Archive for December, 2018

December 28, 2018

#143) How not to complain #7: Yes, we suck, but…

It’s no secret that the United States of America isn’t perfect. That said, I find that the “I’ve Been To 53,000 Countries And This Is What America Is Doing Wrong” trope has run its course. It’s one thing to bring up meaningful ways in which the U.S. can learn from the rest of the world, but some of the stuff I’ve seen just makes me wonder how much time the authors have on their hands. (Yes, I realize the pot just called the kettle black). Case in point: “The Way American Parents Think About Chores Is Bizarre” by Joe Pinsker.

I have to admit, the title piqued my interest. The government is shut down, wildfires have recently decimated California and the problem is The Way American Parents Think About Chores? Not knowing whether to expect tongue in cheek or unintentional comedy, I climbed aboard.

As it turns out, Pinsker cites some valid, sane points. One quote is from Arizona State University psychologist Suniya Luthar: “How sustainable is it if you’re going to pay a child a dime for each time he picks his clothes up off the floor…are you saying…you’re owed something just for taking care of your stuff?” Says New York Times finance columnist Ron Lieber: “Chores need to be done, and not with the expectation of compensation… Allowance ought to stand on its own, not as a wage but as a teaching tool.”

Fair enough, but where the article runs out of gas is the comparison to other countries, to which only the last three paragraphs are devoted. Thus, the piece falls into a rut I’ve found to be common to this sort of content (which, I’ll admit, I’ve probably spent more time reading than I should). Many authors seem to enjoy describing how the American way of doing something sucks more than analyzing why the other country is better and what can be learned from it.

In the latter part of the piece, Pinsker only cites one source: anthropology professor David Lancy, who argues that parents should harness kids’ natural desire to help out once they start showing it (18 months) before they learn to want something in exchange (6-7 years). There are no examples of this idea at work in other countries and its effects. How has parents not giving kids an allowance for doing chores in Agrabah made it a better country?

To be sure, Pinsker did capture my attention, if only because his premise was one that I simply wouldn’t have considered on my own. That being said, I’m not quite ready to email his article to all the mom bloggers that I know. Call it my white privilege or indifference but if Pinsker’s goal was to get me whipped up in a lather about what American kids do for an allowance, he was a few bullet points short.


December 10, 2018

#142) Christmas Songs That You Didn’t Realize Were Totally Sexist. #9 Really Opened My Eyes.

Note: this is a simulblog, posted on both D-Theory and Positive Music Place.

It’s always gratifying when karma does its job. After decades of dodging bullets, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” has finally seen its day of reckoning as radio stations across the U.S. and Canada are banning this song that clearly endorses date rape. However, our work is just beginning. For every “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, “Santa Baby” or “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” that gets exposed for being the misogynistic propaganda that it is, there are dozens of other problematic holiday songs that are blindly consumed by the sheep every November and December, at once making record company and radio execs rich and perpetuating sexist rhetoric. Here is a hand-curated list of what we hope will be the next set of Christmas songs to be held accountable for their harmful content.

1. Little Drummer Boy

In 1976, a musician known to most audiences as a singer appeared on a television special and blew everyone away with a drum solo. The performer was none other than Karen Anne Carpenter. Despite her untimely death, Karen Carpenter was a pioneer, paving the way for female drum virtuosi such as Meg White, Cindy Blackman (Lenny Kravitz), Sheila E. and jazz luminary Terri Lyne Carrington. So why is it that “Little Drummer BOY” hasn’t been updated? If we’re not ready for “Little Drummer Girl” yet, how about at least acknowledging gender fluidity by changing the words to “Little Drummer Cis-Male?”

2. Please, Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas

Why does it have to be “Daddy” that gets drunk while “Mama” cries? Also, maybe we could update the lyrics to acknowledge the many same-sex couples that are raising children in today’s world, sober or otherwise.

3. Run Run Rudolph

Sigh: another song that models obsolete gender roles in describing kids’ Christmas gift wishes. The “boy” asks for a guitar while the girl wants…you guessed it…a doll. OK, maybe Chuck Berry’s 1950s recording gets a “different times” pass, but when Luke Bryan remade the song, he had an opportunity to update the lyrics but didn’t. Swing and a miss!

4. Christmas Wrapping

This glib song from the early ’80s insidiously presents its heroine as an independent, successful woman before showing its true agenda: the only way for her to be happy on Christmas is a random encounter with the “guy [she’s] been chasing all year.”

5. Same Auld Lang Syne

Guy bumps into Ex on Christmas Eve. Ex lets it slip that she’s not happy in her marriage. Guy buys a six-pack and drinks it with Ex in the car. Our work here is done.

6. Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire (The Christmas Song)

This song contains at least two lyrics that could be updated for the #metoo era: “Jack Frost nipping at your nose” assumes gender while “Every mother’s child is going to spy…” excludes nontraditional families. Sidebar: while it’s not sexist, per se, can we do something about the line “Folks dressed up like Eskimos”? And what’s with “Kids from one to ninety-two?” Do people aged 93 and up not count?

7. It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way

Don’t let the lyrical acoustic guitar and soothing vocals of Jim Croce fool you. This song, like “Christmas Wrapping”, is a wolf in sheep’s clothes. A man, using the trope of loneliness during the holidays, implores his ex to see him on Christmas Eve. “It’s only right,” Croce creepily sings. Stalk much?

8. Linus and Lucy

Some might argue that an instrumental song can’t be sexist. Maybe so. But why does “Linus” have to come first in the song’s title? Are we going to tell the girls who watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” each year that they will always be secondary to boys?

No, it doesn’t feel good to let go of something that is familiar, but sometimes change is simply necessary. Let’s get on the right side of history and start the conversation about smashing the Christmas patriarchy.