Getting Lost En Route To Misogyny: A Pleasing Journey into Musical History

Back on July 18th RantingnRaven took us through misogynistic content in the current Top 40 songs.  One of the comments on that piece expressed curiosity about how things have changed or if they have at all in terms of misogyny in song lyrics.  RantingnRaven and I took up the challenge.  She explored 1953 and I dove into 1973.  Here's what we found:

VampireNomad:  Howdy!

RantingnRaven:  Hey girl.

VampireNomad:  I’m listening to Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let's Get It On’

RantingnRaven:  Ha! Getting in the mood for this conversation, eh?

VampireNomad:  Totally!  I'm groovin’

RantingnRaven:  The moral for 1953’s top 100 is that women can’t be trusted.

VampireNomad:  Haha!  All 100 songs are about us devious womenfolk?

RantingnRaven:  Well those by men.  I shouldn’t say “all” but most.  So how is that 1973 music?

VampireNomad:  It’s really quite dopey.  And I mean that in both connotations of the word.  Example lyrics: “You are the sunshine of my life / that’s why I’ll always be around / You are the apple of my eye / forever you’ll stay in my heart”

RantingnRaven:  Oh ya, I see that.  There’s no finesse to the lyrics.  So no misogyny?

VampireNomad:  I haven’t gone through all 100 songs on the Billboard Top 100 for 1973 but in the top twelve I found only one that might qualify.

RantingnRaven:  Ughh...that bites.  I wouldn’t waste time going through all 100.  I only looked at the top 10 from 1953.  None of mine qualify.  For sure the lyrics show a general mistrust of women, but there’s no real objectification going on.

VampireNomad:  Interesting.  Yeah, I couldn't say even in the top twenty that there’s any real misogyny in mine either.  In fact, I’d say most of them are really sweet.  Even ‘Let's Get It On,’ which is 100% about sex, contains the lyrics “I’m askin you baby, to get it on with me / I ain’t gonna worry, I ain’t gonna push” which is all about consensual equality.

RantingnRaven:  Oh that is interesting. Funny how there was a real sense of propriety still in 1973. It was like if we both want this then I’m into it. Nowadays in music it seems like it’s a given that the women will want the man.

VampireNomad:  I found it fascinating too.  Like he’s asking.  It’s a question and the answer isn’t a foregone conclusion.  And the other lyrics are about how great love is, not just about being randy and grinding.
There is a weird song in the top ten but it isn’t misogynist.  It’s just... uh, weird to me.  It’s called ‘Playground in my Mind’ and it’s all about how a guy retreats, in his mind, to a playground full of children when life gets tough.

RantingnRaven:  Hmmm, that’s awkward...does he want to go back to simpler times in his life when he had no worries?

VampireNomad:  Yes, it’s clearly meant to be innocent.  He felt hopeful and whole then. I think it’s only our modern societal filter that makes it awkward.

RantingnRaven:  Probs and probably because I’m a parent that finds adults at playgrounds creepy.
VampireNomad:  Haha!  What about 1953?

RantingnRaven:  Ok let’s see... ‘Money Honey’ by The Drifters is about a guy who feels he isn’t good enough for the woman he loves because he’s poor. He feels that she’d love him more if he was rich.

VampireNomad:  Oh, classic golddigger connotations.  But not really misogynist.

RantingnRaven:  Hahahaha. No not misogynistic at all.
But ‘Honey Hush’ by Joe Turner is disturbing. It actually, in my mind, promotes violence against women.  Lyrics: “I got news for you baby, you ain’t nothing but an alley cat / don’t make me nervois (nervous) ‘cause I’m holding a baseball bat...”  It seems really oppressive.
VampireNomad:  Oh, that’s.... disturbing.

RantingnRaven:  Ya it’s #6 on the chart for the year, so that says a little about society at the time.
Obviously domestic abuse was probably closeted at the time more so than current times and it seems like this is maybe not promoting abuse but certainly not making it clear that it’s frowned upon.
VampireNomad:  Interesting.  I’d definitely believe it wasn’t a public topic but certainly one that existed.

RantingnRaven:  I agree

VampireNomad:  It’s sad it was a number 6 hit but at the same time maybe it was seen as a message against.

RantingnRaven:  Ya maybe...I thought that too.  
So anything else happening in 1973 worthy of interrogation?

VampireNomad:  1973 was actually full of positivity and a sort of peace-and-love hope. The songs are quite groovy, like I can’t stop from swaying in my seat.  And honestly a lot of the lyrics make me feel light.

RantingnRaven:  Oh that’s really great.  Maybe it was because of the Vietnam War and people needed the music to make them feel better and optimistic

VampireNomad:  In Dobie Grey’s ‘Drift Away’ he sings about “rhythm and rhyme and harmony / you help me along / making me strong” and “I wanna get lost in your rock n roll / and drift away”.  It’s all kind of awesome.  Both doped out bliss and this prevailing belief in the power of unity and music, you know?
And The Carpenters, in ‘Sing’, famously want us all to “sing, sing a song / let the world / sing out loud”

RantingnRaven:  I love that song. I can hear it now. It is really all kinds of awesome.

VampireNomad:  Even the songs that are distinctly about a man and a woman have that same blissed-out equality thing going on.  The Spinners, in ‘Could It Be I’m Falling In Love’, tell their lover “you can be sure I’ll never let you down / when you need me I’ll be around” which is an awesome message for anyone!

RantingnRaven:  I think society was at a point where they needed to be lifted up spiritually and emotionally.

VampireNomad:  I agree.  Even the ‘rough’ songs on the list aren’t bad.  And, hilariously or even awesomely, most of the roughest and hardest songs are by women.

RantingnRaven:  Aww yes, second wave of feminism.

VampireNomad:  ‘You're So Vain’ by Carly Simon, ‘Half Breed’ by Cher, etc.

RantingnRaven:  Yay!! Women power.  I like your era better.

VampireNomad:  Exactly!  I get the opposite of misogyny from 1973.

RantingnRaven:  “You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you, don't you?”
I feel like there was a movement to show love / harmony / ying-yang in relationships.

VampireNomad:  Right?  So how is it, then, that the 70s ushered in this sort of blissful sense of the power of togetherness and peace and music and love and, simultaneously, of feminism and strong women... and now we’ve essentially lost that in a stunning display of regression?

RantingnRaven:  Actually, yes! In music from earlier eras it seems like it was less about a woman’s sexuality and her body and more about her mind and what she could offer.

VampireNomad:  Yes, this!  Like “love me, let’s be together, let’s fall in love, talk to me, let’s play music” and now it’s all “DAT ASS, BABY”.

RantingnRaven:  EXACTLY! We are totally reduced to our exteriors... there’s no quality let alone equality.

VampireNomad:  And yet, having said that, as I am currently listening to The Carpenters’ song ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’, it occurs to me that just because it wasn’t sung about it was still a real concern.  Because Karen Carpenter notably struggled with and ultimately died from anorexia.

RantingnRaven:  Oh for sure, that’s true. Obviously celebs and women alike were struggling with feeling good about themselves at any weight and the expectations that their managers / labels put on them to look a certain way.
As we know, anorexia is now considered a mental disorder and that it is a manifestation of other things going on.

VampireNomad:  Quite true.  So essentially the struggles are global, and they unify us, but the music of the decades showcased a gentler side and allowed us to hope more and be romantic and cerebral together?  Would you say?  Which, honestly, I kind of prefer.

RantingnRaven:  Great way to put it. Yes we were allowed to grow together in an organic way. I prefer that too. It’s sweet and innocent and lovely... less aggressive.

VampireNomad:  I agree.  And oh, Karen Carpenter's voice... my god... extraordinary.

RantingnRaven:  Her voice was amazing. What a loss.

VampireNomad:  And she could play the drums like mad.

RantingnRaven:  Oh really, I had no idea...


RantingnRaven:  Wow could she ever!

VampireNomad:  Right?  I love kickass women.  Speaking of... I’m now watching Tina Turner and Cher duet on ‘Proud Mary’.  I can NOT get enough of Cher...

RantingnRaven:  Omg, that’s so good! Love that duet.  You love Cher? She’s pretty awesome.

VampireNomad:  I unapologetically love Cher.  Proudly.
I used to play ‘Gypsies Tramps and Thieves’ and ‘Dark Lady’ every day and it drove my ex mad.

RantingnRaven:  Lol.  He has no taste...that’s all great stuff.

VampireNomad:  This has gone off-track from misogyny in the best way.  

RantingnRaven:  It has!  So we are lacking misogyny.  We set out to find misogyny but got lost on the way into positivity and equality between the sexes and we want that back in our music.

VampireNomad:  Yes!  I might have actually fist-pumped the air with that ‘yes’.

RantingnRaven:  Ha! Of course you did... you’re all emphatic n shit.

VampireNomad:  I'm keeping that: “all emphatic n shit”.

RantingnRaven:  Lol... ok *bats eyes*

 - Corinne Simpson

- Jennifer Ward