She was asking for it
Okay, tricky one:
Punky burlesquey Dresden Dolls frontwoman Amanda Palmer pens and performs an in-your-face happy-dance music video about a girl who gets drunk, gets date-raped, gets abortion and gets an autographed photo of her favourite band, Oasis, in the mail so she's totally happy -- and is surprised that mainstream outlets are balking at playing it.
Come on. Seriously? She's surprised?
But here's the thing: It seems the issue is not about the song being about abortion and date rape. It's because the video doesn't show enough regret, sadness, guilt, contrition, shame, and all the other things girls should show when they party too hearty, get raped, get pregnant and get abortions.
Which is a whole different matter.
You see, when a girl goes through all that, it's because she asked for it (drinking too much). That means she should bear her child and Scarlet Letter with regret, sadness, guilt, contrition, shame etc. etc.
The song is not a lecture... it's a reflection, a character sketch. As I was walking over to the BBC the other day and my rep mentioned that they might not let me play "Oasis" on the air, I suggested that I might be allowed to play it if I just slowed it down and played it in a minor key. Think about it: if they heard the same lyrics against the backdrop of a very sad and lilting piano, maybe with some tear-jerking strings thrown in for good measure, would they take issue?
Imagine these lyrics to the tune of "Strange Fruit", or "Yesterday":
"When I got my abortion / I brought along my boyfriend / we got there an hour before the appointment / and outside the building / were all these annoying fundamentalist Christians / we tried to ignore them"...
Would this make radio happy? Maybe. It would be within a context they could rely on, feel safe in, write off. "Of course she's sad! She had an abortion! Abortion is sad!"
I think it makes people uncomfortable to hear the truth about a very real and sick situation. If you don't know, or have never encountered, a teenager who is going through intense heavy experiences (like rape, abortion, eating disorders, abuse, you-name-it) and is laughing these things off like they don't matter, then you are not alive and awake and living on this planet.
This song is about denial; it's about a girl who can't find it in herself to take her situation seriously. That girl exists everywhere. You probably know her. You've probably met her. You might be her.
Humor saves us. Humor is one of the strongest weapons that human beings have against suffering, death and fear.
I could try to win points by talking about how I've been date raped (I have been, when I was 20) or how I have every right to joke about this if I want to because I've had an abortion myself (I have, when I was 17, complete with fundamentalist Christian protesters shouting at me), but I actually don't believe those experiences should lend me any credibility, any more so than I believe the director of Life is Beautiful had to have been at Auschwitz in order to direct that film.
In the US in 1996, about 1.3 million women had an abortion, half of them under the age of 25. And I can assure you, there were approximately 1.3 million different reactions, experiences and stories behind those abortions. Countless girls have been raped or date-raped. Are we allowed to talk about it, joke about it, turn it over from every side and try to figure out our own confused reaction to it? Or is that just too icky, uncomfortable... and shameful?
Or should we just cry about it demurely and hope that the proper reaction, the one that society deems appropriate, will make things go away?
Let me tell you: Despite what anti-choicers say, almost no woman in her right mind has an abortion the way she has a leg wax. It is a wrenching decision to make and you never forget having made that choice.
But, for the vast majority of women, the feeling they get afterwards is not self-loathing or shame, or joy and jubilation.
It is relief.
You're not a Nazi. Not a slut. Not to be judged.
Tip of the red hat to reader Katherine Ridgley!