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Ed Driscoll

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

June 16th, 2014 - 7:14 pm

An Alternet author has a sad because her local supermarket plays the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb” in the background. Or as Matt Welch writes at Reason, “Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But the Rolling Stones Should Be Banned From Trader Joe’s!”

Today’s not-The-Onion headline comes from AlterNet:

Trader Joe’s NYC Store Defends ‘Racist, Sexist, and Misogynistic’ Songs on Playlist

Even after Elliot Rodger’s killing spree, Trader Joe’s manager says the store will keep playing a famous song that demeans women.

Even after Elliot Rodger’s killing spree! The nerve of these supermarket managers, not policing their Muzak to weed out songs that no one besides an AlterNet contributor could dream of linking to the Isla Vista massacre! Author Lynn Stuart Parramore goes on to describe her confrontation with store management over the misogynistic classic “Under My Thumb“:

Why should I have to hear about a guy comparing his girlfriend to a dog while I’m buying vegetables?

I decided to ask Trader Joe’s this question. Just so they would know I wasn’t making things up, I printed out the lyrics to “Under My Thumb” and brought them into the store with me. I was directed to a young man named Kyle Morrison at the manager’s station, to whom I explained in friendly terms that I was a frequent shopper and that I had heard a song playing over the sound system which, in the wake of the Elliot Rodger killing spree, made me feel uncomfortable. I told him the name of the song, and offered him the paper with the lyrics. [...]

Without looking at the page, Morrison’s first response was to tell me rather smugly that art was a matter of interpretation. I asked him to read the lyrics, and let me know how he interpreted them. He said he didn’t have time, so I read off a few for him.

“Do you think those lyrics are offensive to women?” I asked.

He looked uncomfortable. “It’s just like the radio in your car,” he argued. “There are all kinds of songs playing on different stations.” [...]

I did manage to reach Trader Joe’s customer service department and spoke to someone named “Nicki” (she refused to give her last name), who told me robotically that the music lists were set and Trader Joe’s would not change them.

“Even if they are offensive to women shopping in your stores?” I asked. “No one ever complains,” she said curtly. “I’m complaining,” I replied.

Why yes, Lynn, you are!

Misogyny being a regrettable part of life; romantic struggle being the single biggest subject of pop/rock music, and art being art, we will always have songs that fail the Parramore Test.

It’s nice to know that even as he’s a month away from turning 71 years old, Mick Jagger can still offend someone. But to understand how this moment came to be, return with us now to the not-so-thrilling days of 36 years ago, when supermarkets and retail stores still universally played easy listening instrumental Muzak in the background. When my father built his retail store in South Jersey in 1977 and installed an AM/FM receiver and overhead speakers in the customer portion of the store, one of my first questions about it went something like this:

ED JR.: Dad, can we put the radio in the store on WYSP or WMMR [then the two biggest rock stations in neighboring Philadelphia]?

ED SR.: No.

ED JR.: Aww, how come?

ED SR.: We’re going to play [whoever was the easy listening instrumental station in Philadelphia.] Because the music isn’t for us. It’s for the customers.

Presumably, boomers with dads who owned businesses had conversations like that throughout the post-Beatles-era America, until one day, Dads got fed up enough to collectively give in, and said in unison, “Fine. Leave us alone — put whatever the hell you want on in the background if it’ll make you happy,” and the boomers won the argument.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
silence. what a happy thought!
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
I had to take someone to the doctor's office and was in the waiting room watching the daytime TV talk show that took absolutely mindless shots at my political views and made baldly untrue assumptions about my motivations. I was offended (but I didn't complain).

I think I was most offended in that these claims were not premeditated but spoken like parrots repeating words they had picked up randomly.

I conclude the Idiocracy has arrived.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, as long as complaints are being taken, let's get rid of the ubiquitous TVs in businesses as well. Doctor's & dentist waiting rooms, airports, car dealerships, restaurants... and ALL showing either CNN or some such tripe like "The View". Most people have their own iPhones, Kindles, or such nowadays anyway, they don't need a house TV. For those like me, who don't feel the need to be "connected", there are still some magazines to read or the blissful retreat of closing one's eyes and meditating SILENTLY, both of which are made exponentially more difficult when Whoopi Goldberg is blathering about something in the background.

Bring back elevator muzak and no TVs!
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (69)
All Comments   (69)
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This problem is easily solved. Bring your own music, plug in your ear buds and shop until you drop.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
Rock & Roll--sounds like some sort of caveman term.

Well, the counterculture of the drug culture of the tribalist New Left does admire primitivism.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
Three cheers for Trader Joes!! In America she has the right to shop somewhere else!!
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
First world problems...
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
I hated muzak when I was young but now the idea of a cool and distant soundtrack for idle consumerism sounds blissfully restful.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
So which is it, Lynn? A delicate sensibility wilting onto the fainting couch from the onslaught of misogyny, or I Am Woman, hear me roar? Can't have it both ways.

Ms. Parramore seems to have no tolerance for the world's failure to conform to her expectations. It's a wonder she ventures out at all, what with the terrible harm of Under My Thumb, which is over in less than 4 minutes, causing her such enduring grief.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
I worked at a Ross for a couple years and the music was horrible. The customers didn't have to listen to repeats every hour, but employees do. And yeah... HATE that two lovers song and I don't really care at all that the punch line is that they're both the same guy.

The best store music is at Hobby Lobby. It's all instrumentals, and not even *bad* ones but actually nice instrumentals of hymns and religious songs... so if you know the words you can hum along, but if you're not from a Christian tradition and you don't know the words, it's just nice instrumental music.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
God bless America, where everyone has the basic intrinsic right to be offended!

However, nobody has a concomitant obligation to provide a rodent's nether regions concerning the offense. Nor should anyone. Take your trigger warning and grow a pair. And it that statement is misogynistic, then man up and tough it out. Cowboy up. Quit bitching.

Otherwise, kiss your own owies.

Yeah, I am a walking trigger warning all on my own damn self.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
The lyrics make it clear that he's getting revenge on a woman who abused him. I guess she can't read.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
It doesn't matter. According to the theories of deconstructionism, the observer may assign his (or her) own meaning to any work and it's as valid as any other. She chooses to be offended, and ipso facto it is offensive.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's a revenge song - if you listen to the lyrics SHE started it.
Probably by being too bossy.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
Great minds and all that!
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
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