Not ready to make nice
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?
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…”