Let me share something with you that I happened upon recently.
“I got girls that I shoulda made pay for it/Got girls that I should made wait for it/Got girls that'll cancel a flight back home/Stay another day for it.” Or, what about this? “And do you mind if I touch you there?/Girl, you know you can't do no better, baby/I know that it don't get no better than me”
Any clue what you just read? No, I didn’t just transcribe part of the Donald Trump video for you. I did, however, hop over to the Billboard Hot 100 list, and introduce you to lyrics from a song that was on the charts for 19 weeks.
This isn’t a political column. At least, not specifically. This is about a huge double standard we have in our country, and how incredibly confusing it must be to our children.
Not too long ago, our nation was up in arms over comments made by then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump. A video was released which included Trump engaging in what he described as “locker room talk” with another individual. I’m not going to go into the specifics, because the only way you would not be aware of this would be if you are living under a rock (I was going to say if you didn’t have television, but I don’t, and I still knew about it.).
I’m not necessarily going to comment on what Trump said, except to say it seemed very degrading to women. I am, however, going to comment on our response to it.
Political allies turned course, celebrities spoke out against him, and Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton used that moment to capitalize. But throughout this whole ordeal, we missed something very, very important.
Trump’s comment are no worse, and in many cases, much more mild, than songs you will find on the Billboard lists. Don’t believe me? Google the lyrics for “For Free,” “1Night,” or, honestly, check out just about any song by Rapper Lil’ Wayne. These aren’t obscure artists that no one has ever heard of. These are in the top 100 songs in the nation right now.
How can we tell our boys it isn’t ok to say similar things or treat women in a similar fashion, yet allow them to listen and support artists who sing about exactly the same thing? How can we tell our girls they should not tolerate a man who would treat them in such a manner, yet not bat an eye when we hear them singing about being used as a “toy?” Am I the only one that sees the disconnect here? Am I the only one that sees just how hypocritical we are being?
What a mixed message we are sending to our
kids. How can they take us seriously when we say one thing but do something
completely different? I’m sorry. “Do as I say, not as I do,” doesn’t cut it.
Our children deserve better than that.
So, what do we do? We can’t possibly take down the Goliath that is popular music. It is too big, there is too much money, and too many people don’t care. But we can speak out against it.
Each grade that receives the Edge program is challenged with a lesson that focuses on the influence of the media. We quiz our sixth graders on slogans and logos, and it is incredibly eye-opening to see what they actually know. Especially when it comes to insurance. They can name those companies just as fast as they can the fast food stops. Our 7th graders get a lesson on worldview, and how just because we believe certain things about life doesn’t mean it is actually true. Our 8th graders receive an historical perspective on the influence of media as we discuss how Nazi Germany used media to propagate the belief that those of Jewish descent were subhuman. And, finally, our high schoolers get another look at worldview, as we discuss how media doesn’t really show the consequences of choices. And, we let them know that consequences are based on truth, not simply on what we believe.
Media is a very, very powerful influence on our children. Most students have either a television in the room, or have access to a video streaming service on their personal electronic devices. Most of my students report engaging in media for 5-7 hours on a school day, and more than 10 hours on the weekends. Our behavior is an overflow of the messages we receive.
But, don’t lose heart! Studies have shown that despite the huge amount of media consumed by our students, parents are still a powerful, and in most cases, the most powerful, influence on their children. So, I encourage you. Have these conversations with your children. Ask them to name some of their favorite songs and then pull the lyrics. Sit down with them and discuss what these songs or television shows are saying about life, and compare that to the truth. Can you really make those same decisions and not face any negative consequences? Ask your daughters if they want to be treated the way Lil’ Wayne sings about treating women. Ask your sons how they would feel if their sister, or mother, was treated that way. And challenge them to rise above.
If you need resources, please don’t hesitate to contact the Edge. While we work closely with students, we desire to equip parents to have these tough conversations. Our children need to know that the double standard is not ok. They need to know that we expect more. And, honestly, many of us need to hear that same thing too.