Misogyny in Music: Art vs Science

This is the first in a series on song lyrics that disturb the hell out of me. I’m a Triple J listener – the Australian “youth” radio station who play whatever’s being called alternative at any given time – so that’s generally the kind of songs I’ll hear and write about.

Generally what happens is this: I’m driving along, listening to a new song, usually enjoying it – maybe even for the first few times I hear it. And then I really listen to the lyrics, and there’s a grunching moment. There’s rape culture, right there on my radio, right there in the songs crowds are rocking out to at this years’ festivals. Right there in the words being joyfully screamed out from moshpits everywhere. And it’s bloody depressing.

Example 1: Art vs Science and their catchy, bouncy, upbeat, Parlez Vous Francais – so popular that it was this years’ runner-up in the Hottest 100 music poll.

This is an Australian band singing in (reportedly not very good; I’m no judge) French. I’d like to think that the same song with English lyrics wouldn’t have done so well. I suspect I may be wrong.

The translations provided are a conglomerate of opinions found in various places online. If you actually do speak French and I’ve got something wrong, please correct me.

Verse 1: The Champs-Elysees is a busy street
We getting down with everyone we meet
If you understand, then listen to me:
Si’l vous plait ma cherie allez tombez la chemise! (Please my (female) darling, take off your shirt.)

Chorus: Parlez-vous Francais? (Do you speak French?)
Oui! [chorus of cartoonish, squealing, ecstatic-sounding 'girl' voices] (Yes!)
Parlez-vous Francais?
Oui!
Si tu peux le parler allez tombez la chemise (If you can speak/understand [French] then take off your shirt – implication, women only)

Verse 2: Do it now, because you can and I think you should
Do it now, because you can and I told you to

Do it now, because you can, I’ll take mine off too
Do it now, because you can, ‘coz you can

There is a third verse about watching ones’ sexy neighbours with binoculars, but it’s that second verse that chills me. The contrast of the English lyrics to the French, the imperative, authoritative voice, lacking even the pretense of a request, or a suggestion that a woman may indeed wish to take off her shirt for her own reasons. She should do it, and do it now, because the singer told her to. The cartoon girls in the song think it’s a great idea. They sound like they’re having the time of their lives.

I just bet that women in mosh pits when this song is played at a gig have a great time. I can’t imagine that the men around them get any ideas that the women should strip for them if they like it or not, can you?

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Other posts in the Misogyny in Music  series: one | two

7 responses to “Misogyny in Music: Art vs Science

  1. I’m with you on this. We listen to a lot of music in this house and are finding that lyrics like this are becoming quite commonplace. Knowing how powerful music can be in locking things into the brain it bothers me. My two teenage girls don’t need their heads full of this stuff. No one does.

    Our most hated lyrics at the moment are for Tik Tok by Ke$ha:

    Ain’t got a care in world, but got plenty of beer
    Ain’t got no money in my pocket, but I’m already here
    And now, the dudes are lining up cause they hear we got swagger
    But we kick em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger

    Drunk and gorgeous. Just wonderful. Not.

    Time to turn of the radio.

  2. (here via Hoyden About Town) Oh, god, there’s the song that Google tells me is called ‘Starstrukk’ by 3OH!3 — the one with wolf-whistling all through it. I shudder every time I hear it.

  3. Triple J was good in the early 2000′s but it’s been a steep downhill decline since then. Fuck I hate that radio station, I heard something on there that I heard on a commercial station not even five minutes earlier.

    Also, this is the most fucking annoying song ever. God damnit, JJJ

  4. Pingback: Things I like that bother me « The Brown Word

  5. Word… I knew there was a reason why I don’t listen to the radio any more – songs like this (and that wolf whistling one) make me too angry!

    Is it so hard to write a song that’s catchy and that isn’t full of misogyny?

  6. Hi! Great blog.

    I came across an interview in which Art Vs Science was asked about it and this is what they had to say…

    “When releasing the song we had concerns over whether our grammar was initially correct, we were afraid that we might have made the line, ‘do you speak French, and if you do, then take off your shirt’ gender specific, like we were addressing it to the males in the audience – and that was not our intention! It’s meant to be a universal kind of question.”

    • Hi, Jess. Thanks for the cut-and-paste – do you have a link to the interview? I would be interested to read it.

      That said, that quote doesn’t refute anything I’ve said here. The song is gender specific – the specific part is the difference between using ‘cherie’ or ‘cher’. And Art vs. Science, according to the above, were worried about “addressing it to the males in the audience” (emphasis mine). That demonstrates that they had no problem addressing it to the women, exclusively or not. The above quote looks to me like they were worried about “looking gay” if they’d accidently written a song that told men to take off their shirts. That’s another layer of problematic again.

      So, thank you for the quote, but my criticism of the song stands.

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