Folk music and feminism -traditional songs and misogyny

(101 Posts)
IntergalacticHussy Fri 17-Jun-11 13:17:28

As i'm sure some of you might have noticed, i'm a bit of a folky at heart, but for a long time now i've been trying to square my love of traditional songs with the awful sexism and misogyny which seems to be an integral part of them.

I mean I'm the first to complain about the depiction of 'ho's' and 'bitches' in mtv videos but some of the depictions of sexual violence and oppression in folk song make Eminem and 50 Cent look positively progressive

Off the top of my head there's 'Pretty Polly' which is one of those songs that got about a bit, starting off in England and being adapted and transported over to the new world in various guises, but the gist of it is always the same: young, naive girl falls for a mysterious bloke and wants to marry him. He gets her on a promise and convinces her to elope beforehand and have sex with him in a forest or somewhere where he digs her a grave during the night, much to her dismay and then murders and buries her. All this is presented in a really neutral, matter of fact way by whoever wrote the song. No justice is metered out, at least not in the versions i've heard.

Then there's 'Blackwaterside' which isn't violent but still incredibly sexist. Young girl (you can see a pattern emerging here - i don't know if these songs were meant as cautionary tales to keep young women in line - probably) goes down to the river and meets a bloke, who again promises to marry her, convinces her to have sex with him then pisses off in the middle of the night. When she asks him where he's going he tells her it's her own fault for succumbing to her 'wanton will' which again is something of a theme in these songs.

I know virtually no-one listens to this music, so it's not exactly a pressing issue, but for me it does show something of the way in which the popular culture of the past played a part in stigmatising and oppressing women, so it's interesting to me from an anthropological point of view.

I just wondered if anyone else had any shining examples? you never know with mumsnet, however obscure the topic!

GunsAndRoses Wed 16-Jan-13 02:11:20

Not exactly folk music but nevertheless:

36D - The Beautiful South

Close your legs, open your mind
Leave those compliments well behind
Dig a little deeper into yourself
And you may find

Come over here just sit right down

Needn't comb your hair, needn't pout or frown

I hear you've turned our young men

Into dribbling clowns

36D so what D so what

Is that all that you've got?

36D so what D so what

Is that all that you've got?

Make their day and go ahead

Remove your clothes, lie on their bed

Just a last gasp chance or an outside bet

To the easily led

And before you do just what you do

Here' one thought for you to chew

The men who run the business that you sell

They screw you too

36D so what D so what

Is that all that you've got?

36D so what D so what

Is that all that you've got?

You're just another 365 night stand

But you're so handy, you're so handy

You cheapen and you nasty every woman in this land

But you're so handy, you're so handy

Your picture's hanging pretty on the squaddies' walls

You're Steven's, Andy's, you're Ian's, you're Paul's

Your body's through of fondly in the rugby mauls

But you want more

Your name is always mentioned in the jokes we crack

You're coaching horses and wolf packs

Your clothes has turned the passive into maniacs

But you want more

36D so what D so what

Is that all that you've got?

36D so what D so what

Is that all that you've got?

36D so what D so what

Is that all that you've got?

36D so what D so what

Is that all that you've got?

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