I could write an article criticizing the song “Rude” by Magic in which two men — a boyfriend and a father — take it upon themselves to argue who a voiceless woman should marry, yet I would rather focus on the parodies that represent the daughter’s perspective. Several of these daughters’ parodies exemplify internalized sexism, the phenomenon by which women inadvertently adopt society’s sexist messages, causing them to tolerate or even promote unequal treatment or views of their sex.
Most of these videos begin with a young woman begging her father to allow her to marry her love. In one parody, Marissa Grace asks her father “Can’t you let me be his wife?” In another parody by Alisha Thomas Music, one woman says, “You know I’ll always need your blessings till the day I die.”
I understand asking for a father’s opinion about a significant other; however, no grown women should feel the need to ask her father’s permission to make a personal choice. By doing so in these videos, these women perpetuate the idea that men in their lives (notice how it’s usually the father rather than a mother or other guardian in this role) should make decisions for them. I doubt these women consciously hold this opinion, but because the image of a women seeking her father’s permission to marry is so commonplace, they have internalized that message and inadvertently spread it to young girls.
In several of these “Rude” parodies, women stand up for themselves by choosing to marry their love despite their father’s disapproval. However, these women are still viewing their choice to marry this man as a form of rebellion. For example, in Jessica Johnson’s parody, a young girl even asserts she will marry her boyfriend to “rub it in their father’s face.”
I’m not suggesting women should disregard all advice given to them by their father. Nevertheless, by framing it as a rebellion, these songs suggest the father’s opinion is the law of a grown woman’s life. In reality, if her father disapproves and she moves forward with the marriage anyway, she’s simply making a choice and accepting its consequences.
By characterizing women taking responsibility for their life as defiant rather than as individualistic, these videos exemplify the tendency of people, including other women, to give powerful, independent women derogatory labels such as “rebellious” or “bossy” (refer to the following articles by professional linguists: “The Meaning of ‘Bossy’” by Robin Lakoff, “‘Bossy’ Is More Than a Word to Women” by Deborah Tannen, “Some Data to Support the Gendered Nature of ‘Bossy’” by Nic Subtirelu as well as its follow-up “No Really, Bossy is Gendered”).
Similar interactions probably occur between sons and mothers. However, this scenario is rarely depicted by the media. Instead, we get “Rude” parodies that subtly discourage young girls from defying the control of the men. While a few parodies may seem relatively insignificant, when combined with every other instance of internalized sexism, they become an issue. If we simply brush off every small instance, we never deal with the larger issue.
We have all internalized sexist messages and it’s our responsibility to take the effort to identify and correct them. In this case, that correction comes from “Rude” parodies by Nicky Costabile, Stacie McDonald, and Krista Ferndelli, that positively depict strong women who assert themselves as capable of making decisions about their life.
When feminists point out internalization, they aren’t looking for issues where there are none. They are facing the issues that others may refuses to confront or be unable to see. Don’t brush instances of internalization off. Examine the roots of your own beliefs. Ask yourself if you’re inadvertently accepting sexism. Then, stop yourself from spreading it. Once we, as a society, make a better effort to fight the subtle sexist messages that surround us we will be one step closer to ensuring equality for everyone in our society.