Over 30 years ago, in the age of Olivia Newton-John, I stood in a row in jazz class and tried to wiggle non-existent hips to Let’s Get Physical. I still can remember, so help me, some of the moves. I don’t think I understood the suggestive lyrics, though I knew every word.
It’s also difficult for anyone of my generation to hear of Olivia without a direct cognitive connection to Grease. In this musical, John Travolta sings about his car (and presumably other things) in Greased Lightning. After crooning that “the chicks’ll cream for grease lightnin'”, he says: “With new pistons, plugs, and shocks, I can get off my rocks / You know that I ain’t braggin’, she’s a real pussy wagon – greased lightnin’!”
Lyrics of popular songs don’t usually disturb me, mostly because I don’t listen to them. I don’t think young children really listen to them either, parrot them though they may. Popular culture does annoy me some, the last time I checked, but that was awhile back. I’ve been without cable TV and other mainstream media for almost a decade, and I’ve almost never missed it. I’m increasingly intentional about what words, images, and sounds enter my life; I consciously choose as much of it as I can.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, LMFAO didn’t make the cut. I had no idea who LMFAO was until it was proposed as a topic of discussion on this blog, and I have still not heard their catchy song. I haven’t tuned into it even for this post. I’m not interested enough. Time is time – I can use an extra three minutes as any busy mother could.
When I read Cori Howard’s article “She’s Not Sexy, She’s 7“, it seemed to me that what’s offensive about a 7 year old dancing suggestively to a song isn’t the display of sexuality. All of our children, including the very young ones, are sexual creatures – that’s as it should be. The concern is that the child’s sexuality is being manipulated in ways that are inappropriate and have nothing to do with her best interests.
For my husband and me, that complaint about manipulation holds with many aspects of pop culture and mainstream media, so we limit it in our home – not just to avoid what we don’t want, but to make as much time and space available for the things that we do want. We’re not isolationists, but we are trying to make conscious decisions according to our values, which seems like a reasonable way to live. We know our children will see what they see and hear what they hear as they explore the world around them, but we have a little sanctuary of sorts in our house, and to the degree that we can create the environment that we prefer in it, we are going to do that.
And practically speaking: you can talk all you want about the catchiness of song tunes, but the truth is that when you’re speaking to mothers with young children, it’s hard to deny the sweet sound of silence.