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.
"Sh*t!" my daughter exclaimed as she dropped her iPad to the floor. A little bit of context; my daughter Victoria absolutely loves her iPad. And as I watched her bemoan the possible destruction of her favorite device, I thought to myself, "If I were in her position, I'd probably say the exact same thing."
In the Rastegar family, a word is only a bad word if used improperly. This is a concept that has almost become a family motto. Because in our household, we do things a little differently. To put it frankly, our practices are a little unconventional. Completely safe, one hundred percent responsible- but sure, a little unconventional.
And that's because my husband Ari and I have always felt akin in one major life philosophy; we want to live our lives our way. We have dedicated ourselves to a lifetime of questioning the world around us. And it's that philosophy that has led us to some unbelievable discoveries, especially when it comes to parenting.
Ari was an English major. And if there's one thing that can be said about English majors, it's that they can be big-time sticklers for the rules. But Ari also thinks outside of the box. And here's where these two characteristics meet. Ari was always allowed to curse as a child, but only if the word fit an appropriate and relevant context. This idea came from Ari's father (his mother would have never taken to this concept), and I think this strange practice really molded him into the person he is today.
But it wasn't long after we met that I discovered this fun piece of Ari Rastegar history, and I got to drop a pretty awesome truth bomb on Ari. My parents let me do the same exact thing…
Not only was I allowed to curse as a child, but I was also given a fair amount of freedom to do as I wanted. And the results of this may surprise you. You see, despite the lack of heavy regulating and disciplining from my parents, I was the model child. Straight A's, always came home for curfew, really never got into any significant trouble- that was me. Not trying to toot my own horn here, but it's important for the argument. And don't get the wrong impression, it's not like I walked around cursing like a sailor.
Perhaps I was allowed to curse whenever I wanted, but that didn't mean I did.
And this is where we get to the amazing power of this parenting philosophy. In my experience, by allowing my own children to curse, I have found that their ability to self-regulate has developed in an outstanding fashion. Over the past few years, Victoria and Kingston have built an unbelievable amount of discipline. And that's because our decision to allow them to curse does not come without significant ground rules. Cursing must occur under a precise and suitable context, it must be done around appropriate company, and the privilege cannot be overused. By following these guidelines, Victoria and Kingston are cultivating an understanding of moderation, and at a very early age are building a social awareness about when and where certain types of language are appropriate. And ultimately, Victoria and Kingston are displaying the same phenomenon present during my childhood. Their actual instances of cursing are extremely low.
And beneath this parenting strategy is a deeper philosophy. Ari and I first and foremost look at parenting as educators. It is not our job to dictate who our children will be, how they shall behave, and what their future should look like.
We are not dictators; we are not imposing our will on them. They are autonomous beings. Their future is in their hands, and theirs alone.
Rather, we view it as our mission to show our children what the many possibilities of the world are and prepare them for the litany of experiences and challenges they will face as they develop into adulthood. Now, when Victoria and Kingston come across any roadblocks, they have not only the tools but the confidence to handle these tensions with pride, independence, and knowledge.
And we have found that cursing is an amazing place to begin this relationship as educators. By allowing our children to curse, and gently guiding them towards the appropriate use of this privilege, we are setting a groundwork of communication that will eventually pay dividends as our children grow curious of less benign temptations; sex, drugs, alcohol. There is no fear, no need to slink behind our backs, but rather an open door where any and all communication is rewarded with gentle attention and helpful wisdom.
The home is a sacred place, and honesty and communication must be its foundation. Children often lack an ability to communicate their exact feelings. Whether out of discomfort, fear, or the emotional messiness of adolescence, children can often be less than transparent. Building a place of refuge where our children feel safe enough to disclose their innermost feelings and troubles is, therefore, an utmost priority in shepherding their future. Ari and I have come across instances where our children may have been less than truthful with a teacher, or authority figure simply because they did not feel comfortable disclosing what was really going on. But with us, they know that honesty is not only appreciated but rewarded and incentivized. This allows us to protect them at every turn, guard them against destructive situations, and help guide and problem solve, fully equipped with the facts of their situation.
And as crazy as it all sounds- I really believe in my heart that the catalogue of positive outcomes described above truly does stem from our decision to allow Victoria and Kingston to curse freely.
I know this won't sit well with every parent out there. And like so many things in life, I don't advocate this approach for all situations. In our context, this decision has more than paid itself off. In another, it may exacerbate pre-existing challenges and prove to be only a detriment to your own family's goals.
As the leader of your household, this is something that you and you alone must decide upon with intentionality and wisdom.
Ultimately, Ari and I want to be the kind of people our children genuinely want to be around. Were we not their parents, I would hope that Victoria and Kingston would organically find us interesting, warm, kind, funny, all the things we aspire to be for them each and every day.
We've let our children fly free, and fly they have. They are amazing people. One day, when they leave the confines of our home, they will become amazing adults. And hopefully, some of the little life lessons and eccentric parenting practices we imparted upon them will serve as a support for their future happiness and success.