Princeton group cuts 'Mermaid' song over 'toxic masculinity'
People walk at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
PRINCETON, N.J. -- An all-male a cappella group at Princeton University has pulled a Disney movie song from its act following a student newspaper column that suggested the lyrics helped promote "toxic masculinity."
The Princeton Tigertones have performed "Kiss the Girl," a song from "The Little Mermaid," for years. During performances at the Ivy League school, a female audience member would be brought onstage to decide whether or not a man from the crowd could kiss her.
Noa Wollstein, who wrote the column, claimed the song's message is misogynistic and that too many women have been pulled on stage for unwanted encounters.
"I have seen a queer student brought on stage have to uncomfortably push away her forced male companion," Wollstein, a sophomore from New York, wrote in her column. "I have heard of unwilling girls being subjected to their first kisses. I have watched mothers, who have come to see their child's performance, be pulled up to the stage only to have tension generated between them and the kid they came to support."
In a response published in the newspaper, Tigertones' President Wesley Brown apologized to anyone made uncomfortable by the tradition. He said the group won't perform the song until it can find a way to do so without offending any audience members.
Brown, a senior at Princeton, wrote the group has taken steps to try to make audience participation voluntary and consensual, but did not provide specific examples. He said the group had tried to bring a lighthearted, youthful energy to its performance of the song but failed to ensure comfort for audience members brought on stage.
"Performances of this song have made participants uncomfortable and offended audience members, an outcome which is antithetical to our group's mission and one that we deeply regret," he wrote.
In "The Little Mermaid," the song's lyrics are sung by Sebastian the crab as he encourages Prince Eric to kiss Ariel, who can't talk because she traded her voice in order to become human for him.
"My oh my/ Look like the boy too shy/ Ain't gonna kiss the girl," the crab sings with help from other sea creatures. "Ain't that sad?/ It's such a shame/ Too bad/ You're gonna miss the girl."
Other lyrics include, "Don't be scared/ You better be prepared/ Go on and kiss the girl."
Wollstein also criticized "The Little Mermaid" song for "unambiguously encourage men to make physical advances on women without obtaining their clear consent."
"Removed from its cushioning context of mermaids, magic, and PG ratings, the message comes across as even more jarring," Wollstein wrote.