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Classic Recordings
Robert Altman Week

Monday
Feb282011

« In Which Your Ballroom Days Are Over Baby They Got The Guns But We Got The Numbers Gonna Win Yeah We're Taking Over Come On! »

Speak Now

by MOLLY LAMBERT

We want for Taylor Swift what we want for Betty Draper, which is for her to realize that the thing she has based her life around thus far is a fucked up lie. And that when she figures out it is a lie, her life will not end, she will just get to live in Sanctuary with the rest of us. Taylor Swift believes that heterosexual men bestow all value on people, and that for women this value is based only around marriageability, but she clearly also knows how good it feels to have a number one hit (a number one heeeeeeet). Swift won't claim her own aggression because it doesn't fit with her idea of what girls are like or should be like (pretty, docile, quiet) but she is already neither docile nor quiet. 

Swift's friend breakup with Miley Cyrus reminded me of nothing so much as Sharon Cherski and Angela Chase in its snotty prudishness. Taylor also slut-shamed Camilla Belle (who "stole" her boyfriend Joe Jonas) in a song, hilariously. "She's not a saint and she's not what you think, she's an actress. But she's better known for the things that she does on the mattress." In her own mind, there is no way that Swift could or ever will be be called a slut. But the longer she is single and the more guys she dates (especially in Hollywood) Well, girl. Why does she think being a slut is so horrible? Because slut-shaming was invented and is propagated in order to stop women from claiming their sexual power. To make them think that it is men who do all the choosing, all the hunting, and that if girls have any interest in sex it is only as deer.

But Taylor is obsessive bordering on scary. She writes vengeful anthems about romantic scorn and infatuated love songs about guys she emailed and met once in real life. What is she if not a hunter? She hunts exactly as hard as John Mayer. It is just that the system is set up for him and not her, to praise his success and laugh at her failure. The system doesn't work, so fuck it. You can't win by doing it correctly. You win by breaking the system, by transforming it, by building a better one in its place. 

 

Gwyneth Paltrow reminds me of Taylor in her prissiness and privilege and certainty that her privilege will never run out, although it obviously always does as you get older, particularly for women. I enjoy GOOP's midlife crisis because it humanizes her. Because Paltrow is realizing that being a wife and mother is something, but it is not enough to make you happy if you don't also have some things for just yourself.

I also bring this up for dudes who have the now extremely common househusband fantasy. I usually tell them to read The Feminine Mystique. The problem that has no name is not just a women's problem. It is a problem for anyone who defines their identity primarily through their relationships, which is also an issue for a lot of men. 

That to define yourself primarily through taking care of others is to lose track of yourself. That the desire to take care of others can sometimes get in the way of taking appropriate care of yourself. That when you diss Dre, you really do diss yourself. 

Anyone can be a sponge (BRAD PITT). That borderline is considered female and narcissism is considered male just reflects societal expectations based around gendered stereotypes. Anyone who's seen an episode of any Real Housewives can vouch for the existence of female narcissists, and everyone has had a dude friend or ten that disappears into relationships. People aren't their gender. They're individuals.

Watching Valentine's Day (shut up/it was horrible) I was struck by two things about Taylor Swift's performance: that she delivers lines exactly like Jonah Hill, and that her physicality is just like Nomi Malone's. She is tall and gawky and she flings her long blonde limbs around with all the aggression of Nomi on the floor of the Crave Club.

Taylor Swift doesn't understand yet that her constant intense desire to fall in love is mostly just the desire to fuck everything, and that she can fuck everything without automatically falling in love. And that she can fuck everything AND fall in love. 

Why do some people cling so rigidly to gender roles? Ernest Hemingway grew up wearing a pink gingham dress and a bonnet until he was six. Charles Bronson likewise had to wear his sister's hand me down dress as a child, because he was so poor. Those are two of the all time totems of classical outlaw masculinity. I'm not trying to play classical outlaw psychiatrist but there's not NOT a connection there. Ernest Hemingway's mother was the breadwinner in his family, a talented opera singer who then gave up her career to raise children. His father committed suicide. Hmmm...

So many liberal dudes consider themselves political revolutionaries but then ignore or devalue gender politics as less important than other causes. Or they talk a good game about gender politics but then do the complete opposite in their personal lives. There was a great Mad Men episode touching on this. You think subcultures are going to have better more equal power dynamics, but then they usually reproduce the same fucked up power dynamics of mainstream institutions. It happened in the civil rights movement. It happened with hippies. It happens in indie and punk. It happens in everything when men are the only ones in recognized leadership positions. I wish that it never happened, but it does. Rather than bury our heads in the sand we must choose to engage with it, to figure out why it happens and how we can work on it.

That's why it was so cool when Kurt Cobain wore a dress on Headbanger's Ball. It was genuinely radical and revolutionary. He challenged the world to call him a fag, to ask themselves why they would be threatened by a beautiful man in a dress and why he was supposed to care. A hirsute or ugly man in a dress can be dismissed as comedic, but feminine male beauty is especially threatening to traditional masculinity because it offers the question of what exactly "maleness" is, if there is really anything particular to having a dick besides just having a dick. He forced questions on an audience that didn't want to touch those questions with a ten foot pole lest it end up in their ass. 

Likewise Courtney Love took femininity to its farthest possible outcrop and exposed how horrifying all the most desirable/accepted tropes of girlhood are. How fake and impossible it is to be pretty or quiet and how much the world requires and demands it of women. That's why Kurt was so horrified when Nirvana's audiences started to be full of the same kinds of bros he hated so much when they were still Guns 'n Roses fans. And why people who grew up Hole fans inspired by these ideas were all so horrified when Courtney started fucking with her face and body. No one here gets out alive

Women aren't afraid of becoming men, but the undertone of misogyny is that men are afraid they'll become like women. It assumes that to feel like a woman is to feel weak, powerless, degraded. But that's not what women feel like! That's just how society treats us. Men feel weak, powerless, and/or degraded every goddamn day. Misogyny allows men to separate themselves from negative emotions and ideas by attaching them to women, to a thing that they get to think they are not and could never be. 

You have to speak up. You have to call people out. It doesn't make you are a horrible shrill fun-averse harpy bitch. It doesn't mean you hate men. You LOVE men. You just also want to be taken as seriously as they automatically are. Not taken seriously for a woman. Taken seriously as a person. A person. Not as a woman. As a human being.  

There is a belief that some people have, historically men but occasionally also Ayn Rand and Angelina Jolie, that they have a divine right to power. A lifelong pass to fuck anyone they want and fuck over anyone they feel like and never have to face real consequences. It is the thing that is scariest and most fascist about the bulk of politicians and politics in general, and why Obama is genuinely revolutionary in his feminism and aversion to macho bullshit, but also why he gets called a pussy (sigh). 

It is to pretend like you are on the board of the imaginary but universal organization that tacitly endorses male dominance and ran ENRON. To side with them because it is to side with history's winners, because it is easy and requires no inquisition of the self, no possibility that you might have to change anything or give up any perks. It is to agree with Hitler because everyone else is. If you really want to renounce fascism and oppressive institutions then you have to renounce patriarchy. There is no other way.

You are never really a liberal if you treat women differently. If you hold them to different more difficult standards than you hold men to, than you hold yourself to. You are something else. You are an emosogynist. It is nothing to be proud of. This is what is so horrible and insidious about Bill Clinton and John Edwards. It's why I hate Bill Maher so much. If you deny women the same personhood you give yourself, you are not a liberal. You are not a revolutionary. You are not an outlaw or a gangster or anything cool. You are just a misogynist in a sweater and fuck you, seriously, for real. 

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. She twitters here and tumbls here. She last wrote in these pages about Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, and YouTube.

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    Response: bakire,manken
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    Hello, your articles here In Which Your Ballroom Days Are Over Baby They Got The Guns But We Got The Numbers Gonna Win Yeah We're Taking Over Come On! - Home - This Recording to write well, thanks for sharing!
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    In Which Your Ballroom Days Are Over Baby They Got The Guns But We Got The Numbers Gonna Win Yeah We're Taking Over Come On! - Home - This Recording
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Reader Comments (29)

the best

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterca

x1000

some of the best gender writing on the 'net happening here

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkll

bill maher is the worst
so smug.

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteryvonne

So damn fantastic. Wow.

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJ

What a streak Lambert's been on! SINGIN' MY LIFE WITH HER WORDS

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKate

genius as us', dude.

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJan

ABSOLUTELY.

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

I don't like how you single out those of us who are the 'quiet,' 'pretty' ones. It's fucking bullshit. I grew up being hated because of that. Some girls are loud, some are quiet. Accept it.
Otherwise - I loved this.

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermonica

it's not that you can't also be quiet, it's the idea that if you are quiet you can't also be loud and vice versa. everybody is quiet sometimes, even me.

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

Do they give pulitzers for blogs yet?

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGraham

only Prezlers, and I already won them all

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

Is disappearing into relationships really equal to borderline personality disorder? Like what if you just tend to like the person you're in a relationship with more than your friends?

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

super thankful for you

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersarahspy

If you deny women the same personhood you give yourself, you are not a liberal. You are not a revolutionary. You are not an outlaw or a gangster or anything cool. You are just a misogynist in a sweater and fuck you, seriously, for real.

This is just the absolute best.

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterK.

Kurt might be beautiful, but that is one damn ugly dress.

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjenna

I don't agree with you holding up Obama as an ideal when it comes to embracing and respecting feminine characteristics.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCbfjS0pM7k&feature=related

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAriel

Hemingway pursued masculine endeavors (the hunting, the drinking, the bull fights) - and advertised himself as the standard of "manliness" - precisely because he was compensating for (1) the younger years where he was treated like a girl, and (2) because he had an overbearing mother and a pushover father. There is a connection there.

And I agree w/ Ariel - Obama isn't one to embrace and respect feminine qualities. Not only do you have the patronizing "sweetie" instances, but he gave Hillary the middle finger. (Though, perhaps in his defense, he did give it to others during the campaign.)

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertravis

Great stuff. This is why you are one of the best sites on the net.

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjared

This reads as a muddled walkthrough of namedropping draped over an oversized sense of self-importance. When you preach that no one should label themselves based on relationships or traditional gender roles or some such, all you are doing is applying a different label. Though I despise labels, they should be used only by the person so labeled. If you want to call yourself 'heterosexual,' go ahead. That label only holds meaning for you. If I want to label myself 'homemaker,' how does that impact anyone else? It's my label; I applied it; it means whatever I want it to mean. By denying the principles or belief systems of subsets of humans, you are saying loudly, "my world view is the only world view worth having." Well, yea for you, but I don't share your view from an ivory tower.

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

You like the Doors too?

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHC Carr

Molly is on fire.

"That to define yourself primarily through taking care of others is to lose track of yourself. That the desire to take care of others can sometimes get in the way of taking appropriate care of yourself. That when you diss Dre, you really do diss yourself."

Amazing.

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAManda

there are some compelling points here, however, i would like to see them explored in a forum or medium that allows for more cogent, cohesive analysis, interpretation, and explanation.

thank you, thank you, thank you for noting that liberal and misogynist are not inherently mutually exclusive terms; most people, particularly in our media, like to overlook this.

http://dallianceswithsuitsandskirts.blogspot.com/

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterblue roses

Wait, what did John Stewart do?

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCH

paltrow is shit. overrated from the word go. even if she's a nice lady, she is a terrible actress.

March 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterderby

Standing ovation to both this, and masculin!!

March 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTatiana

"Women aren't afraid of becoming men, but the undertone of misogyny is that men are afraid they'll become like women. It assumes that to feel like a woman is to feel weak, powerless, degraded. But that's not what women feel like! That's just how society treats us. Men feel weak, powerless, and/or degraded every goddamn day. Misogyny allows men to separate themselves from negative emotions and ideas by attaching them to women, to a thing that they get to think they are not and could never be. "

Jaw-dropping.

Molly, you are a national fucking treasure. You deserve, and should be fighting for, a larger stage. We're living in an age where things you find on the internet can be as meaningful to you as any book, movie, or person in your real life, and several things you've written here qualify as HOLY SHIT-more meaninful than we ever expect our Internet to be-moments for me.

March 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCyber Soul

I found out about you through simmons, and long story short your fucking amazing. You have a new fan, and im excited for this new simmons website thing. I think its an amazing idea for you to go to that site, reach out your ideas to a demographic that doesnt find themselves in this indie blogosphere, but macho guys who love sports. I dk if this means the end of this recording, but I hope that you maintain these articles about feminism on that site, because I think despite the backlash you might get from some of the people a sports site attracts, I think your ideas are brilliant and important to be seen by more people, and this is coming from a sports obsessed guy, i wish you all the best

March 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAJ

Love it!!!!!

March 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercybermartini
god. damn. you are amazing.
September 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermaria

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