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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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feminizm rulez bro!
feminizm rulez bro!
8 years ago

great, examples from fifty years ago! very relevant! check this one out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-daPmzKLKNU, how about beyonce’s obvious hatred of men?? wake up dudes, society hates you!! don’t listen to MaNbOObS! he’s so strange!!

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

@ clairedammit

Exactly. I could talk your ear off about how much I hate numetal, but that’s because I love metal, not because numetal is objectively any shittier than a bunch of other music that’s played on stations that I don’t listen to all the time.

drst
drst
8 years ago

Does that Joe guy count as my troll? I mean, he was so terrified of me he never used my name, so that probably doesn’t count.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

CassandraSays, I am agreeing SO HARD with everything you write ITT, and it’s almost embarassing having to type out a fawning little thankyou everytime I see you commenting here. Thanks for generally being cool.

@ClaireDammit

I lol’d.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

Yeah. I came from the South, and was raised on some of the more old-fashioned country, so I definitely have more of a wince reaction to pop country. (While Good Charlotte, since I’m not from the punk scene, I can laugh and enjoy, while acknowledging the silly posturing.)

Yeah, and I’ve noticed, sadly, that I’m moving further and further away from superhero comics. 🙁 Now that there’s so much BETTER shit around, like Anya’s Ghost and Hereville and Doug TenNapel’s stuff, and Grease Monkey, even my old favorite D-listers don’t grip me like they used to. These days, the only superhero stuff I can read that isn’t satirical is… well. *silence* OH GOD I’VE LOST THEM.

Steele
Steele
8 years ago

Well, Says, I was merely trying to clear up what I perceived as some confusion; if you’re more interested in being a supercilious holier-than-thou, that’s your perogative.

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

nizm rulez bro! | December 4, 2012 at 11:43 pm

great, examples from fifty years ago! very relevant!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/54644045@N08/5055032357/

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

Oh, damn. I am a member of the fucked up blockquotes club.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

@ lowquacks

Aw!

@ LBT

I think it’s natural to find your taste drifting away from stuff that you liked at a younger age as your ideas sort of firm up, and you get more confident in them. Also, with comics, I’m not into that stuff but I think there’s been a lot more interesting stuff happening lately in general?

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

RE: feminizm rulez bro

Bless your soul.

Seriously, these guys have to turn to Beyonce? I already gave “Dead Men Don’t Rape.” I was hoping some trolls would take advantage of it! I mean, Jesus, I go through all the trouble…

pecunium
8 years ago

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

Um…. whut? There are examples of the opposite. You made the claim. If you can’t back it up, that’s your problem.

Hanging your ass out where everone can see it seems a strange hobby. There must be something in it, since so many come here to engage in the practice, you, Bob, Spoos, Mary Sunshine, JudgyBitch, Tom Martin, etc.

Says, there are two options here:

Nope… you forgot option 3: Your teacher tried, but you are, in fact, piss-poor in your use and understanding of English.

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

Then Dude… bring it! I mean it. You ought to be pounding the keys; not only would you get to count coup on Dave (making you the first, think of what that would do for your standing in, “The Movement”), but you’d make all of us look like prats, AND you’d get to stick it in the eye of that teacher who recognised, at an early age, the stellar ineptitude you had for language.

But no! You are too lazy (or is it fear?) to do that. You can’t be arsed to stand up for men.

Pitiful to see what the once Mighty MRM has come to.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

RE: CassandraSays

Most definitely! Comics is really starting to diversify again, in part due to manga coming over and becoming popular, and also due to the webcomics movement. As a result, in the USA we’re seeing way more diverse comics and styles and subject matter than we have in ages. (I have a whole long blather about the Comics Code and how that axed a bunch of popular genres and leaving the sanitized superhero stuff, but that’s neither here nor there.) I mean, jesus, I make EDUCATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH comics, and I actually manage to sell them! That would’ve been a much harder row to hoe ten years ago.

Sgt Grumbles
Sgt Grumbles
8 years ago

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

Well, that’s a well-worn argument among nutjobs and cranks everywhere: “There’s plenty of evidence out there, you just refuse to see it!!1!!!”

Polliwog
8 years ago

I think that when most of us really want to go on a rant about how much X sucks it’s because we feel some sense of ownership or attachment towards X-like things.

Yup. For me, it’s less about a specific genre as about singing, because singing is what I do and I’m pretty damn passionate about it, and so people who get famous for singing despite not being very good at singing drive me up the wall a little bit.

(And yet, to be clear, I can have Strong Opinions about music without feeling like other people need to share my Strong Opinions. My boyfriend, whom I adore, has, by my standards, roughly the worst taste in music of anyone I’ve ever met. I just ask him not to put on his CDs when I’m in the car, and we’re cool. 🙂 )

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Actually that could be a fun blog post – how to maintain a relationship with someone whose taste in music you despise. Part one – the car.

Cthulhu's Intern
8 years ago

Oh man, I’m currently writing a 1200-word paper for English on piracy. I’d love to just write “It’s obvious why people should be allowed to pirate. Just do your own damn searching.”

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Mr C likes a lot of stuff that I collectively refer to as “hippie shit”, I like a lot of stuff that’s much too heavy for him. We’ve learned to compromise.

Sgt Grumbles
Sgt Grumbles
8 years ago

Actually that could be a fun blog post – how to maintain a relationship with someone whose taste in music you despise. Part one – the car.

Not worth it. Just don’t do it.

Magpie
Magpie
8 years ago

The car’s not a problem: any tape left in a car for long enough transmogrifies into Queen’s Greatest Hits.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

I had plenty of practice in compromise when my parents were going through their unfortunate country music phase. Oddly enough the solution was The Black Crowes.

Tulgey Logger
Tulgey Logger
8 years ago

Says, again, if you concede that my misandrist teacher destroyed my reading comprehension – and thus it is I at fault in this particular case – that gets you off the hook, but this means you are implicitly conceding the existence of misandry; and in such quantities as to be harmful. This violates a fundamental premise of Man Boobz itself.

Manboobz: Misandry. It Don’t Real.

The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
8 years ago

How the hell does someone “destroy your reading comprehension”? Or does Steele mean his teacher told him “Sorry, kid, writing just isn’t your thing” and his brain imploded?

Polliwog
8 years ago

Mr C likes a lot of stuff that I collectively refer to as “hippie shit”, I like a lot of stuff that’s much too heavy for him. We’ve learned to compromise.

Compromise is good. 🙂 The boyfriend and I have a general car ride policy of “let’s just find a classic rock station,” because while it’s not either person’s favorite genre, neither of us generally mind it.

My other strategy is, I admit, kind of teaching a miniature music course within our relationship, though the goal there isn’t so much getting him to like my sorts of music but rather just helping him understand what it is his musician girlfriend actually does. (When we met, he would ask me questions when I was talking about work like, “Wait, what’s a ‘chord’?” or “So what does ‘harmony’ actually mean?”) Getting him to like my sorts of music a bit more has been a pleasant side-effect, though. 🙂

Tulgey Logger
Tulgey Logger
8 years ago

How the hell does someone “destroy your reading comprehension”? Or does Steele mean his teacher told him “Sorry, kid, writing just isn’t your thing” and his brain imploded?

Ah, but you see, the first one was not a possibility in any case. He merely wanted to “catch” someone in a convenient double bind. Of course, his ego far outpaces his meager logic skills, so naturally he tripped over his own feet immediately.

That, or his english teacher also destroyed his logic skills.

These are the only two options.

¡Taylor Swift is Misandry!

Polliwog
8 years ago

The car’s not a problem: any tape left in a car for long enough transmogrifies into Queen’s Greatest Hits.

True story: a friend of mine was riding with someone not so long ago and looking for something under the seat of the car, when he found an unlabeled, home-burned CD that was dusty enough that it appeared to have been down there for some time. Both riders in the car being geeky types, my friend promptly quipped, “Well, I don’t know what this was, but by now, it’s probably Queen’s Greatest Hits, hahaha.” As he said this, he stuck it in the CD player, and on came “We Will Rock You.”

The driver apparently very nearly crashed the car from laughing so hard.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

It’s like how every household seems to have Bat Out of Hell on tape and a copy of Michael Crichton’s Prey regardless of the actual tastes or tape-player-owningness of the house’s owner.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Also Dire Straits, even though my Dad is the only person I’ve ever met who’s genuinely enthusiastic about them.

timetravellingfool
8 years ago

CassandraSays rebuffed Steele’s advances- misandry.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

If nothing else, today we learned that I am invigorating, like one of those minty shower gels you’re supposed to use to help you wake up in the morning.

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

In our house, it’s Radiohead CDs and Douglas Coupland novels, but, yeah.

Fibinachi
Fibinachi
8 years ago

You know what, Steele, you are right. It took me all of a cup of coffee and a blank stare at my computer screen to find examples of misandry in popular songs. For instance, Jonathan Coulton, Better..

“I remember the first big surprise
The day you came home with your infrared eyes
I looked inside them, but all I could see
Were tiny reflections of me…

No I don’t think that I like you better”

Clearly, denying people the ability to replace their organic parts with cybernetic implements and metal is enforcing homo sapien-normativity. If I can’t have mandibles and active denial systems in the form of pinpoint laser defenses, that’s misandry. Just because some woman somewhere finds it to be an unholy crime against nature, good sense and ethical medical practice I’m not allowed to replace my spine with polymer? Misandry.

And Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Face Down?

“A pebble in the water makes a ripple effect
Every action in this world will bear a consequence
If you wade around forever you will surely drown
I see what’s going down”

Indicating that smacking someone around with the full force of righteous violence and anger (Don’t forget, Force is a political right! The only political right! If those females take that away what do we have left?! Words? Pfah. Smacking a fool is anti misandry.) somehow influences the world and general state of things towards a nihilistic myopic cesspit of violence, fear and anxiety induced Stockholm syndromic state of affairs is clearly misandry because without overpowering domineering violence and emotional control, what do men really have left?

Gods dammit, I’m so mad right now at Taylor Swift too!

“If you could see
That I’m the one
Who understands you
Been here all along
So why can’t you see”

Yeah, I know what’s going on. It’s obvious that she thinks the poor male in her song You Belong With Me is both incapable of making rational decisions and that she needs to coddle and show him the proper way forward in the world, because clearly such a matter as sexual attraction and pair bonding can’t be left up to his own devices! Misandry, that is! The way she patiently waits for him to realize that he is dating the wrong person and constantly tries to offer herself like some piece of distracting meat is misandry, and she’s probably only interested in stalking him and getting him into bed and then leaving and breaking his poor fragile the next day! Damn those hot men and their hypergamous tendencies and inability to appreciate those poor beta provider women who would be so much more right for them. Misandry, I tells you.

Even Beyonce is doing it. Just listen! If I Were a Boy? Pfshsha! Misandry.

If I were a boy
I think I could understand
How it feels to love a girl
I swear I’d be a better man

See? Clearly the only way for boys to become men is to love a women and swear to be a better man so clearly that means women are the gatekeepers of maturity and their magic vaginas instantly and completely expel both confusion, immaturity and emotional codependence and when they deny the use of this magic ressource for the better benefit of all of MANkind that is misandry! MISANDRY, GOOD LADY. Clearly Beyonces inability to relate to the sheer terror of being a man entirely incapable of not acting like a brute with the emotional width of a teaspoon is misandry and she should realize that when he’s out having a beer with the boys, turning off his phone, cheating on someone in a commited monogamous relationship, being incommunicative, emotionally volatile and violently kicking whoever he wants he is only acting like a man should act, and not like some kind of complete immature idiot that no one in their right mind should date let alone be in the same room with! Her refusal to spend her entire life and her magic super power ovaries and vagina in an effort to improve and make his existence meaningful is MISANDRY. Damn her and her hypergamous tendencies and unwillingness to act like the meek, demure housewife of common fantasy.

AND SPEAKING OF FANTASY, Have you heard It’s Just Porn Mom?

The girls I see on MTV
conceal the fact their bands
all look like fools
but their videos make me drool

Oversexualization and the reduction of women to nothing but scantily clad connections of T and A is MISANDRY, because it implies that men don’t also want a woman who can cook! I mean, seriously? What fudgering use is an incredible sexy female of conventionally attractive genetic compososition with just the right lobotomized attitude of codepedency, crippling social anxiety and demure, obsesed insanity if she can’t also cook? Expecting hard working men to do anything but the bare minimum of social grace and work is misandric!

And the list goes on.Clearly the feminist conspiracy that controls all media including every rapper ever is showing an incredible misandric bias.

I’d give more examples, but I’m not going to do your searching for you, Manboobzzozozo. Zorz. Because… that would help me underline my point that my perceived problems are less influential than I think. And that’d be bad.
Because I’d have to realize that what I interpret as misandry might very well be the crippling inability to conventional communication to offer breadth and nuance coupled with my own monomaniac focus.
Pfh.

Fibinachi
Fibinachi
8 years ago

Sorry for slaughtering grammar like that, world. Turns out writing like Steele or any given prolific MRA is actually quite difficult. I simply cannot think of quite so many redundant statements or excessive adjectives.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

@CassandraSays

And everyone else’s Dad, ever.

I was going to bring up the Queen thing, myself actually. See, here’s a rundown of my family’s musical tastes:

Mum: guitary ’90s-early-’00s mainstream indie
Dad: the turtlenecky end of dad-rock (Van Morrison, Clapton, Leonard Cohen, neo-blues white people, Elvis Costello, etc.,)
lowquacks’ twin sister: Showtunes, the whiter end of current mainstream pop, piano-rock.
lowquacks’ little brother: Highly critically respected anything, with a tendency towards more serious and British music – lots of avant-garde stuff, IDM, Radiohead, orchestral stuff. Think Pitchfork c. 2009 – any Viceness.
lowquacks: reasonably omnivourous*, with a preference for American music, ghettoised forms, and lighthearted song-form music.

Long car trips teach us that despite the fact that each of us would have some overlap with every other family member the only thing we can all agree on is Queen. Maaaybe possibly the Arctic Monkeys.

*I hate putting this here because nobody truly gets anywhere near to listening to everything and I don’t, for example, listen to a heap of post-hardcore or orchestral stuff or stuff from non-Anglo folk traditions, but I do get a lot of people confused at the variety of music I listen to and that last.fm thing that tells you how eclectic your tastes are totally gave me a 98.8, and that was when I was listening to less stuff than now…

cloudiah
8 years ago

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

@Fibinachi

That was amazing.

@clairedammit

My observations have only been properly tested in middle-class regional Australian suburbia, so variations are to be expected worldwide.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

Also: Tubular Bells. I’ve never met anyone who particularly likes it but it seems present in everyone’s tape/record collections if they have them.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

I do not have Tubular Bells! Or any of the other stuff except Queen, but that’s because when I moved to the US I left behind anything that I didn’t actually like.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

You must agree that Tubular Bells as a phenomenon is/was entirely mystifying, though, surely?

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

I’m trying to remember why everyone bought it at the time it came out, because I’m as baffled as you are.

Also, everyone I know here seems to own at least one Green Day album, regardless of tastes in general. It seems to be like how even people who hate metal still kind of like Iron Maiden sometimes if they’re British. Does it work that way with AC/DC and Aussies?

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

RE Outside the Anglosphere, as far as I can tell the Japanese version seems to be L’arc en Ciel, or possibly Luna Sea – regardless of musical tastes everyone seems to have at least one CD by one or the other.

Please tell me that the German version is Nena or something like that and not The Scorpions.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

No, AC/DC are heavily polarising. You can tell a person’s level of cultural cringe and class perception of themselves with their attitudes towards AC/DC. Almost all Australians over 30 love Cold Chisel and those under 30 hate them is another one I’ve noticed (I like both bands).

I don’t have enough experience anywhere else to see if this counts be we are, young and old alike, peculiarly enamoured of ABBA as a nation.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

And it’s “Scorpions”, never “The Scorpions”.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

I hear from Germanophile friends that and German exchange students that recent Eurovision winner Lena is well-loved by almost all Germans.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

So maybe AC/DC are more like Status Quo in that sense?

(Who, random, I once met in an airport when I was 13 or so. That was weird, not quite sure what they were doing in Dubai.)

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

@CassandraSays

Probably. I thought Status Quo were just considered old-folks’ music. (A similar anecdote: an older friend of mine showed up at the wrong pub for his disco and ended up seeing AC/DC’s first gig with Bon Scott.)

And don’t ask me to explain the ABBA thing. Maybe it’s because the world’s best and hardest-touring ABBA tribute band are from here?

On a related note, here’s my twin sister and me in ABBA-esque get-ups at our ’70s-themed 17th birthday bash. I’ll keep it up for an hour or so. One of the costume parties that had the most dedication from guests I’ve ever been to, great bash. It’s a pity you can’t see how far the Sta-Prest pants I found in an op-shop a few weeks before flare out or my sister’s 5-inch cork wedge heels, though.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

Incidentally, my first non-children’s-band gig ever was Status Quo and Deep Purple with my dad, by the way. Possibly the least cool first gig I’ve heard from anyone ever, so I try to keep it quiet, but it seems to be lowquacks-embarrasses-himself-musically day anyway.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

/stops talking to much about himself

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

*too

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

ABBA seems to work like Iron Maiden in reverse – even people who wouldn’t normally like that kind of music are grudgingly fond of them.

70’s is a great theme for a costume party because it’s actually fun, and the clothes tend not to be exceptionally unflattering on anyone. Instead, they’re unflattering in the same way on pretty much everyone, so everyone can just chill out and have a laugh. It’s hard to be pretentious in sparkly platforms and comically tight flares.

(Not that I don’t know a few people who could manage it.)

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

My most embarrassing but fun teenaged gig was Kiss – I went with my Mum. It was me accompanying her rather than the other way around, and I had all kinds of fun watching her get dressed up, sing along, etc.