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Not ready to make nice

December 17, 2008

Watching documentaries in my spare time is my new favorite thing now that we have NetFlix. Recently I sat down to watch Shut Up and Sing, a documentary about the Dixie Chicks controversy. (Yeah, I realize I’m about five years late on this “news” but I’m feeling ornery.)

My junior year of college I took a course about terrorism, specifically about the performance and spectacle of terrorism. We had a unit on country music.

Now before you cry out that I’m anti-American, I don’t think country music is a form of terrorism. No, I’m not a huge fan but I DO like the Dixie Chicks and I’m a huge Jimmy Buffett fan and some can argue he’s country. I also think Garth Brooks has done so much for the male population that he doesn’t get any credit for. He shows men how to be real men, with feelings and sensitivity and sincerity… not brute masculinity with fast cars, loose women, and guns. So, yeah, that’s my disclaimer.

But in my terrorism class, we discussed the censorship of the Dixie Chicks after their little incident in London as we were beginning the war in Iraq: “We are ashamed that the President is from Texas.” A little free speech on foreign soil never hurt anyone, right?

Wrong-o.

The Dixie Chicks were ostracized and took such a blow to their career that no one thought they could recover. They received hate mail, nasty phone calls to radio stations, and even a very serious death threat that required the National Guard to be present at one of their concerts. They were told to “shut up and sing.”

Does anyone smell the sexism in that? Women should be seen, not heard. Don’t speak out, just entertain us. Why do you bitches have to meddle? Why do you bitches have to misrepresent us in a foreign country? Why do you bitches have an opinion?
When Toby Keith has an opinion, it’s hailed as the gospel. “We’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way.” Really? THAT’S not offensive? Because apparently real Americans are violent gun-toting war mongers, not outspoken, opinionated, sassy smart women. When sassy smart women disagree with the President, the shit hits the fan. (When Kanye West declared George Bush hates black people, was his music censored or career ruined?) When Toby Keith tells the middle east “it’ll feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you, brought to you courtesy of the red, white and blue,” well, nothing screams red, white, and blue like attacking innocent civilians.

(Yo, I’m all for freedom of speech, press, religion, etc. Really, I think Toby Keith AND Kanye West AND the Dixie Chicks all certainly have the right to say whatever they want to say to whomever will listen. People have the right to be pissed at and boycott the Dixie Chicks, too. But they DON’T have the right the threaten the lives of ANYONE.)

I think the beef with the Dixie Chicks had less to do with patriotism than it did with how conservative, traditional, country-music-loving Americans view the role of a woman… especially the most successful female music group EVER. You see, in this culture, threatening a woman’s life is not uncommon. It’s not a drastic event. In fact, it happens hundreds, even thousands of times each day. The threat of violence against women is so ingrained and usually works in seeking to silence women.

And that’s why the Dixie Chicks are beautiful and brave role models for our women and girls. They didn’t shut up and sing. They spoke out, they recreated themselves and their careers, and they’re still doing what they do but they do it with a spine, some grit, and some sassy lyrics:

“It’s a sad sad story when a mother will teach her daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger. And how in the world can the words that I said send somebody so over the edge That they’d write me a letter sayin’ that I better shut up and sing Or my life will be over…”

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44 Comments leave one →
  1. Deutlich permalink
    December 17, 2008 4:53 pm

    that whole debacle ticked me off REALLY badly.

  2. Tattooed Dorothy permalink
    December 17, 2008 4:56 pm

    🙂 I heart them for standing up and letting their side of the situation be known. Thanks for a great read!

  3. LuckLys permalink
    December 17, 2008 5:00 pm

    yeah! i too am hardly a country fan, but i definitely have to agree with you on the dixie chicks and garth brooks. i was pissed that this could happen for all the same reasons, so for my comment, i’m just gonna have to say i agree completely with you. people have been complaining about bush’s presidency and the choices he’s made to “lead” this country since day one, half of the states didn’t even know what we were going to “war” for. gah, it was all so dumb!

    i’m gonna go listen to some dixie chicks…

  4. Melissa permalink
    December 17, 2008 5:01 pm

    I completely agree. & I love the song they sang referring to the incident, just to show that they'd never just "shut up and sing". I love empowering women like that.

  5. Rachel permalink
    December 17, 2008 5:03 pm

    Seriously you and I were sisters in another life. I never listened to country, but when that CD came out I listened to it until it melted in the machine. I sang the “Lullaby” song to my newborn Diana. Those women have my everlasting respect for saying what needed to be said.

  6. Ashley permalink
    December 17, 2008 5:07 pm

    My parents went to a Toby Keith concert this summer and he told them “Anyone who doesn’t support the troops could [insert five whole minutes of flicking the crowd off. seriously.]”

    He also said the f-word dozens of times.

    Oy. I think you’re onto something!

  7. chickbug permalink
    December 17, 2008 5:21 pm

    agree! agree! agree!

    And thanks for the reminder to watch that movie!

  8. ablogofherown.wordpress.com permalink
    December 17, 2008 5:43 pm

    Dear Renee,
    I love you a little more every day!
    There are oh-so-many damn double standards. Remember the Britney-shaved-her-head-OMG-saga?

  9. ablogofherown.wordpress.com permalink
    December 17, 2008 5:43 pm

    Dear Renee,
    I love you a little more every day!
    There are oh-so-many damn double standards. Remember the Britney-shaved-her-head-OMG-saga?

  10. December 17, 2008 6:08 pm

    Amen to this! The Dixie Chick debacle really upset me — it’s unfair on multiple levels — and I think ‘Not Ready to Make Nice’ is an INCREDIBLE album.

    I’m glad they didn’t just ‘shut up and sing.’

  11. December 17, 2008 6:08 pm

    Amen to this! The Dixie Chick debacle really upset me — it’s unfair on multiple levels — and I think ‘Not Ready to Make Nice’ is an INCREDIBLE album.

    I’m glad they didn’t just ‘shut up and sing.’

  12. Heidi Renée permalink
    December 17, 2008 6:19 pm

    Every time I hear that song it makes me shake with anger thinking about the backlash against the Dixie Chicks. Well said.

  13. Heidi Renée permalink
    December 17, 2008 6:19 pm

    Every time I hear that song it makes me shake with anger thinking about the backlash against the Dixie Chicks. Well said.

  14. Anonymous permalink
    December 17, 2008 7:02 pm

    The chicks fans were the ones that gave them grief, not everyone else. The chicks said some bad things about their fans and that is when the stuff hit the fan, that is what caused the problems with them getting banned, not what Toby said. He had nothing to do with that. The reason a lot of people got mad was because the chicks went overseas to complain about their president. They didn’t say it here, guess they were scared to say it here. I think they are talented women and its sad that people keep this crap up. But I guess that keeps them in the limelight. I don’t feel sorry for them because they dissed their fans and they seemed to forget you lose you fans you lose out all around.

  15. Anonymous permalink
    December 17, 2008 7:02 pm

    The chicks fans were the ones that gave them grief, not everyone else. The chicks said some bad things about their fans and that is when the stuff hit the fan, that is what caused the problems with them getting banned, not what Toby said. He had nothing to do with that. The reason a lot of people got mad was because the chicks went overseas to complain about their president. They didn’t say it here, guess they were scared to say it here. I think they are talented women and its sad that people keep this crap up. But I guess that keeps them in the limelight. I don’t feel sorry for them because they dissed their fans and they seemed to forget you lose you fans you lose out all around.

  16. Allison permalink
    December 17, 2008 8:53 pm

    Very well said. It’s like so many people are saying “yeah you can have free speech, but do as I do not as I say”. Does that make any sense? Anyway…I really enjoyed this post. Thanks!

  17. Allison permalink
    December 17, 2008 8:53 pm

    Very well said. It’s like so many people are saying “yeah you can have free speech, but do as I do not as I say”. Does that make any sense? Anyway…I really enjoyed this post. Thanks!

  18. Renee permalink
    December 17, 2008 10:09 pm

    Thanks, anonymous Toby Keith fan from Madison, WI for TOTALLY missing the point…

  19. Renee permalink
    December 17, 2008 10:09 pm

    Thanks, anonymous Toby Keith fan from Madison, WI for TOTALLY missing the point…

  20. Liam permalink
    December 17, 2008 10:16 pm

    I don’t think it’s sexist that people told the Dixie Chicks to “shut up” and didn’t tell Toby Keith to… they do that to all liberals…

    I don’t think it was a male/female bias… I think it was conservative/liberal bias…

    JMHO.

    BTW… not a huge fan of country music in general… but I almost bought their CD just out of principle.

  21. Liam permalink
    December 17, 2008 10:16 pm

    I don’t think it’s sexist that people told the Dixie Chicks to “shut up” and didn’t tell Toby Keith to… they do that to all liberals…

    I don’t think it was a male/female bias… I think it was conservative/liberal bias…

    JMHO.

    BTW… not a huge fan of country music in general… but I almost bought their CD just out of principle.

  22. Renee permalink
    December 17, 2008 11:56 pm

    Wow – fantastic post and dead on!

    I’m glad they stood up and said their piece – they’re smart, articulate and talented women and no one ever had any business telling them to just shut up and sing.

  23. Renee permalink
    December 17, 2008 11:56 pm

    Wow – fantastic post and dead on!

    I’m glad they stood up and said their piece – they’re smart, articulate and talented women and no one ever had any business telling them to just shut up and sing.

  24. Katelin permalink
    December 18, 2008 1:47 am

    well said. i was so annoyed by the whole incident too, so ridiculous.

  25. Katelin permalink
    December 18, 2008 1:47 am

    well said. i was so annoyed by the whole incident too, so ridiculous.

  26. Ashley D permalink
    December 18, 2008 3:03 am

    Wow I remember when all that happened. I lived in Texas at the time and it was a huge controversy. Surprisingly enough though, most people I knew supported the Dixie Chicks and their right to free speech. Thank God, or I would have had to set some people straight.

  27. Ashley D permalink
    December 18, 2008 3:03 am

    Wow I remember when all that happened. I lived in Texas at the time and it was a huge controversy. Surprisingly enough though, most people I knew supported the Dixie Chicks and their right to free speech. Thank God, or I would have had to set some people straight.

  28. elsietee permalink
    December 18, 2008 3:24 am

    Yes, they had a right to say what they said, and to later say that they didn’t want the ignorant people who listen to Toby Keith and Reba McEntire to listen to their music. Only one moron threatened them. The rest of us exercised our right to not buy their music because they offended us. Freedom of speech often comes with a pricetag, which one must be willing to pay in order to exercise that right. Toby caught just as much flak as they did when he wrote that song. The difference is, he didn’t choose to personally insult his fan base in the process.

  29. elsietee permalink
    December 18, 2008 3:24 am

    Yes, they had a right to say what they said, and to later say that they didn’t want the ignorant people who listen to Toby Keith and Reba McEntire to listen to their music. Only one moron threatened them. The rest of us exercised our right to not buy their music because they offended us. Freedom of speech often comes with a pricetag, which one must be willing to pay in order to exercise that right. Toby caught just as much flak as they did when he wrote that song. The difference is, he didn’t choose to personally insult his fan base in the process.

  30. Anonymous permalink
    December 18, 2008 5:14 am

    I totally agree. This song made me like the Dixie Chicks, and Natalie is one of my heros. Rock On!

  31. bigskygirl permalink
    December 18, 2008 5:14 am

    i loooooove the dixie chicks music. toby keith drives me bonkers. he is such an angry man, and i almost feel sorry for him — being that miserable has GOT to drain your energy.

    that said, my biggest issue with both the chicks AND toby is that i don’t buy concert tickets to hear your political views. we took my friend’s now-husband to a toby keith concert for his 21st birthday a little while after “the incident” and his ranting about the whole thing was about enough to make me puke.

    i can sort of see where you’re coming from on the sexist thing, but i have to say (at least for me) for ANYONE to share their views the way Natalie did (i don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but even Martie and Emily were a little irritated with her at first) was incredibly immature.

    i think another factor one has to consider is that as a general rule (a stereotypical one, but still) die-hard country music fans tend to be very conservatively patriotic, which usually includes an unconditional support of the president — while people may not agree with what he DOES, they RESPECT him, because he is the president. the way natalie exercised her right to free speech was viewed by some as VERY unpatriotic and in turn, disrespectful. if a man had done the same thing, i think it would have been viewed the same way.

    i totally agree that no one had the right to threaten the lives of these women, and those that did gave true country music fans (such as myself) a terrible name as a bunch of redneck, gun-toting republicans.

    i just wish Natalie had made a different choice that night. i’m sure george bush isn’t the first Texan with poor decision-making skills. he’s just the most famous one.

  32. Anonymous permalink
    December 18, 2008 5:14 am

    I totally agree. This song made me like the Dixie Chicks, and Natalie is one of my heros. Rock On!

  33. bigskygirl permalink
    December 18, 2008 5:14 am

    i loooooove the dixie chicks music. toby keith drives me bonkers. he is such an angry man, and i almost feel sorry for him — being that miserable has GOT to drain your energy.

    that said, my biggest issue with both the chicks AND toby is that i don’t buy concert tickets to hear your political views. we took my friend’s now-husband to a toby keith concert for his 21st birthday a little while after “the incident” and his ranting about the whole thing was about enough to make me puke.

    i can sort of see where you’re coming from on the sexist thing, but i have to say (at least for me) for ANYONE to share their views the way Natalie did (i don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but even Martie and Emily were a little irritated with her at first) was incredibly immature.

    i think another factor one has to consider is that as a general rule (a stereotypical one, but still) die-hard country music fans tend to be very conservatively patriotic, which usually includes an unconditional support of the president — while people may not agree with what he DOES, they RESPECT him, because he is the president. the way natalie exercised her right to free speech was viewed by some as VERY unpatriotic and in turn, disrespectful. if a man had done the same thing, i think it would have been viewed the same way.

    i totally agree that no one had the right to threaten the lives of these women, and those that did gave true country music fans (such as myself) a terrible name as a bunch of redneck, gun-toting republicans.

    i just wish Natalie had made a different choice that night. i’m sure george bush isn’t the first Texan with poor decision-making skills. he’s just the most famous one.

  34. sarahbelledotcom permalink
    December 18, 2008 5:09 pm

    i’ve read and heard so much about the controversy, and i do adore the dixie chicks, but somehow have never seen the documentary. after this post, it is a definite must.

    beautifully written, miss renee. i completely agree with you.

  35. sarahbelledotcom permalink
    December 18, 2008 5:09 pm

    i’ve read and heard so much about the controversy, and i do adore the dixie chicks, but somehow have never seen the documentary. after this post, it is a definite must.

    beautifully written, miss renee. i completely agree with you.

  36. surviving myself permalink
    December 18, 2008 6:57 pm

    I’m a dude and I even like this song. It’s great.

  37. surviving myself permalink
    December 18, 2008 6:57 pm

    I’m a dude and I even like this song. It’s great.

  38. Mandy permalink
    December 19, 2008 1:08 am

    Very well sad. I hated when this happened and I agree with you.

  39. Mandy permalink
    December 19, 2008 1:08 am

    Very well sad. I hated when this happened and I agree with you.

  40. Phil permalink
    December 19, 2008 5:02 am

    I think Margaret Cho said it well when she said “Why are people so upset that artists are having a say about their world? That’s the function of art.” Okay, that’s a close approximation of her quote, but it’s true. Has no one here listened to punk rock? HELLO! Music, art, design… it all has the ability to make a statement, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t.

    That’s why it also pisses me off when people whine that actors have opinions and occasionally express. As a theater enthusiast and occasional actor myself, I’m shocked when people in theater DON’T have strong opinions on things. Just sayin’. 🙂

  41. Phil permalink
    December 19, 2008 5:02 am

    I think Margaret Cho said it well when she said “Why are people so upset that artists are having a say about their world? That’s the function of art.” Okay, that’s a close approximation of her quote, but it’s true. Has no one here listened to punk rock? HELLO! Music, art, design… it all has the ability to make a statement, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t.

    That’s why it also pisses me off when people whine that actors have opinions and occasionally express. As a theater enthusiast and occasional actor myself, I’m shocked when people in theater DON’T have strong opinions on things. Just sayin’. 🙂

  42. Himbo permalink
    January 8, 2009 8:51 am

    Brava! I stood up and clapped when I read this post. I applaud people who have the courage to speak up and make a statement. I don’t quite understand why it makes a difference that they were in another country, when it happened, it sounds like “reaching” to me but whatevs. Because of the incident, I became a huge Dixie Chicks fan and consider Natalie a heroine… she’s such a rebel but in a good way!

    -Himbo

  43. Himbo permalink
    January 8, 2009 8:51 am

    Brava! I stood up and clapped when I read this post. I applaud people who have the courage to speak up and make a statement. I don’t quite understand why it makes a difference that they were in another country, when it happened, it sounds like “reaching” to me but whatevs. Because of the incident, I became a huge Dixie Chicks fan and consider Natalie a heroine… she’s such a rebel but in a good way!

    -Himbo

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