I want to echo the words of Alex D-L and Dave Casserly.
I'm also appalled at the casual use of the n-word on this thread without
anyone whatsoever calling it out. This is really giving me pause. :(
Contra's attendance is dwindling - I hear it from every organizer I talk
to, with a couple exceptions. I also hear about the desire to "get the
young people to dance". Hmmm.
On Tue, Mar 27, 2018, 11:39 AM Dave Casserly via Callers <
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 songs.
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
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.
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