a familiar tune

I love music in an indiscriminate fashion. I tend to focus on quality, rather than style. I’ll listen to hip-hop, pop, classical, rap, rock, trance, dance, metal, etc. as long as it’s good.

If a song has lyrics, I will listen to them, because songs are little stories. Sometimes, it can ruin my enjoyment of a song. A lot of attention is paid to music in which men are derogatory towards women, but I get more irritated when I hear a young woman singing a stupid song that is being packaged in a “grr, I’m so empowered, because I stick out my ass and shout a lot” fashion, when all it’s doing is endorsing the status quo and cementing very familiar gender roles.

I could pick on a lot of different girl bands on this score, but today I’m harping on about Avril Lavigne. In her previous incarnation I thought she wasn’t a bad role model for girls because it was refreshing to see a bit of a punk sensibility in her pop-rock tunes.

Her current song, “Girlfriend”, makes me shake my head in despair. We’re in the twenty-first century, supposedly the bastion of strong independent women, and yet we have songs with lyrics like this:

Hey! Hey! You! You!
I know that you like me
No way! No way!
No it?s not a secret
Hey! Hey! You! You!
I want to be your girlfriend

In a second you’ll be wrapped around my finger
‘Cause I can, ’cause I can do it better
There’s no other
So when’s it gonna sink in?
She’s so stupid
What the hell were you thinking?!

(Exclamation marks make everything so! much! better!) Of course if you like a guy you can tell him to ditch his current girlfriend so you can wrap him around your finger, because that’s what women aspire to today, right?

I bet if you searched through music catalogues over the past seventy years you’d come up with similar song lyrics – for instance, a very short search gets us to “I Want To Be Your Girlfriend” (1997) by Mary Chapin Carpenter, which at least isn’t suggesting that women sabotage women for the very important life-task of obtaining a fellah.

As a complete contrast the next day I heard a music mix that included a recording of Maya Angelou‘s “Phenomenal Woman”. Here’s a taster:

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say
It’s in the click of my heels
The bend of my hair
The palm of my hand
The need for my care.
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally
Phenomenal woman
That’s me.

Lavigne should sit down a read some Angelou, and maybe she’d discover that confidence comes from within, not from the boyfriend on your arm.