Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Acceptable Abuse Policies

My fave femigossip site, Jezebel, linked to this sad, but interesting article in the Guardian about the cyclical return to misogynistic lyrics/narratives in pop music. Deborah Finding has been tracking various memes in pop music over the last 50 years and found a disturbing trend that emerges every so often in the lyrics: some form of acceptable domestic abuse. She site's the early 60's Crystal's "He Hit Me (and it felt like a kiss)" as a jumping off point and then tracks the social awareness and political stance through to the 90's with Suzanne Vega, Tracy Chapman, Tori Amos (etc), and then see's a recent re-emergence of the "Gosh - I was surely asking for it" narrative again from recent UK winners, Florence and the Machine in the Post-feminist era. If anything is a canary in the coal mine how we're doing socially - attitudes toward women are a warning sign that we're not empowering generations to realize this shit is bad: we tolerated Slim Shady in the early 0ughties. Ladies and Gentlemen: civil discourse has left the building.
And now we're seeing in addition to this an 11% increase in hate crimes in the US - not to overlap issues, but usually when there's hatin' on the ladies, there's sure to be hatin' on the queers as well. I won't be one of those greying hipsters who condems rap in one breath and then says' they embrace the irony in the second - no, because it's not just hiphop: it's pervasive in quite a few music genres. I won't be banning anyone soon - but I will - as Lady Gaga suggests, shout them down as much as possible.
I guess, as Jezebel suggests - one strategy is to take the song and recontextualize it. Kinda like Tori Amos did in "Bonnie and Clyde 97" where she reduces Eminem's misogynistic rap to creepy element: Eminem is f'd up and creepy. In a similar vein, we've got queerish Grizzly Bear covering "He Hit Me". This is questionable if they're recontextualizing the meaning or simply enjoying a song's 4-part harmony (*that was written by Carole King after learning that one of the Crystal's was in fact abused by her boyfriend). I don't know. You be the judge.

(BTW - Hole covered this a while back and it, uh, kinda... well - you know.)