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Musogyny: You Got To Fight For Your Right To Parody!

Everyone knows it’s a man’s world out there (thanks James Brown) but there is none more so than the big bad world of music. From Miley’s twerking to Sinead’s open letter shaming, these last few months have seen an upward trajectory in the debate around gender issues within music.

Rest assured that we here at PlanetNotion will be keeping a keen eye on all things sexism and there may even be some naming and shaming along the way.

This week has been an interesting one for music licensing with girl-empowering toy designers GoldieBlox running into hot water with everyone’s favourite NYC hip-hop outfit, the Beastie Boys.

Their cutesy and overdue propaganda to breed a new army of girl construction workers has been engineered in the form of a creative television advert (directed by Sean Pecknold, brother of Fleet Floxes singer, Robin Pecknold) where defiant little Germaine Greers run around chucking their gender-prescribed dolls out of the pram in favour of building intricate Rube Goldberg devices to switch up the conventions from Barbies, glitter and fairies.

GoldieBlox- ‘Girls’

Where the problem lies is that someone at GoldieBlox conveniently forgot to ask Beastie Boys’ permission to use a version of their classic, and highly sexist, anthem ‘Girls’ as the soundtrack, albeit a clever but distinguishable parody.

Why would they though as deceased Beastie Boy Adam Yauch put an almighty spanner in the licensing works by writing in his will “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, in no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes” giving them no hope of approval.

Clearly GoldieBlox thought it best to release now and worry later; using the defence of parody and fair use to persuade otherwise as sometimes these things slip if there is evidence that the song has been altered to become a spoof. GoldieBlox, in their defence, have said:

“In the lyrics of the Beastie Boys song entitled ‘Girls’, girls are limited (at best) to household chores, and are presented as useful only to the extent they fulfil the wishes of the male subjects. GoldieBlox created its parody video with specific goals to make fun of the Beastie Boys song, and to further the company’s goal to break down gender stereotypes and to encourage young girls to engage in activities that challenge their intellect, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.”

Beastie Boyz- ‘Girls’

They argue, in short, that the commercial sells the product and their feminist Beastie Boys take off offers a complimentary cultural commentary; the two together not only attract attention to their products but also their moral mission to get girls into the male-dominated industries – all with a tongue in their cheek and less sexist sentiment than the Beastie Boys original.

Even though a hard line has been cut on using Beastie Boys music in advertising before, perhaps this little glimmer of ethics should have been taken with the sense of humour it was delivered in and whilst the band abhor music being used to commercially sell products, do they not support the positive female ideology presented by GoldieBlox? In short yes, but not enough to let the parody slip, as they say:

“Like many of the millions of people who have seen your toy commercial “GoldieBlox, Rube Goldberg & the Beastie Boys,” we were very impressed by the creativity and the message behind your ad. We strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering.”

“As creative as it is, make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads.”

It seems to us that is a corporate line to spin from a band who hate the corporate. If the song was the actual version maybe we’d think different but GoldieBox did after all use a modified parody and whilst that is based on the intellectual property of the Beastie Boys, it’s evolved, laughed at the original and rectified its sexist message whilst also opening up a global debate on females being encouraged to play with genderless toys and spark interest in industries less open to them – all good things.

How many people are talking about these messages and the use of the parody and how many of us are actually giving money to GoldieBlox for toys? Perhaps the Beastie Boys should have let this one slip on the loophole of parody and let the girls take control.

Unfortunately though what has actually happened is the lawyers have hammered it out and GoldieBlox have now removed the music from the advert stating “We don’t want to fight with you. We love you and we are actually huge fans. When we made our parody version of your song, ‘Girls’, we did it with the best of intentions. We wanted to take a song we weren’t too proud of, and transform it into a powerful anthem for girls.”

Seems like they just didn’t Fight For Their Right To Parody!

- Sarah Joy

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