Posts tagged sexism
[trigger warning: racism, privilege denial] Woman is the nigger of the world.
Privilege check: I am a white, male songwriter so I know those first two adjectives will invalidate anything I have to say in the eyes of the more reactionary feminists.
To begin: Yoko Ono coined this phrase, not John Lennon. Either way, I’m not going to function as an apologist for John Lennon, because he was far from a perfect person and just as much of a nihilist as an idealist. I will however advocate in favor of the quote being extremely accurate and thought-provoking for what is possible in the context of a song.
Whenever I read feminists criticizing the lyrics to rock songs, I can’t help but feel underwhelmed; it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. As a student of rock n roll I’ll will be the first to cede it’s long history of sexism and misogyny, but the musicians who make their way to the top are often not the most articulate people, in keeping with the collective intelligence of the masses who used their purchasing power to get them there. In the case of someone like John Lennon, who was decently articulate and must have been fairly intelligent to be one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, the songwriting process itself still dilutes the intelligence and cohesion of whatever sentiment is trying to be expressed by forcing it’s concision.
When writing songs, 9 times out of 10 you will be forced to dilute the honesty of whatever concept or emotion you are trying to express in order to preserve the balance of lyrical quality and musicality. You have to find ways to concisely evoke notions that you don’t have entire paragraphs to express. While this particular sentiment might not be 100% accurate under the light of academic analysis, it is still a profoundly powerful image that moves the conversation in the right direction.
What John Lennon is saying by “Woman is the nigger of the world” is that, while people of African descent are oppressed by Europeans. women are oppressed on a universal level by men everywhere. This is an extremely powerful sentiment, even though it doesn’t take into account the potential for women to racially oppress each other. It’s a song, not a reasoned treatise. For you to criticize it as such is only an indication of your own intellectual lack of ambition. Go pick on Andrew Breitbart or someone with a purely ideological medium and much more insidious agenda. God knows he’s doing more harm to the world than John Lennon ever could. If you want to make the world a better place you have to focus. Calling out John Lennon on 39 year old bullshit doesn’t help anybody when there are people out there advancing and perpetrating sexism and racism today. And I admit my own hypocrisy in taking the time to criticize you for it.
On a side note, as a man, I have always found the most powerful line of this to be, “If you don’t believe me, look at the one you’re with.” There’s no better privilege check than to take a moment and think of the women in your life, their body image issues, emotional fragility (respective to most men’s lack of emotion), and socioeconomic standing. (The previous statement is extremely general.) John Lennon’s song is effective. I’m sorry that it’s not 100% accurate but there are more pressing things you should be concerning yourself with. And this isn’t a man trying to tell you what’s best for you, it’s pragmatism. It’s 2011 and there are much more important things to worry about. #occupywallst
What the fuck is this mansplaining bullshit. Surely this is like, a parody of what not to do when writing about racism.
If this is the kind of attitude present at Occupy Wall Street, well fuck that.
Are you seriously going to condescend to women of color and mansplain to them what the point of music is, and how music works, and what goes into songwriting? I’m pretty sure some women of color are songwriters and they know what it entails, and they also know that it doesn’t justify misappropriation of an oppressive term used against people of color by a white dude just so said white dude can be controversial or poetic or some shit.
“Woman is the nigger of the world” wasn’t just “diluting honesty”, it’s straight up ignorance. It doesn’t matter that it was 39 years ago. It is obviously still being used and appropriated by white folks today, hence making it still an issue. Hence bringing to light the fact that Lennon did have a negative impact on the social justice movement by letting his privilege as a white dude create cracks in what otherwise might have been solidarity. I guess you have a lot in common with him there.
The only people who lack “intellectual ambition” (fucking christ, pretentious much?) are those who are not willing to analyze their own behavior and the behavior of supposed “allies” in the context of the social justice. Andrew Breitbart is an easy mark because everyone knows he’s an oppressive asshole. It takes much more to confront someone within what’s supposed to be your own ranks who is also expressing oppressive attitudes. It takes more to pinpoint the underlying attitudes that everyone has, even self-identified allies, than it does to criticize a known and vocal bigot. Puh-lease, dude.
Look, I know you put your passive aggressive “If feminists criticize me for this they’re just reactionary” bit in at the top, but I’m not gonna let that bug me. This post is bullshit, and your “privilege check” at the beginning apparently didn’t stop you from writing it. In fact, nothing after the colon was a privilege check at all. I think perhaps you should revisit the meaning of that phrase.
Until then, please, just stop. You don’t get to define what is and is not important.
Breaking this down:
the songwriting process itself still dilutes the intelligence and cohesion of whatever sentiment is trying to be expressed by forcing it’s concision.
This is not an excuse for racism.
When writing songs, 9 times out of 10 you will be forced to dilute the honesty of whatever concept or emotion you are trying to express
This is still not an excuse for racism.
Good artists can make complex concepts shine without having to completely diminish them with poor analogies.
What John Lennon is saying by “Woman is the nigger of the world” is that, while people of African descent are oppressed by Europeans. women are oppressed on a universal level by men everywhere.
No, actually. There are quite a few women who have white privilege and who are not oppressed on the multiple levels of race, class, gender, sexuality, etc., that Women of Color are. The fact is, the category “woman” is NOT in any way a universal group. This is the same kind of identity and experience erasing crap that got 2nd wave Feminism in trouble.
And this is STILL not an excuse for racism.
If you want to make the world a better place you have to focus. Calling out John Lennon on 39 year old bullshit doesn’t help anybody when there are people out there advancing and perpetrating sexism and racism today.
Uh. Yeah, it actually does help, because the past is not immune to analysis. The past is not flawless— People of oppressed groups have the right to reclaim history. Andrew Jackson was the best president ever? Nope he was a genocidal douche who murdered Indigenous Americans. One John Lennon song happens to use a racial slur, but that makes it okay because he had a nice idea behind it? NOPE the cultural context is still here today, and it is still racist.
“It’s in the past” is NOT an excuse for racism. “Good intentions” are NOT an excuse for racism.
On a side note, as a man, I have always found the most powerful line of this to be, “If you don’t believe me, look at the one you’re with.” There’s no better privilege check than to take a moment and think of the women in your life,
See, I understand that the song is meant to do that. But the big problem here is, If woman is the nigger of the world, then what happens to BLACK WOMEN? No seriously. Are they “double niggers” and just totally fucked and so we should ignore them? Or does it not matter, because this song is just fucked up already by co-opting the history of Black slavery and then equating it across the board for women who have nothing even close to that legacy in their blood?
It’s 2011 and there are much more important things to worry about.
I guess you read Derailing for Dummies, because this is one of the most common non-arguments in the world. It reeks of “lol u peoplez of colorz r just being 2 sensitive stfu and help us white peoplez!!!!!” :\
This post is mansplaining white dude 101. The best part is, this guy knows it, but he still fails to understand that when a marginalized group is offended, it’s generally better to listen to what they have to say than to claim that they are wrong— you know, since being part of the dominant group means your point of view is assuredly obscured.
So let me summarize:
“This is all in the past”: Nope. This is still around.
Being John Lennon: Not an excuse for racism.
Being Yoko Ono: Still not an excuse for racism.
Having a political point of misogyny in your song: Nope, not an excuse for racism.
There are other people who are worse/more obviously racist than John Lennon: Still not an excuse for racism.
Saying that you can decide what black people are offended by: Yup, that’s racist.
Everything stfufauxfeminists and fromonesurvivortoanother said.