Welcome to the latest installment of Ms. Opinionated, in which readers have questions about the pesky day-to-day choices we all face, and I give advice about how to make ones that (hopefully) best reflect our shared commitment to feminist values—as well as advice on what to do when they don't.
Dear Ms. Opinionated,
The kind of break-up described in your last column is thankfully in my rearview mirror, but now I face a whole other problem: everyone keeps telling me to "get back out there" but I'm not sure I even remember, let alone ever knew, how! My ex and I were together practically since college, he asked me out and things just went from there. But now it's like... I'm not 22 anymore, I'm almost 30, I'm not as cute as I used to be and I feel like any guy I would want to go out with could totally do better.
It's been great fun muddling together the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen with Jane Austen and Adele with Mary Shelley, but today we're going to take a bit of a different tack. Instead of riding our interweb-powered Delorean into the way past past to find the work of a female artist, we're just going to turn our heads towards the sound of that delightful voice coming from somewhere near the Great Smoky Mountains...
There's a script for women in commercial country music that doesn't necessarily coincide with more mainstream stereotypes and assumptions about women. If you've ever heard Carrie Underwood's ubiquitous 2007 single, "Before He Cheats" (lyrics), you'll recognize the tropes.
Of course there are exceptions, but the ideal country woman is often blond (and white), feisty, world-wise, and hot. She is deeply possessive of her man, and aims to squelch competitors for his affection. She gives the appearance of working-class roots even if she didn't grow up working class, and she's equally comfortable talking about guns (Miranda Lambert's "Gunpowder and Lead"), Jesus (Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel"), and heterosexual romantic relationships (Dixie Chicks' "Cowboy Take Me Away").
One of the newer variations on these themes is the girl group Pistol Annies (Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley). Check out the first single of their August LP, Hell on Heels (lyrics):
My friend Nicole and I commiserated over her recent break-up last night. We talked, we ate, we imbibed…..but most importantly, we had a rock-off with YouTube, our mp3 collections, and every break-up song we knew – the good, the bad, the ugly, our favorites, and some must-have suggestions from the rest of the Bitch crew. (Some classics, like Phil Collins' "Against All Odds," were vetoed due to Nicole’s sense of pride. I mean, the break-up wasn’t that bad!) Before long, we developed a 3rd installation of BitchTapes breakup songs. Without further ado...
You know when a break-up hurts so much that you think no one else could possibly understand how you feel? Torch songs understand. They feel your pain, and they channel it through the voices of like-minded torch-bearers who can sing much better than you can sing, and who are willing to do it for you. So, with that in mind, here are some of the torch-toting singers who've been feeling my pain recently.
NPR did a segment on break-up songs. Tigerbeatdown devoted a week on the subject. And Thao Nguyen has written an article breaking-down the break-up song for Bitch. But I got to thinking about the break-up songs are good for you, the ones that are less about the blues and more about kicking-ass.
We have an endless fascination with tales of women and revenge, from cheating husbands forced to grovel in public to a little well-executed arson in an evil ex's home. But while schadenfreude makes for fun reading, does the media's rush to cover stories of public payback help perpetuate stereotypes of women as victims and men as wrongdoers? Or is revenge just really that sweet?