Categories
disgusting women evil women hate hypocrisy irony alert life before feminism misogyny MRA music oppressed men paul elam princesses YouTube

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:

 

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

417 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Polliwog
8 years ago

Since my identity is rather unabashedly tied up with this handle, I will out myself as a gigantic nerd too. Here’s a link to me singing the beginning of Canterbury Tales to the tune of “For the Longest Time.”

Ahahahahahaha

…I may have sung along.

(And yes, the King’s Singers make adorkable faces. Really most classical singers do; there’s a hilarious photo somewhere on Facebook of one chamber choir I was in, helpfully captioned, “[Group name] has a collective orgasm.” I cannot deny that that is, in fact, exactly what that photo looks like. :-p )

inurashii
inurashii
8 years ago

Oho! I outsmarted myself!

pecunium
8 years ago

I also think the lute/oud distinction is semi-crap. Semi because the, somewhat, greater range of subtlety one has without frets exists, but the basic shape/tone is the same.

I am not arguing the music is the same, just that they belong to the same family of instruments. As the Viol family includes both the fretted viol de gamba, and the fretless Bass-viol

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

Polliwog – I’ll go to those links later (work? What work?). I LOVE crumhorns. They always make me think of the music David Munrow used for The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth R in the 70s and played with The Early Music Consort of London. Crumhorns scream Tudor to me, and that was my first love in history (Anne Boleyn was my heroine – thank you Dorothy Tutin).

I knew it wasn’t a theorbo – not only because of the lack of the second course of strings (which make the most amazing deep sound) but the size. Every theorbo I’ve seen is massive.

Steeleboy, I had a teacher who picked on me something rotten in grade one. Miserable old character she was, and I’ve never known why, unless it was a case of a bully seeing a soft target. But guess what? Like Pecunium said, that was ONE teacher. She didn’t destroy my ability to read or write or do anything else.

And here’s an idea – wouldn’t learning to write decent English be your perfect revenge against the teacher you complain about? Hmmm? Why give her that much power over you?

Unless of course she never existed or you’re just pretending that being told once that your writing wasn’t very good was because of misandry, rather than an observation of fact. After all, if you’d had any sort of natural bent for it, it wouldn’t disappear so completely … writing is something that tends to flower if you a) have any talent at all and b) actually do some work developing it.

pecunium
8 years ago

And, because he deserves a tribute: to the late Dave Brubeck:

Beyond Take Five

palmedfire
8 years ago

I’ll drop what I’ve been listening to here then. Just the first number, but it shouldn’t be too hard to dig up if anyone’s interested 😉

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnMsdOoNKRk&w=560&h=315%5D

Though it’s all-female theater, which I’m sure’ll have certain folk screaming misandry. Which is… totally wrong, but I’ve a long, long rant about that, which I am *not* writing up here.

palmedfire
8 years ago

Okay, so I fail at embedding. The link works at least…

pecunium
8 years ago

just put the youtube link up, no html WordPress (usually) translates that to an embed.

palmedfire
8 years ago

Okay, so…

palmedfire
8 years ago

Yay it worked!

magpie
8 years ago

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

Whoever it was posted the Dropkick Murphy song, thanks! I’m building up a small collection of anti-Christmas songs, since I’m having welfare Christmas alone again, and want the stupid day to be over with as soon as possible.

thenatfantastic
8 years ago

@LBT I have a list of those, but I made it a couple of years ago and I’m not sure I have it on this computer. I’ll look for it in the morning (GMT!) and post it for you if I can find it.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

RE: thenatfantastic

Thanks! I’d appreciate it! 😀

thenatfantastic
8 years ago

OK, I managed to find it before I went to bed. Disclaimer – this playlist was made by leaving my computer open at a party two years ago, and I haven’t listened to it since then. There might be some with horrible lyrics and so on. They should all be available on Spotify or Youtube. I’ve tried to take out all the ‘proper’ Christmas ones for you, but most of them I don’t recognise so sorry if some slipped through – there’s a couple that are on full anti-Christmas albums (Oi! To The World is definitely a full album’s worth):

Christmas Eve Montage (RJD2)
Merry Christmas (Laakso)
Is This Christmas? (The Wombats)
Jag Sag Mamma Kyssa Tomten (Lars Vegas Trio)
Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher (Billy Elliot Cast)
Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis (Tom Waites)
Feliz Navidad (Bowling For Soup)
I Wish It Was Christmas Today (Julian Casablancas)
Heavy Christmas (220 Volt)
Spotlight on Christmas (Rufus Wainwright)
Dig That Crazy Santa Claus (The Brian Setzer Orchestra)
Boogie Woogie Santa Claus (“)
Take A Break Guys (“)
Christmas Day (Squeeze)
We Three Kings (Reverand Horton Heat)
Santa On The Roof (“)
Medley: Jingle Bell Rock/Jingle Bells (The Coffin Draggers)
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Th’ Legendary Shack*Shakers)
Holiday Twist (Los Straightjackets)
O! Santa (Chatham County Line)
Merry Christmas – I don’t want to fight tonight (The Ramones)
Kidnap The Sandy Claws (Korn)
Making Christmas (Rise Against)
Something Funny In Santa’s Lap (The Moaners)
Santa Gave You What You Gave To Me (Jake Brennan, The Confidence Men)
The Business of Christmas (American Princes)
Oi! To The World (The Vandals)
I Don’t Believe In Santa Claus (“)
Jenny Xmas (Tommy Tutone)
Don’t Shoot Me Santa (The Killers)

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

LBT: Fear’s “Fuck Christmas.”

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

Oh, and The Kinks’ “Father Christmas.”

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

Was just going to mention “Father Christmas”!

The Pogue’s “Fairytale of New York” is slightly romantic/schmaltzy but in a very twisted way.

Rilo Kiley’s “Xmas Cake” and The Sonic’s “Don’t Believe In Christmas” (FANTASTIC garage-rock number) would fit in too, and The Black Arts have “Christmas Number 1”, which is a little satire of the sort of the song that gets to be such a thing.

The Mynabird’s “All I Want Is Truth For Christmas”, The Ramone’s “I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight”, and The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping” (or the excellent Summer Camp cover) are all pessimistic/slightly bah-humbug but do have more conventional Christmas messages and sleighbells and all the rest of it.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

Shit, “I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight” was already mentioned. Consider my mention a seconding of the recommendation!

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

Beach House’s “I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun” and Hanoi Rocks’ “Dead By Xmas” could be suitable too.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

And Marvin Gaye’s “Purple Snowflakes” is optimistic lyrically but you’d never guess it listening to the thing casually. Low’s “Just Like Christmas” is ambiguous lyrically and very downtempo and flat-sounding musically.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

That’s the first time I’ve seen anyone else mention Hanoi Rocks in years. Bravo!

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

They’re reasonably overlooked, which is probably because of the way they get lumped in with the LA glam thing they inspired and later became a part of and people assume they were just another Motley Crue or whatever, but they definitely had their own thing. Probably not the coolest band, but charming.

drst
drst
8 years ago

@LBT – *waves* That was me. Bummer about your holiday, though. (I completely advocate people spending Christmas alone if they want to, but not doing it by choice kinda sucks.)

Jessay (@jessay)
8 years ago

Again – my writing has suffered due to misandry. It is in no sense my own fault.

Are you 12 or are you an adult who has control over your ability to progress at things you aren’t very good at? God, if my education stopped after it was being force fed to me I might be as ignorant as you too.

Jennie
Jennie
8 years ago

Great observation David. Ever read the lyrics to “Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones? Thank you for your amazing website. It’s nice to know we (Feminists) have a cool guy on our side:) Keep exposing the ugly reality of patriarchy…

The Stepford Knife
The Stepford Knife
8 years ago

These Dizzee Rascal lyrics infuriated me when I first heard them a few years back- the song may as well be called “Alpha Male Cock Carousel Rider” but I suppose it’s pretty fitting having a Bible reference as the title:

DIZZEE RASCAL- “Jezebel”

Yo, look, look, look
They call her Jezebel
you might find her in your neighbourhood
Always in some shit
Up to no good
Constant boasting bragging to her friends
Juiced every boy in the ends
Didn’t finish school
She would truant every day
Always on the link
Different boy every day
Missed mathematics she was doing acrobatics
But not gym class
She was gettin’ doggy fast

Yo, they call her Jezebel
Friends call her sket behind her back
She never knew the plot
She was born of track
Tight top short skirt thinks she’s to nice
Hates love but she’s been deep in twice
Pass with, whoe can’t keep her legs closed
Always on the creep
Now she’s in too deep
Now she face’s neglect, abuse and rape
Man said that he’d kill her
If she try to escape

[Chorus]
Whats your name?
I’ve seen you about
I think your choong (Boom ting)
I really hope your not a grim
I really hope your not a jezzy, jezzy
Where you from?
Hot stuff (Buff ting)
I really hope your not a grim
I really hope your not a jezzy, jezzy
I’ve seen you about
I think your tromp (Boom ting)
I really hope your not a grim
I really hope your not a jezzy, jezzy
Where you from?
Hot stuff (Boom ting)
I really hope your not grim
I really hope your not a Jezebel

You might find her at a house rave
For the fifth time
She’s gettin’ whind from behind
Had a bit of drink
So she’s acting kinda slow
She came with Natasha
But she’s leavin with Joe
Ricky loves jezzy but jezzy loves bling
Ricky means well but Ricky ain’t got a thing
Joe’s got a name
And jezzy loves fame
She wants a man to show
So it’s all about Joe

They call her Jezebel
On her way to get walked out
Get battery
And get kicked out
Jezzy weren’t expecting more then four
What could she say
She just did it anyway
Messed up caught a kinda STD
Gonorrhea, Herpes, no VD
Left bitter, left angry, left vex
But still loves sex
Passed it on to the next

[Chorus]

Pretty but
Ain’t got a brain
Got no shame
Got juiced on the train
Went from daddy’s little girl
To daddy’s heart attack
House wreck a side
She could never go back
Raised in the church
Not knowing anything
Learned about boys
Ruined every thing

Aged 16
She was never full grown
She was in a family
Now she’s got one of her own
Two kids
Even worse
Two little girls
Two more of her
That’s two Jezebels
Two fatherless kids
One single mum
No longer young
But the boys still come
Yo, wishin’ she could take it back to the old school
And make better choice’s
Oh what a fool
But all by her side
But she wonder man
Only if she was six years younger
Damn

The Stepford Knife
The Stepford Knife
8 years ago

Has anyone covered Nice Guy lyrics yet? Two which spring to mind are Avril Lavigne’s Skater Boy (“he wasn’t good enough for her…” we have another female misogynist right there) and Wheatus’s “Teenage Dirtbag”. A lot of Pulp’s lyrics too- Disco 2000 springs to mind. I can’t think of any more right now but I’m surprised by how often I find myself listening to the radio and realising just how many lyricists seem to be Nice Guys!

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

We covered Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me”, which is a Nice Gal song. Elvis Costello is great but has a slight Nice Guyish tendancy lyrically too…

We Are Scientists have a nice anti-Nice Guy song with an entertaining video:

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Most indie bands have a Nice Guy feel to their lyrics. Part of the reason I hated nu-metal (trust me, there were lots of reasons) was that those bands frequently tipped over from Nice Guy whining into full-on MRA-style “how dare that bitch $#%$#$%?”.

thenatfantastic
8 years ago

@Stepford Knife

I’ve never been offended by that song, YMMV but I’ve always heard it as a song about a young, naive girl who’s not a bad person but is given so few opportunities and so little respect that there doesn’t seem to be anything else to do but to try make people respect her in the only way she can think how, and ends up being a single teenage mother, who’s daughters will also be so poor and disadvantaged they repeat the cycle. I always found it to be sad rather than judgemental.

Like I say though, YMMV.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

@CassandraSays

most indie bands

Oh, come on, it’s a broad field.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Most lyrics in general lean either Nice Guy or Blatantly Sexist. Indie bands just tend towards the whiny approach to it.

I think age might be part of it, bands who’re pretty young often lean towards the whyyyyy doesn’t she like me that’s so meeaaannnn thing because that’s just something people do a lot in their late teens and early twenties. Not that older people don’t do it too, but it’s super-common in young people.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Like, imagine what would happen if Mr Al wrote a song…obviously he’d probably be sexist and unreasonable at any age, but the particular form that takes is definitely an adolescent thing.

(And this is why so many of the trolls get really mad at me, because it’s meaannn to point thing like that out.)

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

“Teenage Dirtbag” akways made me laugh. It’s kind of a send-up of the whle Nice Guy thing.

Elvis Costello is great but has a slight Nice Guyish tendancy lyrically too…

“I Want You” may be his Nice Guy magnum opus.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

This one is another Nice Guy classic, though I have to give props for “her CD changer’s full of guys who are mad at their dad”, which is a pretty good way to describe the genre in question.

inurashii
inurashii
8 years ago

So … I don’t tend to voice this opinion around my friends much because I run in geeky New England circles, but …

I sorta feel like JoCo’s songs about romance all have a distinctly creepy/Nice Guyish feel to them. I can’t listen to more than a couple in a row before I need to listen to something else.

inurashii
inurashii
8 years ago

(and yes, I know that some are supposed to be creepy, but I’m pretty sure that ‘Code Monkey’ is supposed to be relatable rather than Nice Guyish.)

Falconer
8 years ago

I can see how the code monkey could very easily slip into blaming the secretary for denying him his dream, so yeah, I can see the potential Nice Guy strains in the song.

It’s not helped by the fact that the code monkey only daydreams.

I’m not exhaustively familiar with JoCo’s work. “Shop Vac” has awful implications.

inurashii
inurashii
8 years ago

So, like, the obvious defense for depressing and creepy JoCo songs are that they’re supposed to be depressing and creepy in a funny/cute/twee sorta way. Like ‘Shop Vac’. And ‘Skullcrusher Mountain’. And ‘The Future Soon’. And ‘My Monkey’. And ‘Alone at Home’. And ‘Big Bad World One’. And ‘I Crush Everything’. And ‘Nobody Loves You Like Me’.

But after, like, the fourth or fifth depressing/creepy song about relating to women really badly, you start to wonder how many of those songs you need and why his fans, all of whom come from a culture that stereotypically relates poorly to women, love those songs so much.

I dunno. Just makes me sort of uncomfortable after a while.

pecunium
8 years ago

I was turned on to JoCo by women. I see them as commentary, but that’s me. YMMV.

Dvärghundspossen
8 years ago

So… what’s your definition of “nice guy” then? I think lots of people of BOTH sexes have experienced hanging around someone hoping that zie will eventually fall in love with you, but zie just keeps falling in love with other people, and that makes you sad. And you wonder WHY zie doesn’t love you, since you can clearly see that you’re made for each other.

Okay. The above doesn’t make you a bad person!

You become a bad person if you start hating on your crush for not returning your love though. Or if you start hating on an entire gender because you can’t get the one you love (all women just want bad boys/all men just want bimbos) But merely being hopelessly in love, and being too insecure to actually explain how you feel, that doesn’t make you a bad person.

katz
8 years ago

Yeah, I’ve got a problem with Jonathan Coulton for the reasons already mentioned; Shop Vac in particular. I don’t see anything that makes those songs a sendup or a deconstruction rather than actually promoting a modus operandi of keeping yourself in shit relationships and then whining about it.

Mandelbrot Set, however, is a wonderful song.

lauralot89
8 years ago

I was turned on to JoCo by women. I see them as commentary, but that’s me. YMMV.

That was always my take as well.

lauralot89
8 years ago

Regarding Shop Vac: That’s actually my favorite song of his. I realize the implications of it not good at all, but I discovered it when I was a teeager stuck in a household with parents in an abusive, hateful marriage, the exact sort of marriage where both people involved are waiting for their kids to leave and crying in separate rooms without doing a damn thing about it. There’s something about that song (and Eminen’s “Love the Way You Lie,” now that I think of it) that really gets me, even if it doesn’t explicitly condemn or deconstruct the notion. Just knowing that my situation was not isolated, that there were other people out there with that same experience, really meant something to me, and it still does. Depressed, unhappy marriages were not discussed where I was growing up, and now that I’m an adult, they’re still taboo here. That song gave me an outlet, I guess.

lauralot89
8 years ago

And the post button gets clicked before I’m done, of course. None of my reaction to it removes the problematic elements, I know that, but I think there can be merit in songs or other works of art that just present an awful situation without condemning or commenting on it, if only to let people in such a situation know that they aren’t alone.

katz
8 years ago

Not criticizing Pecunium or Lauralot’s opinions, just asking: What about JoCo suggests commentary to you?

lauralot89
8 years ago

Well, with Skullcrusher Mountain, for example, the narrator goes on about how he’s so nice and kind and holding his temper with this girl even though he’s so powerful and way too smart for her and could do any number of horrible things to her. While the song is pointing out that he’s a super villain who wants to cause genocide and/or the apocalypse and thinks pony/monkey monsters make good gifts. I’ve always seen that as taking the “I’m such a nice guy” complaint and saying, No, no you aren’t.

lauralot89
8 years ago

Urgh, today seems to be my day for inadvertently posting my thoughts before I’m done tweaking them. The moment that underscores the song as mocking the Nice Guy attitude for me is the verse where the narrator talks about how patient and gracious he’s been while implicitly threatening to kill his hostage if she’s not more civil. I can’t imagine writing that without irony.

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

Dvarghundspossen: it’s your second paragraph that talks about the Nice Guy (TM) rather than someone who’s actually a nice guy but who may be shy. Shakesville has a good rundown of the type. The TL:DR is that they aren’t actually nice at all. These are the blokes who whine about the horrors of being friendzoned, because they’re not remotely interested in being friends with women, they are only after sexual relationships.