April 23, 2010

Friday musings: music, hook-ups, and flowers

Posted in Feminism, Music, Musings at 10:50 am by The Lizard Queen

I’ve been on a Liz Phair kick lately, focused especially on Exile in Guyville.  A couple of weeks ago now I found myself in a dilemma, as I had “Fuck and Run” stuck in my head all day, and normally when I have a song in my head, I’ll sing it, I’ll listen to it multiple times, etc.–but I was at work, and that’s not exactly a song that can be called “safe for work,” in the parlance of our times.

So, with that background, you can perhaps imagine my delight at the recent Tiger Beatdown post that discussed “Fuck and Run” (plus another song by some dude)!  That got me thinking about a couple of related things that would have been sort of tangential and derailing to put in the comments at TB, but that’s part of why I have my own blog, no?  Here we are, then:

1. “Fuck and Run” is generally held up as this shocking–shocking, I tell you!–song.  I love how K. at TB put it, because she really captured the truth of the matter:

Now, when most people talk about Liz Phair, what they really love to talk about is sex. Breaking News! Did you know that women sometimes have sexual intercourse? And that in addition to having this “sex”, they might sometimes use art as a framework for exploring themselves as sexual beings? They might even make that art publicly available! Like, to total strangers! I mean, have you heard that one Liz Phair song, “Fuck and Run?”

When people talk about Liz Phair, they love to talk about “Fuck and Run.” Talking about “Fuck and Run” is an exciting thing because it provides an avenue for (usually half-baked) discussions about Public Explorations of Female Sexuality and “graphic” lyrical content – and, you get to say “fuck!” In the 15+ years since Exile in Guyville was first released, “Fuck and Run” has been consistently trotted out as the Liz Phair song, the one that is most representative of her canon (or, perhaps more accurately, the song that did the most to reinforce the public image of “sexually frank young woman” that was rapidly being built around her). When people talk about Phair, they beeline directly from “Debut album Exile in Guyville” to “controversial songs such as ‘Fuck and Run.’”

ZOMG!  Controversy!  What I find really interesting, then, is the extent to which the lyrics of “Fuck and Run” actually reinforce the status quo idea of male-female relationships: the speaker has had another night of committment-free sex, and she regrets it, and laments: “I want a boyfriend… I want all that stupid old shit like letters and sodas.”  She wants traditional romance, like a proper lady!  (Relatively speaking, of course.)

Four tracks later on the album, though, you get “Flower.”  People talk about “Flower,” but not nearly to the extent that they talk about “Fuck and Run.”  “Flower,” however, is significantly more “sexually frank,” and it presents a speaker who glories in her sexuality, rather than lamenting her sexual behavior.  So, why don’t people talk about “Flower” as much?  Is it a little too anti-status-quo?  Or is it maybe that saying “this woman wrote a song called ‘Flower'” doesn’t quite have the same oomph as “this woman wrote a song called ‘Fuck and Run'”?

2. Every now and then we get another post or article or study about the Hook-Up Culture, and how it’s scary, bad for women, etc. (e.g.), and the writer tends to phrase things like this is a new cultural development.  Well, if the speaker in “Fuck and Run” hadn’t used protection, had gotten pregnant, and had carried the pregnancy to term, the progeny of the described hook-up could be one of the girls writing in to Teen Vogue mentioned in the afore-linked post, so I’m going to go with it not actually being a new phenomenon.  (Of course, I don’t think it’s something to panic over in the first place, but that’s a whole other post, really.)

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