Patriarchy Hides in Trainor’s Song

I recently gave this workshop where I opened with Meghan Trainor’s ubiquitous song: “It’s all about the Bass”. Now, on the surface this is a song that seems to be about feminism, self-esteem and breaking the hegemony of the skinny versus voluptuous argument. However, and simply put, this is my claim: Her song masks a much deeper issue: That of the overall greco-roman infatuation with the objectification of women.

How so? First, watch the video to see what I am saying. Note: This is NOT an attack on Meghan at all, it’s the unpacking of how sinister patriarchy can be when left unchecked, that it can hide in the very ways we are taught to even speak, the ways we see the world and each other. She is not at fault, but we have to be vigilant about this.

Trainor’s lyrics set up a false-dichotomy. Although, yes, in the West there has been a privileging of the woman to be quite skinny (which has sent some women into a frenzy to lose wait, take self-esteem workshops, bulimia, anorexia and other addictions), the issue itself emerges that Meghan’s issues are still present in this song. Mainly, due to the fact that she attacks the skinnier female image as being false (‘photoshopped’) and then she validates her position by using her mother’s words of affirmation. However, even these words are dripping with patriarchy and the heteronormative objectification of the woman.

This is quite serious, in that, if there is ever to be freedom from patriarchy, and women are liberated from the gaze of the man, it will come when women stop defining themselves as man’s object of desire. Yes, to be desired is great, it makes you feel good, and it validates who you are and so on. But, like any of us, we should never enter any relationship that is sustained around the notion of the other finding their value in us. Meaning, we shouldn’t depend on something outside of us to define our self-worth no matter how good it feels. This is the whole point of the Emma Watson campaign #heforshe, its meant to illicit a new way to be human, a new form of discourse where men and women fight for gender equality. We don’t need more music that steeps us all deeper in the mire of historical patriarchy.

The irony is here, if you head over to Meghan Trainor’s twitter feed, you will clearly notice her picture has been photoshopped. This is a huge problem, because she clearly does not believe her own lyrics, which again, are themselves highly problematic.The image is itself a testament to the pervasive issue of self-image, or the self-as-a-image, where we set up in our minds what we think it means to be acceptable and pleasing to our peers and those we want to impress and then devour that image at the cost of our own individuality. Ironically, the video is meant to be about the individual, but is still set under the gaze of being the object to make a man happy. (Follow the lyrics link below to find out more)

Men need to rise up and fight for a world where women are treated equal, not as objects, or pieces of meat or are there for entertainment, but rather are valued as fellow humans. Gone are the days of boring heteronormativity. Where men are somehow meant to choose a wife, or women are meant to choose husbands, or that we somehow can’t be alone and be happy. We need new songs that challenge centuries of how we have come to think. We need to embrace change. We need to fight for it.  Now is the time for believing, fighting, and defending a world where equality supercedes the objectification of women. Where we all can embrace each other on the battlefield of equality and begin tackling together even bigger issues, like world poverty, economic disparity, Ebola, terrorism and the like.

Better than I could ever say, are the words of well-know feminist, Bell Hooks on the issue: “

Visionary feminism is a wise and loving politics. It is rooted in the love of male and female being, refusing to privilege one over the other. The soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys. Love cannot exist in any relationship that is based on domination and coercion. Males cannot love themselves in patriarchal culture if their very self-definition relies on submission to patriarchal rules. When men embrace feminist thinking and practice, which emphasizes the value of mutual growth and self-actualization in all relationships, their emotional well-being will be enhanced. A genuine feminist politics always brings us from bondage to freedom, from lovelessness to loving.”


Source: Lyrics




Do We Need Philosophy Today?

Marx famously said that: ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.’  So, can philosophy ever be retrieved from the ivory towers that hold it prisoner? Will philosophy ever be taken seriously as a possible voice in helping change the world? It seems that this not the case.

Sure, we have intellectuals who critique the world, but not many of them change it. Of course, even in those words hide the sinister epidemic hiding in plain sight: namely, western messianism. The desire for either one person to come and redeem us all from a world that is collapsing around us, or for each of us to stand up and become a savior of our own making. But, as the philosopher Slavoj Zizek once made clear: “…once you have more than one fantasy in the room…someone will have to sacrifice their own dreams of reality…” Is this where we are today? The height of individualism has ushered in new forms of racism, new forms of global xenophobia. From Ferguson to Bosnia, from ISIS to Ebola, from Climate Change to the pornographic act of human slavery. (LINK)

We have to be honest, the world is in crisis. But, let this not be another article in defense of philosophy for the sake of some sort of idealistic treatise, but rather an opening up of a space that society has never really considered before. Historically, the greatest form of xenophobia is toward that of philosophy. We have had periods of history where religion was the very mechanism by which how culture and society were developed and identified. Then came the enlightenment, which some might argue was the emergence or centering of philosophy and the decentering of religion into  humanism. However, we have to be honest about what humanism is and is not. It is not a philosophy, it is in its most concentrated form, an underdeveloped religion of man, which is not a philosophy in any right. Philosophy is meant to give us new language and new coordinates to situate ourselves within a new kind of world. It is meant to be liberating, and therefore it should be liberated into the social sphere.
    Here are a few steps for philosophy to be taken seriously as a possibly interlocutor:
    Speak Concretely:
    One of the major attacks on philosophy is that its language is abstract and for the few. It’s esoteric and demanding. Simple words are sometimes the most powerful. It was Einstein who said: “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” I know this might seem a bit reductionist, but there are better ways to get a message across then feeling compelled to use: ontology, metaphysics, interrelations, or a priori. This is not to say that there is never a time or a place for this, but to realize that, as philosophers, we must not assume that everyone speaks our language. It’s like entering a country where our native tongue is not spoken. Let’s listen to the critiques that claim we need to be accessible.
Speak About the Issue:
In logic, there is this notion of setting up a “straw man” which is to say someone sets up an issue or an opponent to never actually deal with the issue at hand. So, why are so many people reticent to include philosophy as a contending voice in developing a better world? Because we tend to waste our time dancing around the issue. Rather than focusing on nuances of an issue, or creating ones that don’t really have anything to do with the issue at hand, we need to spend time knowing the content we are talking and presenting the issue as the issue. This isn’t to say that other related issues aren’t important or that we shouldn’t deal with residual topics, but rather it means we don’t create an argument out of distraction just to sound smart.
Get Out on the Streets:
There are way too many street-preachers today, preaching the wrong kind of gospel. We need to philosophers to be accessible, real and part of everyday life. We need people who care about the world. Afterall, a philosopher has to get out of bed like anyone else, don’t they? We need philosophy to re-emerge as it once was, the kind that emulates the life and times of Aristotle and Plato, but translated to fit within the here and now. We do need philosophy, but we need it to speak to the current dimensions of our existence, we don’t need it to wonder about what we don’t know. We need it to be grounded.
Although this list isn’t exhaustive, I think its a good starting point. If we look closely and look around us, philosophy is embedded in every fabric of our being. From the way we eat our food to the way we buy commodities, from the way we worship to the way we vote, we are surrounded by philosophical ideas. From the way we interpret the role of technology to the way we define international politics, we are people who are encircled by ideas. We thrive on them. They drive us. We can’t escape philosophy, and it can’t escape us. We need it more than ever today. Don’t you agree?