Does anyone feel like this song is really problematic? I’m writing about this because, when “Same Love” came out, tumblr blew up with all my LGBTQ+ babes being like “Hold up, girl.” I haven’t seen this happen with brave, and I think it may be even more problematic to me than Macklemore’s single. Now, I know, I know—for straight allies in the mainstream media it’s kind of a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation, and I don’t say anything against Sara Bareilles for using her success as an artist to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. In fact it is “brave” of her, and it’s better she tried to say something positive than to have said nothing at all. This isn’t necessarily a post about heteros capitalizing on the struggle, etc, because people have already said a lot about that. This is more about the CONTENT of the song that I find problematic.
Because when it comes down to it, this song is an ally saying, “Why don’t you just come out already?”
Now arises the usual discussion of a straight artist capitalizing on the struggle of a non-heterosexual person, which is to just say that, Sarah Bareilles, you couldn’t POSSIBLY know why not.
Because coming out is infinitely more complicated than “Show me how big your brave is.” Sure, it takes bravery, but for most people it’s not a question of being brave. For some lesbian girls in high school, it’s a question of having a roof overhead—because, Sara, do you know how many young people have come out and been kicked out of their homes? For a young queer boy in the Bible belt, it’s a question of being sent to pray-the-gay-away summer camps, a question of being beaten within an inch of his life by his father. Et cetera, et cetera.
We know this already, we the faggots, we the queers, we the dikes, we the trannies, we the whatever slur straight people have given us; we know that there’s an issue with telling someone, “Just suck it up and come out.” We know that the person telling us that will never have to try to be “brave” in the way that they’re demanding of us. But to broadcast that issue to the masses. What about the pastor’s kid in Alabama, a trans kid already riddled with depression and guilt for being who they are, who hears this song play on the radio and thinks, “Maybe I’m just not brave enough.” In addition to the guilt society already imposes on people in the LGBTQ+ community for not being “normal,” the guilt that is overtly present in American youth, this song is adding another layer of guilt for not being “brave” enough to face the possibility of being disowned by families.
"Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down/By the enemy," says Bareilles. Here we encounter a similar problem with "Same Love," with the attempt to homogenous our experience, although in this case she is not equating our LOVE with that of STRAIGHT love, but the LGBTQ+ STRUGGLE with that of MUNDANE struggle. Everybody suffers, sure. But everybody’s been THERE? Everybody’s been faced with the possibility of having their families disown them simply for who they are? No, Sara, everybody has not been there; you especially. I think this stanza of the song sums up the biggest problem I have with the song as a whole: that it is minimizing the difficulty of coming out. To universalize the experience is to say that it’s no big deal.
What do I mean by universalize? If we take this song by its lyrics alone, it could be about anything—anybody who has a struggle, who should tell their story. But the fact that Sara Bareilles found it important to broadcast that she was inspired by coming out, it’s important to emphasize, I think, that this is the lens through which we should view this song.
And it just falls short of being the message of empowerment it’s supposed to be. Sorry, Sara. We appreciate your support, we’re glad that you love us and you want us to be happy, but I just don’t think you’ve earned the right to tell anyone to be brave until you’ve walked in their shoes.
This isn’t the most organized argument about this song, but I just had to get some thoughts out about it. If anybody wants to discuss this with me, I’d love to hear what you think. If you have a link to an article or something that does a better job than I do at articulating what is wrong with this song, please send it to me. If you disagree with me, please tell me.
If you think I’m overreacting, if you think this kind of thing doesn’t need to be discussed in a socially conscious society, please unfollow me.