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In praise of Ms Rachel

In our house, Ms. Rachel of Songs For Littles has become a celebrity. She’s also the first YouTuber I’ve looked forward to new videos from since the year the service started - not so much for me, but for our little one, who is enthralled by every word.

The last YouTuber I really followed was lonelygirl15, the fictional web series that started by passing itself off as a vlog but quickly revealed itself to be a darkly dramatic thriller with ARG tendencies about a creepy religious cult (albeit filmed on a shoestring). I’ve never quite trusted a YouTube series since, and it wouldn’t completely surprise me to spot oblique references to Aleister Crowley in the background of one of Ms. Rachel’s songs.

Lately, Ms. Rachel has come under fire from some quarters for mentioning featured songwriter Jules’ preferred pronouns:

Ms. Rachel began receiving backlash early this year because of her work with Jules. As previously mentioned, Jules is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns … and that is essentially the full extent of the “controversy.” People who identify as “traditional” parents began commenting on Ms. Rachel’s videos and posting on TikTok that they could no longer continue following her because she included Jules in the videos. Many slammed her for introducing “they/them” pronouns to children and stated that Jules’ mere appearance was “enough” for them to turn on Ms. Rachel.

The whole thing is obviously tiresome: the same people who always complain about declaring preferred pronouns are making a fuss again, as if it’s anything but a considerate thing to do.

What’s more remarkable is that Ms. Rachel, alongside her collaborators like Jules, has become a major media personality in a very short time: one whose choices draw criticism from conservative spaces. She’s not affiliated with major any media organization; a Master’s student in childhood education who makes videos from her home using commodity equipment.

That gives me a little bit of hope in this new normal of book banning and militant activism for “traditional” (read: regressive) values. It’s not that Ms. Rachel is notably progressive - although I would be very happy if she was - but she can call her own creative shots as an independent and still find a large audience. As our cultural landscape declines further, this independence will be a great thing.

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