Friday, December 3, 2010

Country-fried feminism?

Don't fuck with this woman.
I love old country music (the new stuff, not so much), though sometimes the lyrics are a tad, you know, reactionary. (Merle Haggard, why did you hate marijuana so much?) And so, when what was then called "Women's Lib" erupted back in the day, it's hardly surprising that it inspired a bunch of backlashy country songs. Here, courtesy of WFMU's Beware of the Blog, are ten songs giving the libbers what's what. Or trying to, anyway. These are protest songs protesting protest.

Of course, there have always been plenty of ass-kicking women in country music who had no trouble standing up for themselves, labels be damned. So if these anti-feminist songs leave a bad taste, take a Pill -- well, The Pill, as in  Loretta Lynn's hit song from the 70s that actually, to use feminist lingo she never would herself use, champions the power of women to take control of their reproductive destiny instead of being relegated to the status of baby-making machines. (She knew what she was talking -- er, singing -- about, having had 4 kids by the time she was 19.) Or check out her ""Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)."  (For more on Lynn's proto-feminism, see here.)

Loretta Lynn wasn't -- isn't -- the only proto-feminist amongst the old school country singers. Check out Kitty Wells' "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels," an in-your-face response to Hank Thompson's slut-shaming "Wild Side of Life." Or the ultimate anti-slut-shaming country song, "Harper Valley PTA," which was actually written by a dude. Tammy Wynette, sometimes caricatured as an antifeminist doormat by people who don't really know her music, was a bit of an ass-kicker herself, as "Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad" makes pretty damn clear. Was she a feminist? Nah. But life is more complicated than labels.


2 comments:

  1. Can't talk about women and country music without talking about Dolly Parton. :P

    Also, I laughed at Palin using an anti-abuse song and then Martina McBride donating the proceeds to Planned Parenthood. Irony...

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  2. I NEED a URL for that Palin/McBride statement. I had not heard about that.

    I pretty much only listened to country when I was little, because I lived in rural Mississippi. Unfortunately, I never latched onto any of the great female songsters until later (I do not generally listen to country now). There was so much feminism in those songs, and it seems that's one of the safest places for women to be forthright about it. As far as I know, are country women castigated for opening denouncing misogyny in their songs?

    I had never heard the Pill. Made my day!

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