There are now so many radio stations in Dublin that it is easy to forget on which one a conversation was heard, maybe it was 98, it would be difficult to be certain. The presenters were discussing a publicity video for the USA versus Ireland rugby match on 8th June, in which an American rugby star is depicted in conversation with a leprechaun. One presenter said he thought it was a bad attempt at humour, the other objected that it was racial stereotyping, which, for him, amounted to racism.
Of course, the video was not intended to be offensive, but what if the person depicted with the rugby star had been a parody of an African American, or a Moslem? No matter its intention, there would have been outrage.
Driving down the motorway from Dublin in the late evening, signals from the Dublin stations persist until one is well into rural Ireland, and one was playing old rock music. It being the first evening of the May bank holiday weekend, Thin Lizzy’s The Boys are Back in Town with its line that it won’t be long until summer comes seemed appropriate. Yet the lyrics treat women as objects, even the rejection of an unwanted sexual advance is matter for laughter. Is it acceptable that one group of people depict others in a way that they think is humorous, might there not be women who object to the following?
You know the chick that used to dance a lot
Every night she’d be on the floor shaking what she’d got
Man, when I tell you she was cool, she was red hot
I mean she was steaming
That night over at Johnny’s place
Well, this chick got up and she slapped Johnny’s face
Man we just fell about the place
If that chick don’t want to know, forget her.
The Thin Lizzy song was soon followed by Supertramp’s ‘Breakfast in America’, a song which includes the lines:
Don’t you look at my girlfriend (girlfriend), she’s the only one I got
Not much of a girlfriend (girlfriend), never seem to get a lot (What’s she got? Not a lot)
Even in 1979, as an eighteen year old, I thought the lines demeaning of women, but would have been in a very small minority. No-one I knew ever expressed doubts about the music which was stuff of our everyday culture.
The remainder of the radio station’s playlist would not be heard, as the signal was lost as the song drew to a close.
Perhaps the leprechaun stuff doesn’t matter, aren’t there plenty of Irish people who dress in such a way? Perhaps the song lyrics don’t matter, countless records by Thin Lizzy and Supertramp would have been bought by women. Perhaps prejudice doesn’t arise from the accumulation of repeated negative depictions, but perhaps it does.