“Society’s Child” (Janis Ian)

Thirteen-year-old songwriter Ian notes that the conclusion, in which a white girl from New Jersey tells her African American crush object that “I can’t see you anymore, baby,” was motivated by a sense of logic and realism: “I don’t think I made a conscious decision to have the girl cop out in the end, it just seemed like that would be the logical thing at my age, because how can you buck school and society and your parents, and make yourself an outcast forever?” Intriguingly, the trax suggests that “one of these days” the singer will overcome society’s pressures to conform, and will buck the system. But let’s also remember that even those who refuse their parents and peers are also part of the “system,” too, and that the concept of “society” (in Pierre Bourdieu’s hands, for example) accounts for both conformists and refuseniks. Indeed, as renegade African American historian J.A. Rogers documented in a mountain of publications, the social world has sexually crossed color lines in all times and places. So this trax documents not “realism” per se, but merely Ian’s particular probability. Another logical realist, down the street, didn’t manage to write a song, but already is packing her bags.


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