Open letters are becoming such a hot platform for teenagers to share their thoughts online. If the subject is controversial enough, they will become viral almost instantly on social platforms.
This time, Gurmit Singh’s 17 years old daughter, Gabrielle, has written an open letter that criticizes the music that Forever 21 put forth in their store. Her basis of argument – fashion chains like Forever 21 should not be playing songs with derogatory lyrics (particularly rap music). She goes on criticizing rap music and culture in general. Her post on Tumblr was shared by Gurmit Singh on Facebook, which then received significant attention. The fashion chain has since apologized for the music they played in the store at Somerset 313.
It is right that stores should not be playing such songs. After all, rap music often comes with an explicit tag in stores or on the web. A fashion chain like Forever 21 caters to general audience – this should make more sense for them to forego such music that would actually contain profanities and derogatory terms. What I do not agree in the open letter is that, Gabrielle also leveled her criticism directly at rap music, as far as to condemn the entire culture in general.
It is not about the music that we should condemn or change. It is on the perception and status of women in this day and age. While it is just a plain stupid PR disaster to be playing these songs in a family-friendly fashion store, what would 10-15 minutes in the store change? A single song does not corrupt an innocent mind but the succession of the perception does. Of course some may argue the subconsciousness of the mind will take the idea of “it’s okay to get raped,” or “guys like big boobs” and other typical stereotypes, it ultimately stems from the perception of women and how they see these issues. Such songs are made for the purpose of entertainment, and it caters to the very people who buy into the idea and theme of the song, it is not for everyone, and certainly not for a fashion chain like Forever 21.
I, for one, loves rap music. I love Anaconda by Nicki Minaj, I love other obscure, profanities-laden rap music. However, that does not discount me as a misogyny or think that rape is okay. Instead of condemning a special and specific music culture altogether (which will lead to another issue on censorship and removing of what is considered “filthy” in society), it is more important to change perceptions of men, women and society. This is akin to the entire “teach boys not to rape and not tell girls not to dress appropriately.” We don’t want to be stuck in medieval thinking.
You can find the entire open letter with edits here.
Photos: The Straits Times, screencaps from Tumblr
Writer: Leong Chee Sheng