Why P!nk and Billy Ray Cyrus Flunk as Children Role Models.

Last summer on a road trip with my kids, my then 12-year-old daughter was happily playing some of her favorite songs by P!nk. I get the raw, social justice, stand-up-and-be-counted sentiment to many of P!nk’s songs; what I don’t get, and feel is regrettable, is the constant use of expletives in many of her lyrics. Like these lines from ‘Fuckin’ Perfect’:

Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever ever feel
Like you’re less than fuckin’ perfect
Pretty pretty please, if you ever, ever feel like you’re nothing
You’re fuckin’ perfect to me!

Or this lyric from ‘I Am Here’:

I wanna make some mistakes, I wanna sleep in the mud
I wanna swim in the flood, I wanna fuck ’til I’m done ..

When lyrics are laced with this kind of aggression and sexual excess — albeit in the cause of justice, liberation and indignation — I’m not sure that it serves the cause of women’s rights and dignity. What do such loose lyrics do for 12-year-olds like my daughter? To me they prematurely sexualize and vulgarize their evolving sense of identity, in a culture already steeped in the degradation of women.

As I put it in my debut book, Do It Anyway: Deep Spirituality Meets Real Life:

“Violence against women and societal degradation of women in general is … rife across the globe. From prostitution and child sex slavery to the vulgarization and brutalization of female sexuality in the sleazy multi-billion dollar porn industry, to the embedded on-campus rape culture of U.S. colleges, women have been objectified and commodified in the most appalling ways imaginable.

And that’s just their bodies. Their intelligence, creative potential, intuitive and intellectual input, not to mention their humanitarian service to generations, have all been severely sidelined in a human history of patriarchal arrogance and ignorance.”

Grant it, the Harvey Weinstein and power play predators of our generation, are finally getting their comeuppance, but at what cost to the train wreck lives they’ve left in their wake? I’m just not sure the primeval rage and call for women’s emancipation, characterized so resoundingly in many of P!nk’s songs, constitute the type of “role model lyrics” that will truly inspire our teenage generation — at least not in a way that instills a true sense of dignity and sexual identity.

You can’t counter sleaze, abuse or any form of violence against women with further sleaze and aggressive language, however artistically it may be framed in popular music and lyrics.

Then there’s my 5th Grade son, who’s been singing Lil Naz X’s ‘Old Town Road’ (the popular Billy Ray Cyrus version) for over a year now. In fact he’s informed me that kids as young as Kindergartners have been singing this “very loose” cowboy ballad for some time ..

Sure, it’s a catchy tune, but do we really want our 11-year-olds and younger singing (by rote) about the unfulfilled life of a cowboy steeped in consumerism, hedonism, substance abuse and adultery:

Ridin’ on a tractor
Lean all in my bladder
Cheated on my baby
You can go and ask her
My life is a movie
Bull ridin’ and boobies
Cowboy hat from Gucci
Wrangler on my booty…

Grant it, there’s some hint of existential soul searching in the song’s refrain; and I get the country-rap riff, but seriously — the grammar?!?

Can’t nobody tell me nothin’
You can’t tell me nothin’
Can’t nobody tell me nothin’
You can’t tell me nothin’

Given its questionable representation as a legit country song, ‘Old Town Road’ was eventually banned from the Country Billboard Charts, much to the chagrin of many kiddos who could no longer find it on Spotify and YouTube — or at least the sleazy version they’d become accustomed to singing.

As a parent of an 11-year-old son, I’m not devastated by this. However, the damage — to some extent — has been done. My son (typical of his age) already alludes (in dance moves and language) to an immature and demeaning appreciation of human sexuality. What does and doesn’t attract him to “hot girls,” — while benignly amusing at times — is getting old these days, as he gets older.

Yes, gentle parental correctives are necessary and timely in such moments; but it seems to me that we, as parents of over-stimulated and impressionable young minds, are up against it these days with the easily streamed access our kids have to the (sometimes) questionable song lyrics of such artists as P!nk and Billy Ray Cyrus.

Don’t get me wrong: P!nk and Cyrus are phenomenally talented and successful artists, and I don’t for one moment believe that their intention is to saturate the minds of kids with lewd and excessively sexualized lyrics; but it might be worth their while (as with all popular artists of our times), to gently bear in mind that, with all the parental controls in the world, smart kids know their way around smart devices.

And once that Bubblegum toothpaste gel is out of the tube, there ain’t no getting it back in there.

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