Friday, 3 June 2011

I Am More Than A Womb With Fancy Wrapping

OK, so yesterday I had a bit of a rage on Twitter about the King Blues:

Basically, what happened is that the King Blues (a band widely acknowledged, even by their former members to be hypocrites and sellouts) decided to exclusively premier their new single in that classiest of places, 'lads mag',  Front Magazine (link NSFW. Or for computers with any vague concepts of feminism).

Now, leaving aside the problem of supposed 'punk' bands and self-styled-voices-of-a-disaffected-anti-capitalist-generation using a mainstream rag to hawk their wares, the reason I got my ultra-lefty knickers in a twist and called them hypocrites is because of one of the other songs on their album is supposedly all about feminism and respecting women. Which is kind of the opposite of Front's raison d'etre. Anyway, that song is called 'Five Bottles of Shampoo'.

I've heard that song a few times, and remember that when the album came out, lots of people saying that I'd really like that song, precisely because of its pro-feminist message. Then when I was thinking about it this morning, I remembered that when I'd listened to it, I'd always felt a bit uncomfortable about it, but couldn't put my finger on why. So I decided to look up the lyrics:

She pushed in before me,
in the supermarket queue.
Pretending not to see me in the way women do.
She put on the counter some bread and milk too,
and then she pulled out 5 different bottles of shampoo.
And I thought to myself, "I will never understand women."
And I hear some of you saying "Yeah but all men are the same,
they all think they're so cool and are ruled by their dicks."
That might be true of me, but it ain't true of all of us,
so don't point that finger so quick.
I do see some of the blokes though,
in the clubs, pinching girls asses,
trying to be intimidating, making obscene passes.
"Man, she's a goddess,
you can tell by the way she dances."
But you call her a slag when she don't accept your advances.
You just show you got no respect for yourself.
Show you ain't got the balls to just talk to a girl.
So when she chats to me,
you spit at her and shout "WHORE."
Well, it's written in the art of war,
to fight only the battles you can win.
But I will defend your honour until they kick my face in.
If you have to scrape me, broken boned, bloodied, bruised and battered up off the floor,
well fuck it.
Integrity is what black eyes were invented for.
So down with the dictatorship,
they're so cock sure,
they use rape as a weapon of war.
Fuck the man that thinks it's okay to give his wife a punch.
Fuck the judge that said it weren't rape cause she was drunk.
And if you're pro life,
I mean, if you're PRO life,
then become a doctor, or foster a kid,
make it possible for people who are alive, to LIVE.
But don't you dare tell women, what they can and can't do,
when it was a woman that gave life to you.
Yes, I'm a man who may be stereotypical,
but I ain't afraid to say it, I think all women are beautiful,
and strong.
Too fat, too thin,
that's just media spin.
You look best when you're comfortable in your own skin.
So I'm sorry, if we made you feel untrue,
if truth be known, I love all of you.
You're a giver of life, and a warrior too,
so do you really need 5 different bottles of shampoo?

And then I realised why I've never liked it. For all its attempts, it just completely fails at feminism. It all starts in the opening five lines, where Itch characterises all women according to some crude stereotype of the haughty bitch who ignores the poor male protagonist, and is so obsessed with her appearance that she buys five different bottles of shampoo because she's so blinded by media portrayals of how she should behave, and then (almost laughably) says "That might be true of me, but it ain't true of all of us,/so don't point that finger so quick" when discussing male stereotype.

Well. Newsflash number one: I am a woman and I am capable of both being a nice person and being rational enough to realise that I don't need five kinds of shampoo to make me happy.

Itch then goes on to talk about how he'll always stick up for women, saying "But I will defend your honour until they kick my face in./If you have to scrape me, broken boned, bloodied, bruised and battered up off the floor,/well fuck it./Integrity is what black eyes were invented for". Well, Itch, sweetie, it's lovely that you're willing to get the shit kicked out of you in order to bring a little bit of chivalry to the room and all that, but newsflash number two: My feeble ladybrain is capable of telling some dickhead that I don't want to talk to to piss off and leave me alone without you stepping in to defend my honour.

The line that really, really winds me up though is the penultimate line, which reads "You're a giver of life, and a warrior too". Ah yes, that old chestnut. Women as 'life-givers'. The notion that we should celebrate the female of the species because she bears the babies! But, wait a minute. Where does that leave the childless women? Are we not women if we don't squeeze tiny humans through our vaginal canal? Are we not worthy of celebration merely for our accomplishments as humans? Is getting knocked up really the best thing I can ever hope to do with my life? Final newsflash: I AM MORE THAN A WOMB WITH FANCY WRAPPING. 

So, I suppose that I should stop bemoaning the King Blues losing any credential as a feminist band, because they never bloody had any in the first place.

(N.B. Yes, I know that the rest of the song is good and all that, telling blokes not to slag women off if their advances aren't reciprocated, and not to rape/abuse/victim blame/take away personal autonomy etc. But frankly, with the other parts of the song being the way they are, it's just not good enough.)



  1. Kind of as an aside, there's this anti capitalist person i heard online who doesn't have a problem with lad's mags, which i just found astounding. How can you be anti capitalist and buy into one of the high points of capitalism - the commodifcation of sex and women's bodies?


    Well said as ever nat. you rock.

  2. I thought exactly the same when I heard that song - on the one hand I was going "well, thanks for trying", but mostly just grinding my teeth at the putting-women-on-a-pedastal thing ("a giver of life, and a warrior too!") while still subscribing to lazy gender stereotyping (women: they like shampoo, right?).

    Also, the line "And I hear some of you saying 'Yeah but all men are the same...'" - I wasn't, actually, I was thinking "DEFINING PEOPLE BY THEIR GENDER IS A FUCKING STUPID IDEA".

  3. I've always worked on the principle 'never trust a male feminist'.

  4. My first thought was "Maybe she does need those five bottles of shampoo" - after all, many women don't exactly have a completely free choice about their beauty regime if they want to meet an employer's idea of "professional" presentation.

    Also, anyone who says "it was a woman who gave life to you" in my child's hearing deserves a punch in the mouth. No women were involved in his creation, by which I mean the "women as life-givers" doesn't just erase infertile/childfree women - it has some pretty gross associations for fertile trans men.

  5. Olderthanelvis - You can trust my dad, promise! I never realised it at the time but growing up without gender roles and with two full parents was pretty magic.

  6. Alas it really does look like the king blues have sold out. They do not even seem to recognise how hypocritical they have become. There does not even seem to be any regret with promoting themselves throughh that magazine. No doubt they have been told to do it by their record label but that is not an excuse. when you sing songs telling people how corrupt the world is blah blah blah you should at least have the backbone to stick to your principles. They are proof of just how easy it is to turn people away from their morals. "no credibility any more" should be the title of their new song

  7. ah la said...
    linked to this good post and poetic expression...tis late to the wee hours off to sleep..~ i share to mention and acknowledge for any... but the comments so far noticed I am not to be confused with minimalist thinking like way to many of ye....

    9 June 2011 02:45