Staring Straight Back at Me

The listening activity in class this week was a thought-provoking and eye-opening experience. While I listened to the songs, I made a conscious effort to mark or comment on any words or phrases that struck me. After listening to and analyzing all of the songs on my own, I felt empowered, yet I felt as though the messages presented in the songs were already messages that I knew and fully understood—cemented lessons from adolescence. When these songs were analyzed as a class and my peers shared their thoughts, many of their insights resonated with mine. However, I was not affirmed in what I knew because I realized how much I did not know. I recognized how I failed to notice some messages in the songs that reinforced gender roles. I did not notice how in “Ain’t Nuthin’ But a She Thing” by Salt-N-Pepa their “shout out to the mamas out there” supports the mammy stereotype. Nor did I initially find a problem in “Black Girl Pain” when singer Talib Kweli describes his daughter as a “pretty black princess [who] smell[s] sweet” and mentions that if he dies his daughter will be protected by her bigger brother, Amani.

My failure to perceive these problematic messages was not because I did not read the lyrics carefully, or because I did not take the time to consider their significance. I realize now that I did not discern these messages because I—like the speaker in “Someone Else’s Eyes”—have internalized and become passive to some of the messages that society promotes on a daily basis. I hope that over the course of this semester, I will be more cognizant of the reinforcement of gender roles in every arena and will dismantle the gender ideologies that I have subconsciously internalized.

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