I Had To Hide the “Idol” Music Video From My Openly Misogynistic Father
I learned my lesson when I was young. Anything that appeared to give me an escape, to distract me and give me comfort, ended up on my father’s hit list. It was random, too. Sometimes it feels like he would even introduce us to new things, just to take them away later after we’d grown attached to them.
As I grew up, then, it became important that I not only hide my interest in things, but that I also not appear to be hiding that interest. That is, I couldn’t appear too enthusiastic about something, lest it pop up on his radar, but if he felt like I was hiding something, that would pop up on his radar as well. Sometimes you might drop your guard because he initially appeared to approve of something, or at least not mind it, but then he would get in a mood and need to take his frustration out on somebody. And then you and whatever you cherished would end up his target.
I hated being deceitful, I was raised to hold honesty in high esteem, but it can’t be denied that things ran more smoothly in our household when I learned how to walk on these eggshells. Something my siblings did not always appear to understand.
The Anti-Love Yourself Message
Among many stories I heard over and over growing up, one of them illustrated my father’s opinions on the concept of “loving yourself”. Anyone who is interested in BTS’s discography knows why this might have an impact on listening to their music.
The story was that a distant friend had a daughter who became rebellious and was permitted to be disrespectful to her father in front of others (or what my father perceived as being disrespectful). He, concerned about his friend relinquishing his duties to keep the women of his household in their place, expressed his worries about the behavior. His friend’s response, almost always imitated in a high-pitched, mocking voice, was, “She just needs to learn to love herself.”
And thus, in my father’s mind, the idea of “loving yourself” was a satanic lie, straight from the pit of hell. My sister made the mistake once of arguing she should, and my father’s reaction ensured she didn’t bring it up again.
Loving yourself was rebelling against our father’s authority over us. It was challenging him. It was giving us ideas about being treated with respect and having our own thoughts. All of these are things that women should not do.
The Risk of Getting Caught
The reality of my father’s finances was that, once we got older, he could not afford to have all his daughters sitting around on his dole, waiting for a husband to come along and take over their rearing. This meant an upheaval of the established order of things, his daughters getting outside ideas, him having less time to supervise them (though he tried his hardest), and overall a relaxing of some of the strict toxicity that had been drilled into us as we’d grown up.
The scars of our upbringing, however, had taken their toll. It was in this context that I came across BTS, and their encouraging and positive messages. Including ones about “loving yourself”.
Having been raised to be wary of this message, obviously I was “discerning” and tacked on a lot of “buts”, just in case he ever happened to discover our interest in BTS and raise issues.
I already knew how it could go. We had become more and more brazen about our dedication to the band. I bought an album, my sisters listened to their music in the living room when he wasn’t home. But eventually, one day he’d be in a bad mood, and BTS represented everything he hates. Men who see women as people and respect them. Men who encourage you to understand and love yourself. Men who encourage you to dream and then to pursue those dreams. Men who wear makeup, and are okay with not staying within the rigidly-defined borders of Western masculinity.
It was a disaster waiting to happen.
What Went Down
So obviously I kept my own love of the band low-key, and kind of subtly encouraged my sisters to do the same thing.
The problem is, when you love something, you want to advertise it. Show it. And I knew doing that could end up taking it away from us.
I remember coming home from work, my sister on the computer, watching the Idol music video that had released recently. No earbuds in, and loud enough that the lyrics, including English lyrics, could be understood.
My Dad walked into the kitchen, looking for something to eat. Walked right by the computer and her, and because she was oblivious, thankfully, she didn’t trigger his “someone is hiding something from me” radar.
I remember engaging him in conversation, keeping his focus off the computer. He finished eating and left, once again, thankfully, not hearing the song or observing the music video.
We had a short talk. I wasn’t mean, and I had to choose my words carefully because what if my Dad walked into the middle of the conversation and heard me encouraging her to hide stuff from him? But I communicated my concern, that it was probably best to keep this on the down-low and not advertise it so openly, where he could see it when he was in a bad mood. He hadn’t been, this time, but he was notoriously unpredictable.
Why This Matters
BTS has done so much for me and my sisters. Growing up in an environment where men were open about their hatred and contempt for women, their lyrics and actions have been healing for us.
This is why, when I saw visions of them potentially being taken away, I talked to my sister. And dropped some hints to the others later, that it was probably best to keep this to ourselves.
We’d had so many things already taken from us. Things that comforted us, things that gave us hope, things that mentally helped us survive his control. Things he hated because they were proof that he could never completely own us.
The possibility of BTS ending up among those things…I wasn’t sure I could take that. Not because of them themselves, necessarily, but because they had come to represent something significant to me (as well as my sisters): hope. Hope and comfort and solidarity and affirmation. Losing them wouldn’t have just meant changing my music preferences, it would’ve taken away the parts of me that were slowly healing with the help of their music.
It’s several years later, and we’ve all walked a long journey together. I’m grateful that men like them exist, men that people like my father find so offensive.
I’m also grateful they didn’t become another casualty in my father’s personal war on women.