I remember the night before my first day of high school as if it was yesterday, and while my school demanded that I put on a uniform, I was still stressed about how I should wear my hair( for which I woke up at 5:30 everyone morning to straighten before the bus came), what color tights I should wear(because choosing between black and blue was such a life- altering decision), and whether or not I should wear my hoop earrings or studs. Looking back, those decisions do not mean anything and quite frankly, I am embarrassed to admit that I worried about such petty choices while I should have been excited for what the next four years were going to bring. But everyone experiences those butterflies on the first day of school; so many in fact, it has become a societal norm. But is it really normal to feel like you have to wear the right pair of shoes to fit in, to feel like if you don’t look a certain way or act a certain way you’re going to be made fun of?
This this is the question posed by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis in both their album The Heist and one of their most popular songs, “Same Love” featuring Mary Lambert. The Heist was released on October 9, 2012 following the release of Unplanned Mix-tapes earlier that year and Tiny Desk Concert, The VS. Redux, and Language of My World in previous years. The Heist, literally meaning to steal or participate in an action of robbery, is cumulatively a metaphor for the freedom societal pressure robs us of; even the album cover appears to be of a chain linked fence or some type of constricting fabric, possibly leather. Not only do the songs of the album directly reference societal pressure with bold statements like: “we are what we wear… Nikes helped define me,” but even the process of releasing the album points toward Macklemore’s fight against these pressures: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis choose to release the album independently of a major label company for “independent and creative control.” This creative control, something that all people crave in self- expression, inspired them to attempt to combat one of the biggest self- expression controversies our culture is facing today: homosexuality.
“Same Love,” a 7:03 tale of the struggle a gay man faces in his sexual self-expression, captures exactly what societal pressure is: “ a man-made re-wiring of a predisposition.” As a society we hold unrealistic expectations for the people around us; we create lists and categories of the right and wrong ways to act. These lists become the limits of people’s self- expression and they live in fear of the punishments for those who go against them:”When I was in the third grade I thought that I was gay,’Cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight.I told my mom, tears rushing down my face.” Furthermore, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis claim that this fear of punishment extends beyond those actually committing the societal crime onto those who support it, causing them to live a life of silence: “when everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless, rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen.”
The suppression of self-expression is something that has haunted societies for thousands of years however, today, it seems much more oppressive. Not only do we have face-to-face judgments of those around us, we also have the ability to read those judgement on various social media platforms. Today, people post status’, comments, tweets and even videos making fun of those who are different than us: “call each other faggots behind the keys of a message board. ” Consequently, I must ask, how is it that a platform, even one of social media, is something that is supposed to be a foundation of growth and yet is the very thing heisting its user of it? I am not gay and I was lucky enough to not have to watch any of my gay friends struggle with their self-expression, however as a Rutgers student I know, first-hand, the effects social media can have on self-expression, and it is through this that I share a close tie to “Same Love” and the challenges it presents. While I did not personally know Tyler Clementi, as a Rutgers student I feel very strongly about the effects societal pressures and social media can have on those who choose to express themselves differently. The strain social pressure puts not only on the person themselves, but also their friends family and in this case, the surrounding student body can be devastating. For this reason I am an LGBT Ally and I strongly support not only the tolerance of, but also the acceptance of all people for who they are.