What’s wrong with being confident? You’re gonna hear me roar. I dream it, I work hard, I grind ‘til I own it.
Rallying cries of the modern American woman? No, just recent lyrics by some of the world’s hottest pop stars. Demi Lovato’s done being cool for the summer and Katy Perry is so over kissing a girl. And Beyoncé already told us that girls run the world. So are we just living in a time when female artists are becoming socially aware or are we just becoming more sensitive to it?
According to Dustin Kidd, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies of the Sociology Department at Temple University, there’s really nothing new about women singing songs with empowering lyrics. He lists Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walking” in 1966 as a prime example. Of course, Madonna has been pushing the envelope with her lyrics for decades. And we can’t forget the Lilith Fair concert tour that started in 1997, named after the mythical first wife of Adam who refused to be obedient or inferior to him.
Kidd states that society is in part to blame. “The question is really why have we been so slow to listen to their music and let them challenge our social hierarchies, including the patriarchy,” he tells SWAAY. “The reason first is that men have a lot to lose and therefore work hard to ridicule and undermine messages that empower women.”
He adds that sexism often goes hand-in-hand with racism, class inequality, and other systems of oppression so many “privileged” women may be worried about when it comes to dismantling the current status quo. “Tremendous cultural and economic forces are working against these messages of empowerment,” Kidd says.
The difference now is the visibility of our current pop sensations.
But that doesn’t mean that these inspiring lyrics can’t or won’t have a real impact on today’s women. Especially in the wake of the recent election where America had its first female presidential candidate to be nominated by a major U.S. political party, many women and men are having their preconceived notions of the status quo challenged.
Kidd believes that messages in pop culture become resources to help us frame our behavior and how we confront certain situations.
“If all the messages you hear frame a woman's purpose and identity in terms of a romantic relationship, then a break-up is likely to be devastating,” says Kidd. “But if some of those songs also tell her that she is strong and that relationships do not make or break her, then she has access to an alternative message that may help her confront a difficult situation.”
And a major difference between now and when Nancy Sinatra, a young Madonna, or even Ani Di Franco were shouting their messages from the roof, or MTV, is social media. Thanks to the advent and extreme growth of social media (in various forms and aimed at multiple generations), music is like an octopus with tentacles into everyone, everywhere, and at all times.
So maybe recent events have us opening up our ears a little more to what our favorite singers are proclaiming, but Kidd says that while the topic of empowering lyrics is very important, it’s really nothing new. Now it’s just up to us to figure out what to do with them.
Here at SWAAY we believe anything that raises conversation or pushes the needle, even slightly, is part of the solution towards gender equality. We hope women entertainers continue riding the empowerment wave, and release music and music videos that raise us up, one song at a time.
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.