[Callers] Politically Correct?

Dave Casserly david.j.casserly at gmail.com
Tue Mar 27 08:39:27 PDT 2018


I don't think your situation here is exactly what Colin describes-- you're
not worried about any of the particular words, as many of us are regarding
the word "gypsy," for instance.  The question here is whether the phrase
has an offensive *meaning* of "women are things," and if so, is that a good
reason not to use it.  Personally, I'd probably alter it or do a different
singing square.  I don't subscribe to the extreme position that you should
never sing lyrics to a folk song unless you agree with those lyrics; that
would make singing folk songs very difficult to do at all.  That said,
there are some times where the meanings of lyrics are offensive enough,
without any redeeming qualities, that I leave a verse out or alter a few
words in the singing sessions that I lead.  There is nothing sacrosanct
about a particular set of lyrics to a folk song; people have been changing
them for whatever reason for generations, and will continue to do so.  If
future singers don't like my revisions, they can sing a different version,
just like I sometimes prefer to ignore Victorian-era revisions to bawdier

Here, I'd lean toward not using the lyrics for three reasons: 1) they imply
that women are objects; 2) there's nothing redeeming or valuable about
them, as they're the only things sung, with no context; and 3) similarly,
they don't represent the meaning of the song, and when repeated on their
own, sort of pervert that meaning (at least going by the lyrics Yoyo

I also think there are good reasons to err on the side of inclusive
language, particularly in our community.  Contra dancing is overwhelmingly
white, and for a long time, contra dance calling was dominated by men.  The
loudest voices on this forum are those of older white men.  Contra dancers
and particularly organizers are disproportionately white baby boomers.
We're seeing the effects of that now; dance attendance has been dwindling
as older dancers stop attending and aren't replaced by younger dancers.  If
we want our dance form to continue to thrive, when there's a question on
which there's a generational divide (as you, in my view correctly, note
here), I would err toward using the language less likely to turn off our
younger generations, which are also our most diverse generations.  This
isn't an issue where changing the lyrics is going to bother people-- very
few would know the original lyrics well enough to notice-- and certainly
nobody would know if you selected a different singing square instead.


David Casserly
(cell) 781 258-2761
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