Thursday, January 31, 2008

She Wants Revenge...or.... He Wants Revenge?

One thing I have not talked a lot about on this blog is music (besides Britney Spears, of course). That is in part because I love my music so much and because listening to it is such a personal and intimate experience that it is difficult to be critical of it.

Image Via

That being said, I have discovered a new band that I am really, really enjoying. She Wants Revenge is electronic, darkwave, whatever (I am not big on categorizing music) but I just love it. I have watched the video for "Tear You Apart" quite a few times to try to figure out just what is happening. While I am still puzzled, all I know is that this video creeps me out. The suggestions of sexual assault and transphobia are palpable.

I wasn't sure quite how I felt about it until I listened closer to the lyrics and read this Dig Magazine article in which band member, Bravin, said: "I don't think there are a lot of bands out there right now that are men speaking to women."

According to SWR in the lyrics for "Tear You Apart" this is what men want to say to women:

Either way he wanted her and this was bad
He wanted to do things to her it was making him crazy
Now a little crush turned into a like
And now he wants to grab her by the hair and tell her

I want to hold you close
Skin pressed against me tight
Lie still, and close your eyes girl
So lovely, it feels so right

I want to hold you close
Soft breasts, beating heart
As I whisper in your ear
I want to f*cking tear you apart

Now if that does not sound rape-y I don't know what does. Woman hatred is all over popular and even underground/indie music. Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is in your face. This is a bit more subtle until you really pay attention to the lyrics and what the band members say that those lyrics mean to them.

This is another of those situations where, as a feminist, I need to take pause and acknowledge the misogyny in my music but then do I stop listening to it? I am not that much of a martyr. I love this music and I still want to listen to it. Sometimes I believe that media consciousness is a huge first step. We don't have to give up the media we love so long as we learn to be critical of it and not just passive absorbers of it. How do we enact progressive change in this situation?


Feminist Gal said...

I think this is such a tough question, and one i think about a lot. As feminists, especially in academia, we are taught to examine life through a critical eye. We then have a few options: 1. ignore the misogyny; 2. "girl"cott the experience/product/etc; or 3. Experience and critique. My vote is for #3 since if we ignore either the misogyny or don't experience what we love we are missing out on the opportunity for education and change.

Wait a second, as I was writing that I realized I wasn’t just coming up with a neat new theory but that this in fact was what bell hooks referred to in The Oppositional Gaze…

Bell hooks came up with this theory (the oppositional gaze) to encourage black women not to accept stereotypes in movies, but rather actively critique them. Holy cow, my intro to WS prof would be so proud :) Check out her article, unfortunately I can’t link it because I don’t currently have access to a journal search but you’re a student and probably do :)
<3 g

Cortney said...

Thanks for the reminder, I think I actually have a book in which she discusses this! bell hooks is so brilliant.

It's funny because my advisor and I were just discussing (jokingly of course) how feminism ruins everything for us. We can no longer just sit back and enjoy the show because we have learned to be critical consumers of media, culture, institutions, etc.

She Wants Revenge is staying in my iPod, but that doesn't make these lyrics any less disturbing.

GottabeMe said...

Wow, those lyrics are disturbing. And then there are people who say no, plenty of people like to "talk dirty", so it doesn't necessaritly mean he wants to rape her. But ugh. It sounds that way to me. Grabbing by the hair, hold you down, I want to tear you apart? That sounds very forceful. And he just wants her to close her eyes and lie still. Like she's dead?

Anonymous said...

My impression of the song, which I also really enjoy, is that it's a character study. While I'm sure there are some folks out there for whom it's a song that speaks to their twisted little hearts, I can't help but give the songwriter the benefit of my doubt.

Anonymous said...

I think every person who believes they are a feminist have their feminist beliefs tainted by their own personality, as feminism is in itself exploring how women are expected to behave in relation to how they naturally want to behave. A girl that is naturally masculine in behaviour would decide that there are many pressures exerted onto her to become more feminine, and a girl that is typically feminine would have the view that there are many exertions of male dominance over feminine characters through aggression. I think the video is one that uses the obscene to give power to a message about the nature of the obscene in real life. Similar to the way 'rape me' wasn't actually about kurt cobain asking to be raped. I think the video is a metaphor and if it could be read as 'men speaking to women' then i think those men would be attempting to say that in teenage social life girls in general can have a much more innocent view whereas boys tend to view teenage social life in a more perverse way, and it is the innocent view that allows girls to fall victim to the perverse underlying intentions.

Anonymous said...

This isnt demeaning to women, its a song about a boy who meets a girl, falls in love, cant decide how to tell her. And then she falls in love with him, and they end up together. Nothing about rape. The tear you apart piece was a metaphor for rough sex. Your fucking stupid.

Cortney said...

I do love how the most offensive, personal attack-type comments are always anonymous. I allow them through moderation only to demonstrate the cowardly and abusive behavior of angry, anti-feminist, trolls.

The only thing I wish to say to you, anonymous, is that rape and assault can be read into the lyrics of this song. It is a double entendre and it was certainly intentional. What I object to is the flippant and casual ways in which sexual assault is entered into our conscious, our thoughts, our art without any critical analysis. That is precisely why I started this blog; I thought it was time to start talking back, engaging in that critical analysis. If you don't see assault in this song, that doesn't mean it is not there, it just means that you have had the privilege of living a life where you don't have to see violence against women.


Kat said...

I just heard this song for the first time today and struggled not to vomit. As I listened, I couldn't help but imagine the rape scenario it described. It made me feel so violated and angry, especially as this misogyny was clearly voiced a popular song. I will not listen to it again because it upsets me that much. Plus I really don't need yet another reminder that men hate us.

Anonymous said...

I think it's more as in a rough sex sort of way, and of him craving her but in less of a sexual assault kind of way. Well at least that's what I interpretated from the lyrics :"))

Anonymous said...

Im a 27 year old man and I don't hate women Kat. Personally I don't think there are that many men that hate women. I'm actually a little sad thats your view point. Honestly I believe that's close minded of you. If you don't want to be stereo typed then please don't do it yourself. Now to the point of this. Do I like rough sex? Yes. Do I like this song? Yes. I prefer that the double standards across both sides of the board for men and women were gone. Both genders have sexual thoughts,each person is more or less open/sensitive to that sort of thing. I say find what you like and go for it. Don't let views or ideals of others inhibit you from experiencing and growing as an individual in all parts of your life. Now concerning this song I don't think it's rapey. He didn't say hold you down he says hold you close. The tear you apart comes from the fact that social media has made it were if a man doesn't completely rock your world and make it so you couldn't stand then he's lacking. I see it all over the place and the magazine cosmopolitan is terrible at that. There are lots of stereotypes and pressure for both sexes in social media. What I ask is when your being critical of something don't limit your view of how it only effects women but how it effects both sides. There is poison all throughout society not just concentrated at women. If people stay blind to that fact then we has individuals have failed ourselves and each other. I'm not pro either side I prefer balance in the middle and each person play their role based on their strengths and passions whatever those may be. If you can do whatever it is your trying to do then do it. I don't care what you are. All I care about is you have the skills, intelligence and perseverance to achieve what you promised you could. Keep your word. Thats not a man thing thats a personal contract you forge with someone when you say, Hey! I can do that. Thank you for your time have a great day.

Anonymous said...

I am a 28 year old female, who considers them self's a feminist and I do like this song. Personally I enjoy being dominated. I can't help that it turns me on, sometimes I think I'm a weirdo but I enjoy it so it's not really hurting anyone is it? This song is very sexy to me.

Anonymous said...

I am a 28 year old female, who considers them self's a feminist and I do like this song. Personally I enjoy being dominated. I can't help that it turns me on, sometimes I think I'm a weirdo but I enjoy it so it's not really hurting anyone is it? This song is very sexy to me.

A.K. Hoffman said...

I thought the visual story kind of clashed with the lyrics producing an interesting level of ambiguity, until I read this...

Fucking patriarchy

Tempest said...

Hi there!
I discovered the song you write about two days agon in the series American Horror Story and liked it right away. Now I searched for it and the lyrics in the internet and also thought: Isn`t this about rape? So I searched for an explanation and found your article.
You refer to an article which is not available anymore.
What did it say about the lyrics? Do they really mean this literally? But I like the song. :-(
Best wishes from Germany,