May 29, 2013

An Open Letter to Katy Perry

Dear Ms. Perry,

The first time I heard your music was when you were on Saturday Night Live a few years ago.

No, that's not true. I heard "I Kissed A Girl" and I HATED it, but mostly because I thought it was such an unfair rip off of Jill Sobule's FABULOUS song by the same name.

I'll admit it, though. I think you're adorable. At first I thought you were just another gimmick. another girl in a ridiculous get-up, singing to amplified noise and, although creative, without a whole lot of talent. After all, you were just doing a song about high school romance, and making it awfully sordid and gross. I wasn't interested.

And I maintained that position for quite a while.

Maybe it's the innate sense of shock that somebody only six months younger than me and I can have such dramatically different lives. That here I am, a mom of three with a dusty degree and a quadrillion-times-edited resume, and there you are... wearing rotating candy bras and performing for stadiums full of people. Living an altered version of my own dream from half a lifetime ago. It's a little weird.

But then you started doing things with your celebrity. I would dare anybody not to absolutely adore you after your performance with Jodi DiPiazza at the Night of Too Many Stars last year.

I might not have been crazy about your music, but I put myself in my own shoes from fifteen years ago. I thought to myself, when I was an awkward kid, bullied constantly, judged for my clothes and my hair and for simply existing... wouldn't I have needed you then? Would I have found comfort and compassion in your music, in your persona?

And I'm pretty much positive the answer would be yes. Maybe instead of rocking out to Tori Amos and Fiona Apple when being a weird girl without a lot of friends, without a lot of hope, I would have been belting out "Firework" along with you.

And that is why when I heard about your apology to Chief Keef, you broke my heart.

Here you were, an adult woman, my age, but still with the ears and the hearts of millions of young girls, and you were apologizing to a teenager.

...who threatened to beat and sexually assault you.

And here I am, an adult woman who secretly adores you. Who, in the recesses of my own imagination, hangs out with you, and parties with you, and sings duets with you. (Not your songs, sorry. We'd sing mine.) And I feel utterly betrayed. And I am heartbroken for the millions of girls who also read your apology.

Because you had nothing to apologize for. You said you didn't like Chief Keef's song.

And you are entitled to your opinion. (And you're right anyway, it's a crap song. Not just content wise. Chief Keef should listen to some Aesop Rock and Sage Francis and grow up.)

But if some teenaged boy can't take any criticism of a song called "I Hate Being Sober," he should get out of show business. And if he's going to respond to the criticism of a woman by threatening her with sexual violence?

How, in any world, should that merit an apology from you?

What you've said to me, and most importantly to all your young fans, is that they should be scared. That they should watch what they say, and do, and think. Because if they don't, somebody will hurt them. And then it will be THEIR FAULT.

You haven't just given permission to millions of boys to "punish" the girls in their lives with sexual violence, you've told all the girls who look up to you, many of whom are already victims every single day, that they are on their own.

You've told them that you, a grown woman of 28, are afraid of a seventeen year old boy who has threatened to punish you for having an opinion.

You've told me that no matter how successful I might have been, no matter how loved I might think I am, I am still a victim. That I need to shut my mouth and listen to the menfolk, and if I get lippy I deserve, to paraphrase Chief Keef, to have the shit slapped out of me.

Yours truly, circa 1999, writing my own
earth-shattering, sorrowful ballads on the ivories
But what really breaks my heart is that none of that is new information. No new messages, there. It's the message I got every day when I was a fourteen year old. When I was bullied and intimidated and eventually sexually assaulted. I knew it was my fault, because I shouldn't have done whatever it was I did to make them angry. Shouldn't have worn those clothes, showed so much skin, spoken up in class... shouldn't have ignited the light and let it shine bright enough that they noticed me.

I have grown up a lot since I was that scared, lonely girl.

And one of the things I loved about you was that you didn't seem like you had. You still spoke her language, you still knew her heart and her soul. You could reach out to those kids who I was once upon a time.

And now, it's like another door has shut. Like if my fourteen year old self opened up to you, I might get sympathy... but you would be another voice in the litany of voices telling me how my pain, my trauma? My complete and total isolation? My own damn fault.

I'm breaking up with you, Katy Perry. I'm taking my chart topping duet and giving your part back to Jewel.

But if that sonofabitch DID hurt you, or DOES hurt you, I would stand by your side and hold your hand and let you know that I've got your back, sister.

And it breaks my heart all over again to think that I'm more likely to offer you that shoulder than karaoke some Rent with you on some ill-planned weeknight.

Think about it, Katy. Think about the twelve year old girl in my city who was gang raped and had a video of it posted to facebook, and had to wait six months to see those boys even indicted. Maybe there's somebody else you should be apologizing to instead.


  1. I don't keep up with the media much but how you write is so compelling. I have gained a new interest in the details surrounding this katy perry drama. All I can say is that I hope parents are aware of what their children are exposed to and respond accordingly. I like the format you used. Creative.

    I found you on welovecomments @ 20sb



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