You Can’t Always Get What You Want
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.