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American Women and Stupid Girls: Misogynistic Lyrics as Faux Social Critique

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards: Spokesmen for Clean Living
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards: Spokesmen for Clean Living

 

Listening to the Rolling Stones’ “Mother’s Little Helper” the other day, I was struck by how much the lyrics resembled a misogynistic MRA rant. Ostensibly a song pointing out the hypocrisy of suburban squares attacking the drug culture whilst themselves popping prescription pills, the song extends its “critique” to cover such subjects as the evil of women making cakes from mixes instead of from scratch.  (See below for videos of all the songs mentioned in this post.)

So you go from this bit of, ahem, social criticism:

“Things are different today,”

I hear ev’ry mother say

Mother needs something today to calm her down

And though she’s not really ill

There’s a little yellow pill

She goes running for the shelter of her mother’s little helper

And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day.

To this:

“Things are different today,”

I hear ev’ry mother say

Cooking fresh food for a husband’s just a drag

So she buys an instant cake and she buys a frozen steak

And goes running for the shelter etc etc

Yep, that’s right. Mick’s as bothered by the frozen steak as he is by the dangers of tranquilizer abuse. By the end of the song, the hypothetical freezer-and-cake-mix-using mother has died of an overdose. Told you so!

Misogynistic rock songs aren’t exactly a rarity – hell, “Mother’s Little Helper” isn’t even the worst offender in the Rolling Stones’ disography.

But unlike more straightforward outbursts of misogynistic nastiness like, say, “Under My Thumb,” “Mother’s Little Helper” pretends to be something nobler: a social critique.

The blogger behind the wonderfully arch I Hate the New York Times blog pointed out to me in a tweet that a surprising number of old rock lyrics play this little trick. Taking the form of a “critique of today’s inauthentic & hedonistic society” they are in fact “directed at [a] specific shallow hussy.”

Along with Mother’s Little Helper, IHateNYT suggested I take another look at the lyrics to Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “Kicks.” And, yep, it’s basically the same thing: a critique of drug use in the form of a patronizing lecture to a young woman in search of “kicks,” starting out with this little bit of I-told-you-so, delivered with a sneer:

Girl, you thought you found the answer on that magic carpet ride last night

But when you wake up in the mornin’ the world still gets you uptight

It turns out that the song, written by the songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, was inspired by the drug use of a male friend of theirs – though somehow in the song this specific man became a hypothetical “girl.”

And then of course there is the Guess Who’s American Woman, a sort-of critique of America’s “war machines” and “ghetto scenes” in the form of a long, sneering diatribe against a hypothetical woman:

Now woman, I said stay away

American woman, listen what I say

 

American woman, get away from me

American woman, mama let me be

Don’t come knockin’ around my door

Don’t wanna see your shadow no more

And on and on and on for a very long five minutes and nine seconds.

One of the reasons these songs sound so much like MRA rants is that MRAs like to play the same little game, dressing up their misogynistic sentiments in the form of “social critique.” Thus Paul Elam’s faux-environmentalist attack on female consumers, and all that talk about how single mothers and/or “picky women”  are going to bring about the end of civilization. Heck, some manosphere fat-gal-bashers even pretend they fat-bash out of concern for the well-being of the women they’re ridiculing.

It might be entertaining to transform some of these old woman-hating songs into critiques of woman-haters. “Stupid Girl” by the Rolling Stones might be a good place to start. I mean, seriously?

Like a lady in waiting to a virgin queen

Look at that stupid girl

She bitches ’bout things that she’s never seen

Look at that stupid girl

Those are real Rolling Stone lyrics, not a comment from NWOslave. Have at it.

Here are videos of all the songs I mention above:

 

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whataboutthemoonz
8 years ago

“Those are real Rolling Stone lyrics, not a comment from NWOslave.”

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

Rock lyrics: so much misogyny, so little time. We could be here all night with just the Stones.

I always thought The Who’s “Pictures of Lilly” was creepy.

The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

Never did like the Stones, skeevy creeps.

Rahim
Rahim
8 years ago

Misogynistic point proven, such rubbish songs. I rather listen to songs like Free Loan Investment – Kick His Balls Out. Castration threats sung by women is a more constructive form of social criticism, and definitely not misogynistic.

cloudiah
8 years ago

I think that is why Liz Phair wrote Exile in Guyville as a woman’s answer to Exile on Main Street…

On The Who, Petra Haden’s cover of I Can See for Miles is pretty delightful:

Iris Vander Pluym
8 years ago

It’s amazing that with the exception of obvious misogyny like that in Under My Thumb, so little of this phenomenon ever occurred to me as a kid. Now when I listen to classic rock I am stunned at what I’d been obliviously singing along to. Then there’s the whole Evil Woman, Witchy Woman, [fill-in-the-blank-something-bad-bad-bad] Woman genre, messages I so effortlessly absorbed as “better not be like these awful women or men won’t like you.” It’s insidious.

aussiesmurf
8 years ago

Antidotes :

Barbarian in the Back Seat of My Car – Voice of the Beehive
Sh*tlist – L7
F***ing Perfect – Pink
Tear in Your Hand – Tori Amos
Pretty much anything by Skunk Anansie
Violet – Hole
Don’t Call Me Baby – Madison Avenue

Shiraz
Shiraz
8 years ago

I always thought “American Woman” was about a guy who met a powerful chick. She’s a force of nature, and he wants her…but she scares him at the same time.

aussiesmurf
8 years ago

@Iris The casual misogyny in pretty much every ‘metal’ song from the 80s now gives me the creeps. I mean – Guns n’ Roses – Yikes!

Steele
Steele
8 years ago

Ha! It’s unfortunate that the Boobz King chose this particular topic; American music has a notoriously misandric slant.

cloudiah
8 years ago

Oh Steelepole, do share.

Steele
Steele
8 years ago

Cloudiah – Share? It’s common knowledge. Please. I’m not going to do your Googling for you! Hah!

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

There’s a trope in white-boy blues that’s driven me nuts for years, where the guy sings about working so hard to give all his money to his woman.

The Beatles in A Hard Days Night (not the blues, but the first one I thought of): You know I work all day
To get you money to buy you things

Led Zeppelin in Dazed and Confused: Every day I work so hard, bringing home my hard earned pay
Try to love you baby, but you push me away

When you hear an African American blues guy sing something like this, the implication (to me) is that he while he’s working really hard, the woman he’s singing to is working just as hard. He’s unloading a truck all day while she’s working in the laundromat or whatever. When a white guy sings something like this, the implication is that he’s singing to a white woman who is sitting on her butt all day.

meltydali
meltydali
8 years ago

filed under more reasons I hate “classic rock”

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

Steele, you have nothing. It’s OK, you usually do.

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

“I mean – Guns n’ Roses – Yikes!”

I know Axl Rose is a horrible person, but I thought “Used to Love Her” was hilarious. People talking too much is one of my major pet peeves, and I used to sing it as “Used to Love Him.” But a lot of their other lyrics – yes, I agree with the yikes!

Shiraz
Shiraz
8 years ago

Steele, what’s so funny? The “Hahs!” Gotta stop.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Actually this is my pet hate with sexist rock lyrics.

Try to love you baby, but you push me away

What you mean is fuck, not love, so say that. Don’t dress up a desire for sex as being about love, you manipulative assholes.

feministgamer
feministgamer
8 years ago

Backing up my ridiculous claims? Hah!

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

But Cassandra, he gave her his money!

Steele
Steele
8 years ago

Shiraz – Merely that the misandric slant of music these days is so egregious that, indeed, it takes a specific brand of nerve to come out and hold up some selected quotes as misogynist. That’s cruisin’ for a metaphorical brusin’. I’d advise Mr. Futrelle to check himself before he wrecks himself.

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

And then, normally I like Ray Lamontagne, but he does it too, in Repo Man from 2010: I work like a devil,
Every night and every day,
Bustin’ my back,
Just to make my pay.
Now where is your woman you ask,
‘Cause, as they say, while the cat’s away…

And even worse, he threatens to spank her: I’m ’bout to do what your daddy shoulda done,
I’m gonna lay you right across my knee.

maselphie
maselphie
8 years ago

“That’s cruisin’ for a metaphorical brusin’. I’d advise Mr. Futrelle to check himself before he wrecks himself.”

Is this ban worthy? I mean, I know he said “metaphorical” and he sounds like a huge dork, but really. It’d be nice.

Shiraz
Shiraz
8 years ago

Hmmm. So music was so wholesome back in the day it’s beyond critique? What the hell are you talking about?

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

STEELE HAS SO MANY EXAMPLES HE CAN’T EVEN LIST ONE. IT WOULD BREAK HIM IN HALF BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY. IF HE TOOK ONE OUT ALL THE OTHERS WOULD COME TUMBLING TO THE FLOOR AND HE’D BE BURIED IN EXAMPLES. HE HAS VERY RESPONSIBLY CHECKED HIMSELF.

Shiraz
Shiraz
8 years ago

Hey Claire, you mean “Repo Men” with Jude Law, right? Not “Repo Man” from the 80s with Emilio Estevez? I rather like the 80s film; the soundtrack had less than perfect people providing the soundtrack, but shit, vintage Circle Jerks and Iggy Pop? Tee-hee.

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

Shiraz – Merely that the misandric slant of music these days is so egregious that, indeed, it takes a specific brand of nerve to come out and hold up some selected quotes as misogynist. That’s cruisin’ for a metaphorical brusin’. I’d advise Mr. Futrelle to check himself before he wrecks himself.

Put up or shut up, homeboy.

meltydali
meltydali
8 years ago

Please tell me where you see misandry Steele.

Steele
Steele
8 years ago

As Richard Dawkins would say, Jesus Tapdancing Christ. I’m not going to do your research for you – Kell, Dammit. Especially when it’s such a wide-scale phenomenon. Do your own damn Googling. Here, I’ll get you started:

“You Belong With Me”

cloudiah
8 years ago

1980s Repo Man was one of my favorite movies.

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

Nah, Shiraz, the Ray Lamontagne song I’m talking about has nothing to do with the movie with Emilio Estevez. That is my favorite movie! I just got a new copy today, as I wanted to watch it this weekend and the case was empty.

Here is the Ray Lamontagne song:

And here’s the real thing:

*runs off to the kitchen singing Hombre Secreto*

cloudiah
8 years ago

Top Five Songs – CLEAR MISANDRY

1. Rihanna – Diamonds

So shine bright, tonight you and I
We’re beautiful like diamonds in the sky
Eye to eye, so alive
We’re beautiful like diamonds in the sky

2. Kei$ha – Die Young

Young hunks, taking shots
Stripping down to dirty socks
Music up, gettin’ hot
Kiss me, give me all you’ve got
It’s pretty obvious that you’ve got a crush (you know)
That magic in your pants, it’s making me blush (for sure)

3. Maroon 5 – One More Night

Trying to tell you no, but my body keeps on telling you yes
Trying to tell you stop, but your lipstick got me so out of breath
I’d be waking up, in the morning probably hating myself
And i’d be waking up, feeling satisfied but guilty as hell

And I know i’ve said it a million times
But i’ll only stay with you one more night

Yeah baby give me one more night
Yeah baby give me one more night
Yeah baby give me one more night

4. Bruno Mars – Locked Out of Heaven

You bring me to my knees
You make me testify
You can make a sinner change his ways
Open up your gates cause I can’t wait to see the light
And right there is where I wanna stay

Cause your sex takes me to paradise
Yeah your sex takes me to paradise
And it shows, yeah, yeah, yeah
Cause you make feel like, I’ve been locked out of heaven
For too long, for too long

5. Gangnam Style – Psy

Jong su ke bo wi ji man nol ten no nun yo ja
I te da shi pu myon mu ko ton mo ri pu nun yo ja
Ga ryot ji man wen man han no chul boda ya han yo ja
Gu ron gam gak jo gin yo ja

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

Steele, I googled like 12 things for my comments while you wrote that. GYPSY DILDO PUNK.

meltydali
meltydali
8 years ago

First of all, Taylor Swift is a purveyor of internalized misogyny. She’s saying the girlfriend in that song isn’t good enough for the boy and that she’d be a much better meeker partner for the boy. She is fighting with another woman over a man and presenting herself and that man in a positive light. The only person being vilified is the woman. How the fuck is that man hating?

cloudiah
8 years ago

Taylor Swift – You Belong with Me

You’re on the phone with your girlfriend, She’s upset
She’s going off about something that you said
She doesnt get your humour like I do

I’m in the room, its a typical Tuesday night
I’m listening to the kind of music she doesnt like
And she’ll never know your story like I do

But she wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts
She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers
Dreaming bout the day when you wake up and find
That what you’re lookin for has been here the whole time

If you could see that I’m the one who understands you
Been here all along so why can’t you see?
You belong with me
You belong with me

Walkin the streets with you in your worn out jeans
I cant help thinking this is how it ought to be
Laughing on the park bench thinkin to myself
Hey isnt this easy?

And you’ve got a smile that could light up this whole town
I havent seen it in awhile, since she brought you down
You say you find I know you better than that
Hey, Whatcha doing with a girl like that?

She wears high heels, I wear sneakers
She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers
Dreaming bout the day when you wake up and find
That what you’re looking for has been here the whole time

If you could see that I’m the one who understands you
Been here all along so why can’t you see?
You belong with me

Standin by, waiting at your back door
All this time how could you not know that?
You belong with me
You belong with me

Oh I remember you driving to my house in the middle of the night
I’m the one who makes you laugh when you know you’re about to cry
I know your favorite songs and you tell me about your dreams
I think I know where you belong. I think I know it’s with me.

Can’t you see that I’m the one who understands you?
Been here all along so why can’t you see?
You belong with me

Standing by or waiting at your back door
All this time how could you not know that
You belong with me
You belong with me

Have you ever thought just maybe
You belong with me
You belong with me

Shiraz
Shiraz
8 years ago

Claire!!! *Fist bump* I love the film too! Damn, *fist bump again*

Steele, you’re still not making a lick of sense. Try harder…or something.

cloudiah
8 years ago

In high school, I was voted Most Likely to Become a Repo Wife. (By my friends, who hijacked the stupid voting system as a joke.)

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

Steele, you should keep resting. Once again, you have nothing.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

LOL! Guy who song is about, you’re so awesome! Taylor Swift wishes you would notice her instead of that slut you’re dating! Misandry!

Vitamin D
Vitamin D
8 years ago

Is steele having yet a ‘what abpout the menz’ moment? I

Shiraz
Shiraz
8 years ago

Shit, you guys are awesome — cloudiah, claire, hellkell, cassandra.

Unfortunately, I have an early day tomorrow. Goodnight, friends.

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

Day, night, it don’t mean shit.

I mean, goodnight, Shiraz!

princessbonbon
princessbonbon
8 years ago

Obviously misandric since it is not bashing women to the fullest extent possible.

Polliwog
8 years ago

What the hell, Steele. “You Belong With Me” is a terrible, stupid song, and I’ll even give you the fact that Taylor Swift’s entire oeuvre is arguably offensive to people with functioning ears, but misandric? Seriously? Please, please tell us how exactly singing of your undying love for a guy and your loathing for his supposedly terrible girlfriend who just doesn’t “get” him is hateful to men?

Steele
Steele
8 years ago

Says, I can’t even parse that comment. Cupcake, perhaps you should return to Sophomore English, or its equivalent.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

@clairedammit

I’ll admit to having been a huge (and I mean huge) G N’ R fan at 14-15ish, and having seen the most recent incarnation live. “Used to Love Her” is, depending who you ask, a sick joke about a dog who had to be put down, a cheap pun (to kill her/tequila), or both. Which doesn’t really necessarily make it better, but…

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

Psst, Steele, it was sarcasm. Does that help?

meltydali
meltydali
8 years ago

Steele, thats not a response and you know it. Its a desperate ploy to distract from the shakiness of your position. Please don’t do that. Also since Im on the subject of things you do that only convince me more that you’re wrong name dropping Dawkins for a phrase he most likely would not make is a detriment to your already unconvincing appeal.

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

Huh, lowquacks, I never heard that. I always thought their lyrics were pretty straightforward. I could see it being about a dog, though.

Story time! Mr. Dammit and I didn’t have an expensive wedding, so a live band was out of the question. The place where we got married had a nice sound system, though, so I made mix tapes for the proprietors to play at our reception. One of the songs on them was Patience by GnR. (Also When I’m 64 by The Beatles. I forget the rest.)

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

That’s OK, Steele, we know how bad your reading comprehension is. We won’t hold it against you since it’s your misandric teacher’s fault.

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