In case no one has heard, the Dixie Chicks are in the news again. They have a new documentary coming out soon titled “Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing,” which highlights the controversy that has followed the band since Natalie Maines’ comments about President Bush.Though the Dixie Chicks are hardly on my musical radar, I can’t help but admire the stand they are making.
It is now en vogue to support the Chicks’ stand for freedom of speech. And it’s not like we don’t know what they’re saying. They recently appeared on both the Oprah Winfrey Show and Larry King’s CNN program … on the same day.
Though many people may think all the recent publicity is overkill, it at least makes up for the silencing job done by country radio. It also allows us to possibly examine the real reason the Chicks have had to endure the outrage they have.
What the Chicks are doing is essentially challenging the centuries-old dogma that women should be seen, but not heard. It’s no accident the main protest against the band has come from the American South.
The South has perpetuated the myth of “Southern Womanhood” since antebellum times. The myth has inspired generations of Southern men to exalt their women as goddesses of beauty and purity while demanding they stay in the kitchen, barefoot, pregnant and with their mouths shut. How they can be statuesque beauties while pregnant domestic slaves is beyond me.
I know many will say they are not protesting the Chicks’ right to free speech, just their criticism of the president and the war. I imagine the radio programmers echoing the protesters by saying that they won’t play the Chicks’ music because of the political beliefs of their clientele.
I can’t help but wonder if the main reason they’re not being played is because they’re not playing the “good-woman” role in the South. If a man had said the same things as the Chicks, would there be the same kind of reaction? I don’t think so, and I’ll illustrate why.
In the early 1970s, Johnny Cash was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War. On his television program, he invited artists such as Bob Dylan and other “protest” singers on his program but was never censored for his beliefs. He even wrote a song called “In Vietnam Talkin’ Blues.” Yet Cash’s television program wasn’t canceled, his music wasn’t banned, and, as far as I know, he didn’t receive any death threats. Last year Hollywood even made a very good, Oscar-nominated biopic of the singer’s life.
Flash forward to today and tell me why the Chicks are being treated as they are. I would think 30 years of progressive enlightenment would have changed such antiquated sexist beliefs. Perhaps it has all been a mirage. Maybe the progress we think we have made as a society is only superficial and has not penetrated deep enough to change the nation’s soul.
I, for one, thought we had come a long way, but now I’m not so sure. Women certainly have more rights now than ever before, but the recent controversy with the Dixie Chicks shows there is a lot more work to be done.
I think the Chicks’ battle now is for more than just freedom of speech. It is for the equality and respect they thought they had before they were banned.
Erick Raven is a first-year graduate student in the School of Education from Grand Prairie. His column appears every Friday.