0047: Social Justice, Feminism, and Music Class
#socialjustice #feminism #teach
Songs are powerful tools for teaching. They are relevant to a culture, a time, and a place. They deliver messages in a way that allows a participant to soak it in at their own pace. And, when accompanied with good critical discourse they can leave a lasting impression that pushes towards transformation.
I teach in a junior high—the land of uncontrollable hormones. The struggle to fit in is timeless and results in countless self-betrayals. It’s a time of sexual discovery for many— many without their consent. But, many don’t know that consent is required. The example is set around them. The men rule the roost. He takes what he wants, when he wants. Even though the woman may run a household and father is distant or not present, many submit when he comes around. Following suit, the girls I teach allows guys to touch them however, push them around, degrade them, and so forth. Clearly that’s (hopefully) fought off by the watchful eye of a teacher in a class, but outside its up to the individual. I’ve talked to many girls, and boys about the topic. When I first started teaching I was shocked when my girls expressed their views of themselves to me. Many considered themselves property. They had no reason to not allow a male to do what he wanted, because they has seen the violence that resulted in fighting off advances. Many of them had never been told that they absolutely have every right to say “no” or “stop”. It’s engrained through constant oppression. It must be breached. The subject must be brought into the open and discussed. There is so much silence and acceptance.
I planned a lesson around this topic today, but rather than lecturing which generally leads to nods and minimal discussion. We learned a song, this is music class after all. The song was “I know a young woman who swallowed a lie”, to the tune of The cumulative song about the old lady who swallowed a fly. The young woman swallows a lie, then the rule to serve others, then some fluff about make up and candy, and then a line about being “dumb, baby”, and then a ring, and some Spock about being just a mother and tending the flock. Of course she becomes liberated at the end and regurgitates the whole bit. We sang the song the boys looked shocked and the girls where full of comments, questions, and ready to discuss. Girls in this class who are typically quiet and passive spoke up. These are 7th and 8th graders mind you. One boy said that women were supposed to stay home. He got 10 fiery looks and quickly said he was joking. This was an unexpectedly good discussion. The song allowed for a slow realization of the point, and it wasn’t a lecture from some paternalistic teacher. We shared a cultural experience and then they discussed the content of the song without needing me.
The topic will not disappear. The fact that it isn’t just a topic, but a painful reality for many will not change. We can’t remain silent though. And we have to empower those in our care to breach the silence, and to stand up for themselves. I accidentally was a good teacher today. There should be more accidents like this one.