My Tipper Gore Moment

Lowe Mill, Huntsville, Ala.This may seem a prudish post. This is. My Tipper Gore moment….

The bass beats of the rap music cranking during our morning dance blast class at the Y sent me back to the 80s of my 20something years. As I attempted, but failed, to keep in step, I mentally wove and bobbed through moments of my youth up to present times, resulting in an empathy for my peers parenting teens.

In contrast, the lyrics blasting via our guest instructor’s iPhone made me appreciate our regularly scheduled teacher, who’s a friend. She’s a wise woman, a boomer like me, a life coach, and I think has carefully chosen music that’s body positive, respectful of and pro women.

What I danced to on Thursday was not.

I’ve been checked out. On the periphery of what parents have been dealing with in raising their neurotypical sons and daughters in an overly-sexualized culture where the gospel of life, love, and self-worth is delivered in the catchy-beat lyrics of rap.

I’ve been checked out, or rather on the periphery because I’ve been raising my only child, now a young adult woman, in an alternate universe due to her degree of autism. Peer pressure, cultural immersion—those are things I’ve only read and heard about from the media and my friends.

The messages booming as we rotated our hips, twisted our bellies and rapidly flung our arms from one symbol to another of coy, tease, and warning:

“Look at my body.” “That girl’s got a booty.” “You can look, but don’t touch.” “Touch my body.”

Oh. My. Word.

I mean, I knew this stuff was out there while I was apparently selling tupperware at the senior adult center, but I was forced to listen to it while gyrating and perspiring. The mixed messages. The come hither. Sold to youth! Most if not all of the songs were sung by women. That makes them okay, right? Heh.

I’m pro sexuality. But the emphasis on female physical looks and sex being blasted in the ears of impressionable youth who are forming their esteem, body images, and creating safe healthy boundaries, or not, around sexuality…well, I’m with Tipper.

I time tripped to the 80s in this class, remembering how my looks first—my abilities, second— was the emphasis too much of the time in the work place during much of my 20s. These were pre-Anita Hills days. In class, as the lyrics blasted about women’s body parts, I recalled the colleague that suggested approval and agreement about the shape and size of my derriere as we were walking to lunch and as the only female on the street, I was catcalled.

Oh, my dear friends who have raised daughters, especially, in this culture of raw sexuality on the open market, pounding and streaming from high-tech devices into the small but mighty ears of your precious off spring. Now I get it. I don’t know what to say. I’m saddened at the messages contrary to female empowerment. Over-sexualization of body parts. The esteem crushers of vulnerable, dear, formative youth who strive to measure up but can’t win. The bar is set too high for all of us in this culture. It’s hard enough for female adults who are barraged at every angle from culture and media that we are not okay and we must be a certain way, reinforced by ever-so prevalent paternalistic misogyny. But this music is not the music of our youth.

And on that note, just as Tipper endorsed the thoughtful lyrics of Tracy Chapman, take me back to the 70s of lite rock. Who was our diva? Stevie Nix, perhaps. I know each generation must have its music and likewise each thinks its rules supreme. Got that. But enough with the over-the-top sexuality and emphasis on female body parts up for male approval and consumption. That’s not taking women’s esteem, worth, power anywhere but down.

photo: iPhone 6, Lowe Mill, Huntsville, Ala.

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