with me, but I don’t feel like I should have to abide threats, rudeness, or disrespect. Maybe Lowry’s retort to Henny was a bit snarky and rude, but he’s human. I’m sure he was annoyed that she reduced his song to simple “mansplaining”. I would be, too. Like any human, prick him and he’ll bleed. I saw many people referring to Henny as a scholar, and I’m sure she has an impressive intellect, even if I didn’t necessarily discern it in her tweet. I had never heard of her before last night, though. I’m sure Mark Lowry hadn’t, either, when he retorted to her criticism. Maybe he didn’t know he was supposed to be deferential to her. He probably made that comment off the cuff in a flash of irritation. By most people’s standards, his song is an enormous success. I can’t blame him for responding with annoyance, even if it’s not the best look.

Mark Lowry’s version of Mary, “Did You Know” with help from Guy Penrod and David Phelps.

I don’t think Mark Lowry sings his song like a mansplainer would. There’s no hint of condescension when he sings… just wonderment, reverence, and awe. The above interpretation is a bit dramatic, and that could possibly annoy some people, who might think it’s too over the top. Others will find it uplifting and inspiring, as Lowry tries to convey the miracles Jesus will deliver during his brief lifetime. There is no accounting for taste. One of the lovely things about being human is that we can each have our own perspective and our own preferences. Many people love “Mary, Did You Know?” and would never see anything about this song as “offensive”, no matter how many supposedly more evolved people tell them their opinions are somehow “wrong”.

Bear in mind that Mark Lowry is also a Christian comedian. In addition to “Mary, Did You Know”, Lowry also wrote and sang a song called “Hyperactivity”. Someone on Father Nathan Monk’s post was upset about that one, too, claiming he was “making fun” of neurodivergent children. I had not heard of “Hyperactivity” until last night. To me, the song sounds like Lowry wrote this song about himself, not all neurodivergent children. It’s supposed to be funny. Not everyone will find it funny, which is the nature of comedy. Personally, I think “Hyperactivity” is kind of an annoying song, but I can see why some people like it. I wouldn’t presume to tell them they shouldn’t enjoy Mark Lowry’s song about hyperactivity, even if it sounds, to me, like he’s trying to copy Weird Al Yankovic.

Interesting song.

Here’s one about overeating… Weird Al had “Eat It”. Mark Lowry has “I Can Eat it All”.

This doesn’t offend me, but some people probably think of it as fat shaming.

I am a big fan of personal expression, particularly when it’s politically incorrect. I think people should be allowed to speak their minds, even if I might not always like to hear or read what they have to say. Some of it might offend me. I might even take a vow not to use certain language myself. For example, I refuse to call someone a “karen” or a “dependa”. I don’t use the term “douche” as an insult, just as many people don’t use the n-word or the word “retard”. I think it’s important to allow freedom of speech and expression. That does also apply to criticism, of course. I just wish people would stop insisting that others share their views, because that’s how we end up with dangerous megalomaniacal people like Donald Trump in the White House.

There’s a large contingent of people in the United States who like Trump, because he freely says what they’re thinking, but feel too intimidated to say out loud. They’re so enthralled with hearing Trump stand up for the “conservative values” that some sanctimonious people are trying to quickly bury, that they excuse and ignore the really awful things he says and does. Then they show up and vote for him at the polls, and the rest of us are stuck with him and his toxic brand of fascist “leadership”. I think if some of the “woke brigade” took things down a notch, lightened up a bit, and showed some respect for other people’s differing values, they would get further in changing hearts and minds. People don’t like to be lectured or shamed.

Anyway… getting back to Father Nathan Monk’s post… I noticed this comment just now and was left a little bit puzzled…

What was racist about Mark Lowry’s comment? I saw no reference to race in what he posted. However, I did see a lot of people making presumptions about him based on what he posted. All I can see that he wrote was “I wasn’t asking you.” Is that a racist comment? Did I miss something?
Wow. I think some of these comments are pretty offensive. Especially the one about Lowry being “in the closet”. It doesn’t seem like a very “woke” thing to say.

I can see that a lot of people commenting on this thread don’t like Mark Lowry’s music or comedy. I see that some people, like me, didn’t even know who he was until they read the above thread. Now they’re describing him as “execrable”, “in the closet”, and “a turd” in a thread about how he “mansplains” to Mary, the mother of Jesus. It’s very strange to me, because some people are quoting the Bible and demonstrate actual knowledge of theology when they present their arguments. Others have just resorted to character assassination and name calling, having only been exposed to ONE song by the man. I am not a big consumer of contemporary Christian music or comedy. I only know what I like. And I sure as hell don’t need other people telling me that I’m wrong for enjoying what I like. I would feel a bit nervous, though, to add too many comments to this thread, lest someone call ME “execrable” for daring to disagree with them. 😉

Actually, I DID leave a couple of comments. It was to a well reasoned dissenter’s observation. Behold:

Yeah… this is pretty much my view of “Mary, Did You Know?”. I have no problem with people criticizing the song, but when people resort to personal insults toward the songwriter, they lose out on the moral high ground they’re clearly trying to take.

One woman wrote the below comment, which I think is pretty respectful. I mostly liked her take, but I was disappointed when she seemed to doubt herself for liking the song. There’s nothing wrong with “checking” oneself, but this response read a bit like a disclaimer. She’s not wrong to wonder if the lyrics come across as mansplaining when they’re sung by a female singer like Dolly Parton or Kathleen Battle, who is not only female, but is also Black. Would I call either of them “mansplaining”? Would I question their choices to sing this song? Neither of them are slouches when it comes to making music, that’s for damned sure!

What an interesting discussion!

I always hear the song from the viewpoint of a mother. I could personally not imagine all of the joys, trials and tribulations my sons would experience and bring me as their mother. I thought about how a theoretical mother of god could not possibly conceive of her future either, even knowing what the score was upfront.

Then again, I can be a little naive about intentions. And yet again, my demographic has me pretty experienced in receiving mansplaining.

I also didn’t know that Dolly Parton did a version. She is pretty much a feminine divine voice IMHO so even though she isn’t the male composer, I would have to hear it differently from her.

But “I didn’t ask?” Humph. When you put art in the world that’s what you risk: criticism and interpretation.

Another person, a guy calling himself a “musician”, wrote this derogatory comment:

Mostly, that song just sucks. As a musician, that is among the WORST and least fun, festive, or even touching or emotional Christmas songs. It’s just a boring list of stuff Jesus did with a weak contextual premise. If little kids don’t like it, and/or it doesn’t touch you emotionally, it’s trash.

Um… lots of bonafide and highly accomplished musicians would totally disagree with the above comment. And plenty of people are “touched” emotionally by “Mary, Did You Know”? Does the fact that the above musician isn’t moved by the song negate other people’s experiences listening to it and overall opinions of it? I don’t think so. And there are a lot of songs I might think of as “trash”, but that’s just MY opinion. I only get one vote, even though I am pretty musical myself. 😉

This whole controversy reminds me a bit of the huge uproar a few years ago about the song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” In the wake of the “Me Too” movement, people were saying that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” promotes date rape. I wrote a blog post about my annoyance about that, since “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was written decades ago, during an era when it was considered improper for women to stay unchaperoned with men. The song was written by Frank Loesser and his ex wife Lynn, meant to be a “parlor song” for entertaining their dinner party guests. It has nothing to do with date rape. But people sure want to project their modern sensibilities on classic songs and “cancel” them. Is the world really a “better” place without so-called “rapey” songs like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” polluting the airwaves? I don’t think so. I think the world is a better place when people consider context, original intent, and history, and stop trying to impose 2022 values on songs that were written decades ago. Even “Mary, Did You Know” is a pretty old song. It’s 38 years old! And the world was very different in 1984, right?

If people don’t like certain songs, they have choices they can freely make. They can choose not to listen to it, sing it, or buy albums that have it on the playlist. They can listen to and promote songs that are more to their tastes. They can even express why they don’t like it and invite a dialogue. Or, hey, here’s a novel thought– they can try to write their own, more “appropriate” song! But please don’t tell ME that I shouldn’t like a song because of how YOU interpret it. I’ll try my best to show you the same level of respect for your individual opinions and taste. And please don’t try to qualify yourself as a “musician” and declare someone else’s song as “trash”. Lots of musicians, most of whom are more famous, successful, and acclaimed than you will EVER be, completely disagree with your assessment.

I’m getting real tired of people– especially total strangers– insisting that there’s only one way to look at something. I’m tired of people telling me to “stop” doing something because they don’t approve, or that I should do something because it’s the “right” thing to do. I’m over being told how and what to think, especially by people who claim that their freedoms are being infringed upon. This happens on both sides of the political spectrum, and it’s time more thinking people spoke up about it. If we really live in a free society, then people should be allowed to create things freely without fear of being canceled. Yes, it’s fine to criticize creative pursuits, but when you resort to personal insults and character assassinations, you risk falling off that moral high horse and landing at the bottom of the pit with the rest of the lowlifes. I’m just saying.

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