It can’t be sexist, it’s tradition! And lighten up—traditions are just rituals through which we fetishize and deify the past, confining our modern social mores to shapes that our great great grandparents would be comfortable with if they happened to time travel here for a drop-in status quo inspection.
Ever since I started really thinking about feminism about a year ago, I’ve been noticing subtle sexism everywhere that everyone else seems to just take for granted. I honestly don’t know how feminist women don’t go around screaming at billboards and the tv constantly. For example, I had the local top 40 station on the radio while I was driving around yesterday (don’t judge, I just wanted some brainless background noise!). I heard a song that Google informs me is by Justin Bieber with a chorus that goes
If I was your boyfriend, never let you go
Keep you on my arm girl, you’d never be alone
I can be a gentleman, anything you want
If I was your boyfriend, I’d never let you go, I’d never let you go
Seems pretty innocuous at first listen, but then I got to thinking about what he was saying. He’s apparently not her boyfriend now, but he’s trying to convince her. And his pitch is that he would be right next to her ALL THE TIME FOREVER. That’s … not exactly normal boyfriend behavior. That’s Edward sneaking into Bella’s bedroom to watch her sleep. That’s the behavior of a man who does not want his partner to have any interests, time, or identity without him. That’s the way that an abusive partner acts. I get a very creepy controlling vibe from these lyrics. If I was the woman to whom this song was directed, I would be a little worried that Justin Bieber might be stalking me.
But so what, right? It’s just a stupid song by some kid, brainless background noise like I said before! The real problem I have here is that this is being held out to young people as a romantic way to act by someone who probably has more than his fair share of influence over young people’s opinions. This is the sort of thing that normalizes sexist attitudes and behaviors throughout our culture. There are countless examples; this is just the one I really noticed yesterday. The only way to fight back is to call out these examples when we see them to hopefully get people thinking.