Category Archives: Feminism

Misogyny in Music: One Good Reason Will Do, Asshole

Today’s star of Misogyny in Music is Thirsty Merc, with a song that plagued Australia’s airwaves several years ago. I’m pleased to say I haven’t heard it since, but as it bears the dubious honour of being the only song that drives me to ranting every time I do hear it, let’s record that rant right here.

The song is 20 Good Reasons. Even if it didn’t belong in the Misogyny in Music series, it would still belong in the Jet’s Picks for Most Annoying Songs list for it sheer whininess.

20 Good Reasons is that staple of music, a breakup song. I will spare you the somewhat tortured attempts to rhyme in the verses, because they’re your usual inoffensive breakup fare. (They said love hurts / I wrote that book / I climbed that wall [what?] / I had one look [ouch.]). Etc.

The chorus, however. The chorus is all about our singer’s serious entitlement issues, and it drives me up the bloody wall.

He whines thus:
So tell me why-y-y-y
Should I let you go
Give me 20 good reasons
I need to know
Yeah

Give me 20 good reasons
Give me 20 good reasons
Give me 20 good reasons
To let you go

And I always yell back at the radio that he needs one good reason, asshole, and that is that she* doesn’t want to see you any more. The end, no further discussion.

Let’s be clear. Mr Singer is not asking his ex lover to help him understand what went wrong with their relationship. He is not saying goodbye. He is not even expressing anger at the unexpected end of a relationship. He is demanding that his ex lover explain herself to him, so that he can decide if her reasons – all 20 of them – are in fact “good” enough, and he can then decide if he will deign to “let her go”. Because she is, you know, his to let go or otherwise.

At the end of the second verse, the lyric runs, “And I lost everything / When I lost you“. This is put up as justification for why (y-y-y) he gets to decide if he’s going to “let” her go. Guys like this, they’re the guilt tripping controlling ones. The vibe on this song is start-to-finish creepy. You don’t get to break up with this guy, you get to submit your 20 – no less – essay questions on why he ought to let you go. You’re a captive and all. He’ll decide.

Love songs. Breakup songs. Listen to where the agency is in the lyrics, and how prevalent that sentiment is the world. Normalised.

Thirsty Merc, I Am Not Cake says you can get stuffed with your reasons, and furthermore, that sentiments like this in a relationship ought to get you slapped with a restraining order.

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* I’m assuming that this is a song about a heterosexual relationship, as I’ve not seen anything to suggest otherwise. I’m open to correction if you know different.

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Other posts in the Misogyny in Music  series: one

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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

Jet’s favourite mansplanation story

Mansplanation. Over at Zuska’s, a thread was born. Shakesville answered. I’ve been having a fine old time reading everyone’s stories, and recalling the first time I came across the term.

My definitive mansplanation moment was the time a particularly ‘splanation-prone asshat argued with a female friend and I for a good hour. This (straight, cisgender) guy was well known for holding forth on all sorts of topics whether he knew a damned thing about what he was talking about or not. And he had to be right. All the time. I thought he was an ass before this conversation, but I could never take anything he said seriously again after he set this gold standard.

The mansplainer mansplained adamantly on the topic of sex. His specific sub-topic: whether a long penis or a wide one is more pleasurable for a woman during vaginal intercourse.

He knew best. What my friend and I, and the occasional gobsmacked woman passing by, thought about his opinions – well, that didn’t matter.

I hope I never meet a mansplainer to match him.

WAToday reckons violence is okay when Twilight is involved

Nary a peep from I Am Not Cake in months, and it takes W.A. Today of all publications to rouse me to posting again.

I refer you to this clusterfuck of an article, headlined hilariously, Up to his neck in it: dad chokes girl over Twilight movie. Just a little light-hearted violence, don’t you know that anyone could be driven to it by Twilight?

As it turns out, Twilight has fuck-all to do with this domestic abuse case, except for happening to be the movie the two girls were watching when their father was sleeping. W.A. Today nevertheless could not resist the punny headline. Ha. Ha.

The story is actually that the father choked his eleven year old daughter until she couldn’t breathe, and then kicked and punched her. Oh, and also that his defense lawyer is using the “she asked for it” line, in the form of claiming the father “was receiving cheek”.

W.A. Today links to the full article in the Queensland Times, headlined Man chokes daughter over loud TV, which by contrast does not make light of the assault. The second article reports on the man’s assault of his ten year old daughter as well.

There is no excuse for the word choices and tone in the W.A. Today article. It’s written as a puff piece, hinging on engaging the reader’s sympathy with the father. The use of the informal, friendly “dad” rather than “father” or “man” as in the Queensland Times article, starting out with a vampire-movie pun as if the article is about something lighthearted, the gratuitous use of Twilight as link bait despite its irrelevancy – it all adds up to callous minimising of the abuse suffered by the two girls. There’s no excuse for this kind of piece, especially less than a week after White Ribbon Day.

It’s one of those days.

Oh, Christ in a handbasket. I have just had it with the world today.

Of the 20 most popular stories in the Fairfax fleet right now, one deals with the sexual assault of a 15 year old girl, three about a woman murdered by her controlling husband, one about a Liberal staffer assaulting women at a Parliament ball, one about a woman who was sexually abused by her father as a child, one about a woman robbed and sexually assaulted at knifepoint, and one about Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young being forced to send her perfectly calm two year old daughter out of the Senate during a division. Five more are about the murder of Desmond Moran, made sensational because two women are implicated.

I made the mistake of reading a few comments on the ABC’s Hanson-Young article. I wish I hadn’t. Sky news has a poll on children in the Senate: it was sitting at 90% no.

The number one trending topic on Twitter is #goodpussy. You can guess how that goes.

And the domestic abuse stories I hear around me get worse and worse.

Go on and tell me this isn’t systemic.

Stop it. Just stop it.

Right. I have a message for you, brought to you by several asshats on the internet.

Stop policing women’s sexual choices. No. No exceptions, no ifs, buts or maybes. Just stop it.

No. My decision to have sex does not constitute ‘risky behaviour’. Dancing on train tracks constitutes risky behaviour.

Rape is not caused by my decision to have sex. It is caused by the decision of a rapist to rape me.

Rape is not caused by my skirt, my t-shirt, my halter-top, my lycra jumpsuit, my boots, my grandfather’s hand-me-down cardigan, or my goddamn see-through bra with the plastic goldfish inside. It is caused by the decision of a rapist to rape me.

Rape is not caused by my presence at a party, on a street, at a nightclub, in my car, in my home, in a park, or in a hotel room full of football players. It is caused by the decision of a rapist, or multiple rapists, to rape me.

Rape is not caused by any of my previous decisions to have sex. It is caused by the decision of a rapist to rape me.

Rape is not caused by my decision to have sex with more than one person at a time. It is caused by the decision of a rapist to rape me.

Future acts of rape are not caused by my choice to report or not report my rape. They are caused by the decision of a rapist to continue raping.

Stop trying to draw a causal link between what a woman can control, and the decision of a rapist to rape. There isn’t one. There has never been one. There will never be one.

Rape happens because rapists decide it will happen. Policing women’s sexual choices is bullshit, and a misdirection of your energy. Stop doing it.

Rape Culture: Still Not Funny

Today, I’m angry about rape culture. Having to explain to someone near and dear to me, yet again, that rape ‘jokes’ are not funny puts me in foul mood. So I’m going to  lay it out for you. If you’re the sort of person who can tell a joke about rape (unless you’re a survivor), then perhaps you’ve not ever had reason to consider how fucked up our culture is about women and sexual assault. I’m here to tell you it is, and here’s why. (*)

As a woman, a corner of my brain is always assessing whether the men around me are about to do something that will put me in danger of sexual assault.

If I should be assaulted, I will be asked to explain my choice to be at the location of the assault, especially if I am alone. Unless a secondary charge of break and enter applies – a separate crime that will be treated differently and without bias – my assailant will not.

If I should be assaulted, I will be asked to explain my clothing choices. My assailant’s clothing will be considered irrelevant.

If I should know my assailant by name, I will be asked to detail all previous interactions with him. I will be asked to prove that no previous interaction could be held up as “leading him on”. If my previous interactions appear to do this, my assailant will be seen as less responsible for his assault on me. My assailant’s previous actions will count against him only if I have demonstrably never interacted with him – that is, only if he has engaged in provable stalking.

If I should be assaulted whilst alone with a man I have chosen to accompany, whether it be to a car for a lift, on a first date, or a quiet corner at a party or nightclub, I will be asked to explain why I chose to be alone with him. My assailant will not be asked to explain what intentions he communicated to me when I made my decision.

If I should be assaulted whilst intoxicated, mildly or otherwise, I will be asked to explain why I chose to become intoxicated. My assailant’s actions will be judged less harshly if I am intoxicated. My assailant will not be asked to justify his intoxication, and his actions will be judged still less harshly should he be so.

If I should be assaulted after I have engaged in consensual romantic contact with my assailant, such as kissing or touching, I will be asked to explain why I chose to do so. I will be asked to explain why I chose to stop. My assailant will not be asked why he chose to continue.

If I should be assaulted under any circumstances, I will be asked to prove that I clearly, loudly and verbally said the word, “No,” or the word, “Stop.” I will be asked to prove that my assailant heard and understood me. If I indicated my lack of consent in any other way, such as screaming, running, crying, freezing, scratching, kicking, hitting, speaking words other than “no” or “stop”, or if I said the words “don’t” and “stop” close to one other, or if I was not loud enough when I spoke them, my assailant will be judged less harshly. This is especially so if I have given consent to a certain act, but not to another. My assailant will not be asked to prove that I clearly, loudly and verbally said the word, “Yes.”

If I should be assaulted, but not physically injured or not visibly physically injured, I will be asked to explain why I consider my assailant’s act to be assault. My assailant will be treated less harshly if I am not visibly injured.

If I should be assaulted, various people will attempt to convince me that my experience does not count as assault, or that my experience is not serious enough to pursue criminally, legally or otherwise officially. These people may be my family, my friends, law enforcement personnel, medical personnel, legal practitioners, employers, media, members of the public, and my assailant himself. The same people may try to convince my assailant that what he did was not assault.

Should my assault take the form of rape, and should the media report on it, it is likely that the word ‘rape’ will not be used in reporting. Instead, articles will state that I ‘had sex with’ my rapist. It is likely that articles will focus on me and my actions, not that of my rapist. In some articles, if it is acknowledged that I was raped, there will be no mention of my rapist at all. Instead, the article will state that ‘a woman was raped’. My rapist will not have his actions examined by the media.

Should I be assaulted by one or more young boys or teenagers, especially if I am a young woman of similar age, their actions may be explained and accepted as “boys will be boys,” or “sowing wild oats”. If their assault on me is their first sexual experience, this will be especially true. My assailant or assailants’ actions will be judged less harshly, and in some circles, congratulated. I will be called a slut.

Should I be assaulted, and my appearance is such that I am not considered to be sexually attractive, due to my age, weight or physical features, I will be told I should be grateful for my assault. Some will tell me I am engaging in wishful thinking, and that my assault could not have happened. My assailant may be ridiculed for his choice of victim, unless he was intoxicated when he assaulted me. I will feel humiliated, and my assault will still have happened.

Should I be assaulted, and also suffer a preexisting physical or intellectual disability, I may struggle to communicate what has happened to me. If I cannot speak, the tools provided to me to communicate with others may lack ways to articulate sexual assault. I may be considered to be confused about what happened to me. Depending on my disability, some may consider me “lucky” to be assaulted. My assailant, if convicted, will be reviled more than if I did not suffer a disability. Why is this?

Should I be assaulted by a person who is regarded as a celebrity, the fact of their celebrity will be used as an argument or proof of why my assault could not have occurred. I will be asked to explain why my assailant, widely believed to be “a nice guy”, would assault me. I will be asked to explain why my right to justice is worth more than my assailant’s career. I will be asked to prove that I am not pursuing my complaint for monetary gain. My assailant will be presumed innocent, or presumed above the law.

Should I be coerced or threatened before I am assaulted, so that I am silent or so that I perform the acts demanded of me out of fear, I will be asked to explain why my compliance under threat does not amount to consent. My assailant will not be asked to justify his threats to me.

If I should have a previous sexual relationship with my assailant, no matter how long ago or how briefly, I will be asked to explain my sexual life in minute detail. If my explanation includes a suggestion that I may enjoy or have a history of rough sex, my assailant’s actions may be judged reasonable and my accusation unfounded. My assailant will not be asked to detail his sexual history.

If I should decide to report my assault, aware of the above, I will be one of 15% of assaulted Australian women who choose to do so every year. I have a 17% chance of seeing my assailant convicted. Should my case go to trial, it is likely that I will be asked all of these questions when I am on the witness stand. My assailant and his legal team will try to convince the jury of my peers – the same peers who fill comment threads with victim-blaming statements all over the internet – that I am a slut and deserved my assault, or that I am lying about being assaulted, or that I wanted to be assaulted, or that I consented to the assault and later changed my mind.

To disprove “beyond reasonable doubt”, all my assailant must do is convince some of my juror peers that any of these may be true. Convincing evidence may not need to be presented.

Should I choose to report my assault, I will stand public trial for having a vagina. If I am sexually active, I will stand trial for using my vagina. My assailant will not stand trial for possessing a penis. His sexual history will not be public record.

This is rape culture, patriarchy, a legal system suffering from cultural bias. And no, rape is not fucking funny.

* (Yes, I know men can be sexually assaulted too. Yes, I know women can be sexual predators too. I do not wish to minimize or obscure these facts. However, for the purposes of this rant, I am speaking for the overwhelmingly greater prevalence of male assaults on women. That said, should my brother be assaulted by a woman, especially if she is considered conventionally attractive, then he will be told he’s lucky and should have enjoyed it. That’s just as goddamn fucked up.)