Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But the Rolling Stones Should Be Banned From Trader Joe's!


Lyrics, schmyrics: That OUTFIT is a hate crime! |||

Today's not-The-Onion headline comes from AlterNet:

Trader Joe's NYC Store Defends 'Racist, Sexist, and Misogynistic' Songs on Playlist

Even after Elliot Rodger's killing spree, Trader Joe's manager says the store will keep playing a famous song that demeans women.

Even after Elliot Rodger's killing spree! The nerve of these supermarket managers, not policing their Muzak to weed out songs that no one besides an AlterNet contributor could dream of linking to the Isla Vista massacre! Author Lynn Stuart Parramore goes on to describe her confrontation with store management over the misogynistic classic "Under My Thumb":

Why should I have to hear about a guy comparing his girlfriend to a dog while I'm buying vegetables?

I decided to ask Trader Joe's this question. Just so they would know I wasn't making things up, I printed out the lyrics to "Under My Thumb" and brought them into the store with me. I was directed to a young man named Kyle Morrison at the manager's station, to whom I explained in friendly terms that I was a frequent shopper and that I had heard a song playing over the sound system which, in the wake of the Elliot Rodger killing spree, made me feel uncomfortable. I told him the name of the song, and offered him the paper with the lyrics. […]

Without looking at the page, Morrison's first response was to tell me rather smugly that art was a matter of interpretation. I asked him to read the lyrics, and let me know how he interpreted them. He said he didn't have time, so I read off a few for him.

"Do you think those lyrics are offensive to women?" I asked.

He looked uncomfortable. "It's just like the radio in your car," he argued. "There are all kinds of songs playing on different stations." […]

I did manage to reach Trader Joe's customer service department and spoke to someone named "Nicki" (she refused to give her last name), who told me robotically that the music lists were set and Trader Joe's would not change them.

"Even if they are offensive to women shopping in your stores?" I asked. "No one ever complains," she said curtly. "I'm complaining," I replied.

Why yes, Lynn, you are!

Misogyny being a regrettable part of life; romantic struggle being the single biggest subject of pop/rock music, and art being art, we will always have songs that fail the Parramore Test. For instance, the sainted John Lennon would rather see you dead, little girl:

This is just one of many acts of Beatle-on-female violence; see "Fixing a Hole," "Getting Better" and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," for starters. Move it up a decade and you've got a whole melodic genre seemingly dedicated to statutory rape: Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Clair," Rod Stewart's "Tonight's the Night," any number of songs with "sixteen" in the title. The '80s gave us misogynistic hair metal, the '90s introduced us to bitches and hoes, and even the most anti-misogynist artists of the era were capable of screaming out "Rape Me!" from time to time. (Also, the objectifying/power-tripping pop songs don't always flow in a male-to-female direction.) If I had a conversation with every store manager who had "Blurred Lines" play over the sound system last summer, there would have been no time left to shop.

I mean, what kind of virgin child's inhibitions WOULDN'T run wild? |||

I find some of those songs (though not "Blurred Lines"!) grating precisely because of their lyrical P.O.V.; in other cases it's the seeming awfulness of the narrator that make a song more compellingly artistic. (Though I'm virtually alone in this assessment, I think Guns N' Roses' controversial "One in a Million" is a classic.) Point being, artistic taste is an individual thing, artistic intent is a slippery concept, and a world that's more willing to weed out potentially offensive songs is one that's going to protect people's ears from artists that Lynn Parramore, for one, actively likes.

Such as Lou Reed, whose death Parramore mourned in a Tweet last year ("You brought the soundtrack to my angst-ridden twenties"). "There She Goes Again," one of Reed's early hits, is about a guy taunting another guy about his loose girlfriend, climaxing in the memorable chorus-punchline of "You better hit her!" Or how about the truly brutal epic "Street Hassle," which revolves around the dilemma of what to do with the dead body of a young woman who overdoses on heroin after being penetrated by a "humpin' muscle":

Hey, that cunt's not breathing
I think she's had too much […]

But you know it could be a hassle
Trying to explain this all to a police officer
About how it was that your old lady got herself stiffed
And it's not like we could help
But there wasn't nothing no one could do
And if there was, man, you know I would have been the first
But when someone turns that blue
Well, it's a universal truth
And you just know that bitch will never fuck again […]

But why don't you grab your old lady by the feet
And just lay her out in the darkest street
And by morning, she's just another hit and run

Not for the faint of heart. |||

Ah, but that's art, Lou Reed was playing a character. Sure. But maybe the same could be said about the Rolling Stones?

There are infinitely worse expressions of the censorial instinct than asking a supermarket store manager to consider the misogynistic content of a 48-year-old xylophone marimba song. Who knows, maybe a particularly sensitive food chain will come to prominence on the promise of filtering its Muzak of any potentially upsetting lyrics. 

But I hope that day never comes to pass. The "trigger-warning" culture of seeking protection from unwelcome content experiences will never be sated by mere self-censorship; those sensitive ears will end up trying to re-write the rules of expression where they can. And while I therefore worry about the rest of us, I'm actually more concerned in this case about them. Shutting out discordant notes is no way go through either life or art–how can you change for the better if you're not exposed to something that challenges your existing values? And, well, the Stones were a pretty good rock band back in the day. Even when singing about rape and murder.

Hat tip to Mark Hemingway. Click here for a deconstructionist treatment of "Under My Thumb" that floats the possibility of a non-misogynist reading. Click here on my recent column, "When the Left Turned Against Free Speech." Reason TV on trigger warnings below:

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  1. Alternet is Salon with the stupid turned up to 11.

    1. It isn’t that AlterNet’s readership is bombing. Their appeal is just becoming more selective.

      1. “Their appeal is just becoming more selective.”

        Yes, the owner and both writers now click on the site.

    2. Salon is Salon with the stupid turned up to 11.

      Alternet finds whole new levels…

  2. They play this at Whole Foods all the time:


    1. NSFW if you hadn’t guessed.

      1. *This* is a song about a hoe:


        1. Here’s one that really makes some people uncomfortable, about an overly possessive guy:


          1. You suck!

    2. By sheer coincidence, I listened to Ween’s “Piss Up a Rope” and “You Fucked Up” this morning. Two classic pieces of misogyny.

      You fucked up, you fucking Nazi whore!

  3. So I guess “Brown Sugar” is right out.

    1. That’s pretty tame actually. If they had played Stray Cat Blues, she probably would have burned down the building.

  4. I wonder if the TEAM OUTRAGE and smug complainer set understands how much the rest of us fucking hate them and find them unspeakably obnoxious and pathetic. Probably not, or if they do, they think it’s because they’re speaking truth to power or some other bullshit. I try to beam over my utter contempt for these types in the infrequent encounters I have with them, but they’re moronically oblivious. Mockery is the only solution.

    1. Mockery is the only solution.

      Yep. Fucking NAP ruining my preferred method of dealing with them.

    2. Oh yeah. They are so utterly, and smugly, delusional in their self-righteousness they can’t possibly understand. I gave up trying to actually converse with them a long time ago and just state my own views (you know – autonomy, having a sense of humor, looking at both sides of an issue) and watch their horrified reactions while the ramblings burst forth.

      Heh, one time a precious darling even accused me of getting money from oil companies. For real. And all I said was “polar bears are dumb – who cares if global warming is real or not. They need to die” in an obviously jokey tone.

      Needless to say, they didn’t pick up on my laughter at their ranting.

      1. I find being utterly contemptuous and dismissive of their concerns drives them out of their fucking minds. “Lighten up and take the stick out of your ass” causes epic sputtering. If you don’t back down a millimeter, or acknowledge any kind of validity in their complaint, they are left completely powerless, and have no idea what to do, because all their leverage comes from trying to make people embarrassed or guilty. If you don’t play along one bit, they’re fucked.

        1. Very true. They do a lot of intellectual contortions to show that it’s entirely illegitimate to even question their level of outrage. They are, in effect, saying that nobody’s level of outrage can ever be questioned, but of course they question the validity of outrage when it comes from their political opponents. Then it’s “astroturf” and “fake scandal” and political posturing” and so on.

          And they never stop to think that always deferring to whoever is the most outraged might not be a good thing in the long run.

        2. Haha, yeah. They really can’t separate emotions and FEELINGS! from their arguments. The mere fact they use shame, guilt, or embarrassment as their main argument tactic shows that they’re only after power.

          I’ll have to remember to use that next time I run into one of these creatures – “so, you want to have power over opinions? Power over individuals who are different than you because of the way you FEEL?”

          Then watch the fur fly 🙂

    3. Reason should have a trigger warning at the top.

      1. It’s sure to make some precious darlings cry. Cry their big, luscious guilt-free tears.

  5. I’d propose this particular store add Elton John’s “The bitch is back” to their playlist and set it to come on every time this idiot enters their store.

    1. It’ll cause a meltdown.

      On the one hand, war on women!

      On the other hand, teh gay!

  6. I once pointed out to a friend of mine how hilariously misogynistic the lyrics to Under my Thumb, then I turned around to see a girl staring at me with an expression of pure undisguised contempt. It was beautiful.

    1. You tellingly left out whether she was hot or not. Which of course means…

      1. Nope. Mousy and pancake-assed.

        1. Which is exactly what I said. What’s the matter, steroids make you deaf?

          1. No, my ass is spectacular, you idiot.

          2. Needs more ear-squats.

    2. Leave Epi’s mom out of this.


    They play this at the Olive Garden:


    1. They play Geico ads at Olive Garden now?

      Wait, what the fuck are you doing at an Olive Garden?

      1. Gotta pay the royalties.

        1. You pay royalties to Olive Garden? What, are you opening up a new line of dog food or something?

      2. Dude. Most of their food may suck. But the unlimited salad and breadsticks lunch? That’s worth it.

      3. Olive Garden is actually a secret front for an exclusive club of daring adventurers. Hence the name. It’s actually an anagram of ‘I Love Danger’.

        The mediocre Italian food is just a way to pay their expenses.

      1. Interesting…it’s clearly unacceptable to the hysterical shopper but isn’t she racist for not liking it? How do we divide the grievance pie?

  8. I heard “Island Girl” on the radio at Nordstrom the other day. Holy fuck, have they not read the lyrics to that.

  9. Every Starbucks in Seattle plays this on the speaker at top volume

    (may or may not be NSFW – no bad words)


  10. OT: I just flipped stations for a few minutes because the US Open was at a commercial and say Boehner say Obama was “taking a nap” when the Iraqi situation was unraveling. Even the Fox talking heads about shit themselves. I then switched to CNN where some lady that looked a lot like Miss Cleo was apoplectic.

    The Cantor thing is gonna have a lasting effect of casing the GOP pols to play to the far right at least until the election. This is gonna be fun.

  11. Under my Thumb was written about some bossy cuntbag. Now that I think about it, a bossy cuntbag is how i’d describe anyone who tries to ban music she doesn’t care for.

  12. “scareduck|6.12.14 @ 2:21PM|#

    Alternet is Salon with the stupid turned up to 11.”

    Unpossible = Salon is itself nothing but progtard-clickbait.

    The only way to fairly describe it is, “Proggy clickbait for people so stupid they think Salon is ‘highbrow'”

    I sincerely believe that 1/2 of Prog-outrage articles are just chum for the SJW crowd and the reactionary older people who will comment till the end of time about how KIDS THESE DAYS!!

    i genuinely think Salon editorial sits around and thinks up ridiculous things to gin up outrage about. see: Bard Commie


    1. Even then, Salon is pretty stupid in itself. Glenn Greenwald was pretty much the only reason to go there.

      And their editorial staff? Awful. Make a Salon.com game sometime – spot the grammar and mechanical errors! I’ve seen more than a few of their articles that start with fragments, comma splices, run-ons, modifier mistakes, and so on.

      Maybe that’s why they’re going to start saying grammar is “oppressive” soon…

      1. You shouldn’t have a comma between “modifier mistakes” and “and so on”.

        Just so you know.

        1. Oxford commas are the sign of a superior grammarian.

          1. Why do you hate the Associated Press, R C?

            1. Why don’t you hate the AP, sloop?

            2. AP uses too little commas,,,,,perhaps,?

              1. Few.

                1. There commas do seem small though.

                  1. Or: There, commas do seem small though.

          2. +1 strippers Stalin and Hitler

            1. +1 Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.

        2. MLA, APA, Turabian, CSA, AP, CMS all have their slight differences for some mechanics.

          A case to be made for having consistency among formatting styles, for sure. AP and CMS often get rid of the last comma in a list (three nouns/phrases or more) – and since “and so on” is joined by the conjunction “and” it’s technically part of the list where “so on” works as a noun in the list. According the MLA style, anyway. And this really tripped me up when taking courses in university, switching between the two styles (Turabian follows Chicago, which doesn’t have the final comma in a list.)

          However, comma splices, inconsistenet tenses, run-ons and the like are still pretty consistent throughout the styles.

          1. Oh I was just fucking with you. I’m pretty sure my punctuation is among the worst on the entire H&R site.

            1. It’s cool 🙂 No offense taken at all, actually.

              I do actually think all those styles should get their punctuation straight haha.

              Still, it’s funny to see sites like Salon and Slate on the same page talk about how grammar is stupid then have an article linking how English classes need to be saved.

  13. I was in Applebees, and they were playing that crap Nickelback song about “I just wanna be a big rockstar”. What caught my ear is that they bleeped the word “drugs” in it.

    Maybe if you are trying to be family-friendly with your songs, you just shouldn’t play songs that have words you want to bleep in them.

    1. Except for C-Lo Green. Feel free to change the lyrics and keep playing him. Because both versions of that song are fantastic.

    2. Applebees? Really?

    3. Second the motion.

  14. Also OT: Joey Crawford will be officiating Game 4 today. What’s the you over/under on how many more FT’s the Heat take? 15? 20?

    1. 22

    2. I just hope Duncan doesn’t laugh at a joke within 50 feet of him.

  15. Speaking of Stones tunes…

    When I was 12, i was taking guitar lessons from this creepy dude who’d always stop the lesson and tell me some pointless story about sex or drugs that i really didn’t need to know about. He wasnt that great of a guitar teacher, so this is how he supplemented his tutelage.

    So anyway, he goes, ‘you know what Brown Sugar is about, right?’.


    “Its about eating a black girls pussy”.


    “people do that?”

    I went to school and told everyone.

    1. “It’s about eating a black girls pussy”

      “People do that?”

      How do you think white men end up with black women?

      1. I thought it was by being a producer on The Jeffersons.

        1. New pick-up line for me! 😀 Mwahaha!

  16. Why should I have to hear about a guy comparing his girlfriend to a dog while I’m buying vegetables?

    Why should I have to be within 1 million feet of an asshole like you while I’m buying vegetables?

    1. Why? Because you are out in public, that’s why.

      And I know this will come as a shock to you, but the entire world doesn’t revolve around your neuroses.

      1. It does if I call it an allergy.

  17. the misogynistic content of a 48-year-old xylophone song.

    Welch, it’s a marimba, ya hack.

    1. Corrected, thanks.

  18. Every gun shop, shooting range, army-surplus store, and men’s gym in the country plays this:


    1. WTF, dude? Not cool.

    2. Is this the new Rick-Roll?

  19. Is “Good Girls Don’t” offensive? What about “The Lemon Song”? Just trying to understand.

  20. I suppose what I’ve been trying to say with my links is that businesses play the music they think will keep their customers in a buying mood. Which means not being offensive (though offending merely one person probably won’t make them reconsider their music).

    So, for example, here’s what they’re always playing at your local Irish pub:


  21. And who the fuck even listens to the muzak when they’re in a grocery store?

    1. People really desperate for something to be outraged about?

      1. This. There are many progs who live their lives looking for something to be outraged about. It’s a major way they get their jollies. It’s taken me a long time to understand that lots of people really enjoy, in a perverse way, having negative emotions.

    2. I used to sing and dance to Muzak in the store, just to embarrass my wife and kids.

  22. Lotta killing and rape in opera.

    1. Seriously. One of the most beautiful songs of all time — O Mio Babbino Caro by Puccini — has the singer threatening to kill herself if she doesn’t get her way. And that’s about as mild as most opera gets.

  23. Shop. Elsewhere. You. Stupid. Self-Entitled. Bitch.

    1. For that matter, who the fuck buys vegetables at Trader Joe’s?

      1. Masochists.

      2. People who like mold. I bought “fresh” produce at Trader Joe’s exactly twice: the first time, it was strawberries that were already moldy when I opened up the container at home; the second, vegetables that were moldy by the next day, though I’d examined them at the store and found no mold.

  24. This sort of thing is currently a Big Deal in science fiction fandom. Guests of Honor are having invitations revoked due to outrage about a joke they told or printed. Supposedly “racism is on the rise” because a few people said something impolite about a person of color. Or, some people asked well-intentioned but clumsy questions about race. Imagine, science fiction fans being socially awkward!

    Fandom is described as an “unreconstructed institution” which needs to be reformed by the Social Justice Warrior newbies. There are suggestions that panel discussions of H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and others be required to discuss their racism. They show pictures of convention committees, and they are (*gasp*) all white. Of course, they can’t actually find any people of color who were somehow excluded from this purely voluntary activity, but nonetheless, it’s the fault of the people who did volunteer. They didn’t do enough outreach! They are racist even if they don’t know it! It’s “institutional racism”!

    And when racial minorities do show up on cons, they may feel “feel uncomfortable” because there aren’t more people who look like them. This just shows how they are victimized by racism once again. Something Must Be Done!

    It’s revolting.

    1. It was easier when ‘social justice warriors’ were just ‘cunts’

  25. I must be missing something here. If I recall correctly, the woman being referenced in the song isn’t exactly averse to domineering or controlling behavior herself.

    1. How dare you suggest that! That just proves how much of a victim of sexism she is!

      1. Oh, Jeez! How could I have missed it. When she does it, it’s simply evidence she’s a fierce, independent woman.

        1. No, it shows the overwhelming power of the patriarchy! Stockholm Syndrome!

      2. Or one of the most dangerous (and revelatory) ideas these disgusting progs ever came up with: “false consciousness”…which they use to explain away the unacceptable dilema they find themselves in when someone they think should agree with them unacceptably DOESN’T.

        Their response to disagreement is not to debate or attempt to convince, but to tell the person disagreeing with them that they are insane. I would say this is unbelievable, but it isn’t. What I find unbelievable is that anyone who thinks “false consciousness” is a real thing is ever given any credibility from that point on.

  26. As long as they don’t ban Taxman.

  27. made me feel uncomfortable

    He looked uncomfortable

    Do as I say, not as I do.

  28. You know what offends me? Fat ugly liberal harridans in smelly old birkenstocks who think it’s a good idea to overpay for trendy hipster foodstuffs.

    1. Birkenstocks are comfortable and TJ’s food is cheap…..at least here in NYC. Nail on head for the rest of it.

    2. Birkenstocks are comfortable and TJ’s food is cheap…..at least here in NYC. Nail on head for the rest of it.

      1. The smugness has worked well for that one! An ‘ump and dump, if you will. “Progressive for a Friday night” tactic would work on that one.

        1. Yeah, but I don’t know if I could take the risk of her talking about politics or privilege or some stupid proggy talking points.

    3. and always doused in pachouli YUK!

  29. I’m outraged that after Elliot Rodgers’ rampage Turner Classic Movies is showing an Ida Lupino marathon including a film depicting rape and said rape victim being triggered. How demeaning.

  30. Proud to say I worked at the Union Square location for 3+ years. Give ’em hell, Store 540!

  31. How dare you play The Abduction from the Seraglio? It’s all about women as sex slaves! And so many notes!

  32. Will rapeseed be banned?

    1. Nah just change the name to Canola.

  33. French girls they want Cartier
    Italian girls want cars
    American girls want everything in the world
    You can possibly imagine
    English girls they’re so prissy
    I can’t stand them on the telephone
    Sometimes I take the receiver off the hook
    I don’t want them to ever call at all
    White girls they’re pretty funny
    Sometimes they drive me mad
    Black girls just wanna get fucked all night
    I just don’t have that much jam

  34. If I were Empress of the Universe, I’d summon the INS and declare that since she has no real problems and obviously too much privilege, she will be deported forthwith in the name of Social Justice and a poor third world illegal immigrant currently being held for deportation will take her place.

    1. You have my vote.

  35. “if she’s alive at the end of the song, it ain’t bluegrass”

  36. Trigger please…

  37. My favorite part: “Why should I have to hear about a guy comparing his girlfriend to a dog”

    Uh, yeah lady, you never EVER hear women comparing men to dogs, or pigs. Right?

  38. Whining about abusive narratives in popular music played at fantastic yuppie groceries is indicative of white privilege.


  40. So I guess this is out of the question: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gY6JDLmpuWc?

    Ahh, the classics.

    Meanwhile, since when did we start admiring people for their weakness? Some sad-sack’s discomfort doesn’t magically impart some obligation on anyone else but him/her/it. Good god, if my father had ever heard that I told someone that a song or a word or something made me “uncomfortable” he’d probably have thrown me over a bridge and started over. And he’d have been absolutely right.

    It’s like I was saying the other day while sitting in traffic. The problem with the world is that the wrong people are getting cancer.

    1. When did we start admiring people for their weakness? About the same time we started educating entire generations to identify themselves not by their achievements (because achieving things is racist and sexist), but by their real or imagined shortcomings. About the same time we began raising a bunch of professional dependents, basically.

      Today: “Hi, my name is Dakotah Madison Conor, and I have ADD, ODD, autism, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, severe nut allergies, and am also transgendered and prefer to be called she-it.”

      Thirty years ago: “Hi, my name is Joe. I like to play baseball and saxophone.”

  41. Welch alt-text snarks on someone’s fashion sense. Oh SNAP.

    How in the hell did the whole commentariat miss that?

  42. Millennial feminism is a scourge.

  43. Somebody really needs to take this silly, self absorbed twunt and explain to her that THAT train left the station back in 1966.

  44. O I C . . . .

    Just to prove to this store owner that “Under My Thumb” is a barb-fest that kills on sight and should not be heard/read/viewed/remembered by anyone, I looked it up on the internet, read all the words a coupla times just to be sure, listened to it to be sure there were no new versions out there, printed up a copy, checked it over for misspellings, printed out some more copies and looked them over to be sure the ink in my printer hadn’t run out mid-word, showed them around to my feminist friends to get their agreement on my scheme, marched down to Trader Joe’s and shared the words with the manager there, and then stormed home and wrote about the whole experience.

    Wfffff. I guess I’ll have to do it all over again with another song.

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