(written October 14, 2016)
Juxtaposition is my favorite word. I couldn’t help but notice a dramatic example of it this morning while moving my feet and heaving my body at the Y. (I cannot motivate myself to do said gyrations without serious musical motivation.) Back-to-back two songs played in my ear that cut right to the quick.
First was Taylor Swift’s We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.
Next was Prince’s Gett Off.
As I listened to Swift croon about her pursuant ex, all I could think of was the recently released video of Donald Trump boasting of sexually assaulting women. The night before I’d insisted my teenage son watch Michelle Obama’s speech calling out Trump for his “locker room banter” and his consistent degradation of women. I felt it was my duty to talk with my son about how this event had triggered an avalanche of women to come forward and share the all-too-frequent ways they had been cornered and touched or denigrated by a man. I told him that I thought things had improvedyounger women it has been better, but for my middle-aged peers, we often faced a lifetime of situations where we often were forced to choose to simply expedite our escape from various uncomfortable or volating situations.
But knowing that Taylor is a young Millennial, and listening to the song’s lyrics with this conversation with my son running in the back of my head — I couldn’t help but realize that little has changed.
Then you come around again and say
“Baby, I miss you and I swear I’m gonna change, trust me.”
I know Swift’s song reflects more of a doom relationship than one of an abuser and victim — but when she says “And I’m like… ‘I just… I mean this is exhausting,’” — all I could hear was the sound of a woman constantly faced with men who subtly, or overtly, behave as if a woman’s purpose is their own pleasure.
So feeling weighted down with all this angst, I move from the treadmill to the rowing machine and Prince starts thumping in my ears, with that pan flute beginning that sets you up for the urgent rhythm that follows.
How can I put this in a way so as not to offend or unnerve
There’s a rumor goin’ all round that you ain’t been gettin’ served
They say that you ain’t you know what
In baby who knows how long
It’s hard for me to say what’s right
When all I want to do is wrong
This song is over 20 years old, and I can remember listening to it when I was in my twenties. A man singing about a woman not being fulfilled sexually, and his desire to provide that satisfaction — all just for her because she deserves it (granted, he is planning to enjoy it, but still). Such a drastically different portrayal of a relationship, even a casual one. The perspective that a woman has a right to be sensual, sexy even, and still be revered by a man.
Tonight you’re a star
And I’m the big dipper
In so many ways I thought we were making progress in society, but this juxtaposition really threw me. Had we made progress? How could it be that in so many situations things had not changed? As the First Lady said — all this has shaken me to the core.