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FFB Guest post: Sara Bareilles’ Fairytale

Today’s post is written by Aly en France for the Feminist Fashion Bloggers guest posting bonanza! Also check out my post on Amanda Palmer over at Northwest is Best.


Hello, all!

So… it’s guest-posting day for the Feminist Fashion Bloggers! Franca, Jacky, and I are trading posts, and Franca is kindly allowing me to post on her blog today about Feminism in Music.

Most people associate musical feminism with Courtney Love, and it’s obvious to see why—2nd wave Feminism and all—but for me, “feminist” music is not just limited to that period of time.

I think of music as an art that everybody can connect with or relate to; music can often express sentiments better than we know how. It allows us to find words that suit our emotions. It can inspire, make us feel a particular emotion, inform, or just provide something fun to dance along to.

The problem is, a lot of the popular music today is downright derogatory towards females, and I, for one, cannot appreciate it as much if it is. I mean, I can appreciate the effort put into creating the rhythm and the mastery of words it takes to build a song that is catchy and fun, but when the carefully-crafted words only serve to portray a perceived attribute or characteristic of a woman in a negative light, or when the words are used to insult or destroy another person (male or female), I cannot lose sense of what the song is SAYING.

It may be because I’m a feminist, but I think part of it is that it makes me really uncomfortable to hear the abuse of words and know that sometimes, the words of songs that are popular create an adverse affect by encouraging the negative view of others and allowing harmful, stereotypical, sexist, or racist language to persist in popular culture. That frustrates me, because more than anything, we should be working against that.

Don’t get me wrong, I secretly love some of those awful dance-y songs where the words don’t have a positive meaning, but at the same time, I hate that they are popular. I am sometimes ashamed of the songs that I hear and enjoy when I take the time to analyze the lyrics. I’m taught, like everyone else, to enjoy that type of music. We are all socialized by our peers to appreciate similar things, and here… that is what is popular.

At the same time, there is music, POPULAR music, that does send a positive message to females.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Sara Bareilles lately; probably because she had a concert in my town recently, and I’ve had King of Anything stuck in my head non-stop since I heard it while thrift shopping with a friend. I’ve noticed a common theme in some of her songs: they encourage the positive portrayal of an independent woman that does not need the approval of a man to live her life. King of Anything is an example of such, as is Love Song, but the one that I love the most is Fairytale.

Fairytale addresses the traditional tales of princesses in a more modern way—what if the princesses didn’t rely on a prince to save them? What if their stories were those of average women, twisted into something they never were?

I love that take on fairytales. As a girl that has always loved Disney and fairytales, I’ve noticed for a long time that they often show women as needing men to save them, and Sara Bareilles’ song confronts that in a fun way. The last verse of the song is the best:

I don’t care
You’re so worried about the maiden though you know she’s only waiting
Spent her whole life being graded on the sanctity of patience
And a dumb appreciation
But the story needs some mending and a better happy ending
‘Cause I don’t want the next best thing.

We all sort of live in a fairytale, and we all sometimes buy into the ideals of society. It’s easy to slip into the role of a woman that needs a man or something similar. Popular music degrades women (and sometimes men!), and society simply allows it, even encouraging it.

But you know what? I, for one, do not care for that fairytale at all.

– Aly

Go visit Aly at Aly en France!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • poet 11 May 2011, 8:36 am

    I'm the same, I can't listen to music without paying attention to the lyrics… re-imagining fairytales is always a great idea!

  • Argo 11 May 2011, 11:12 am

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  • MrsBossa 11 May 2011, 12:44 pm

    I'd never heard of her, but she's whip smart, that's for sure. My favourite line is "I'd rather sleep my whole life away than have you keep me from dreaming…"
    I get frustrated by the lyrics in songs by a lot of men – they're still too often into the virgin/whore dichotomy, where women are they to be venerated or screwed and screwed over.

  • Katie 11 May 2011, 7:57 pm

    Great post! I remember refusing to buy my 12 year old cousin an Eminem CD for her birthday, and stopping her mom and grandma from buying it for her either, because of the content. And not just all the swear words, but the social and gender commentary that came with them. I'm fully aware that artists can attempt to be subversive, or provide political and social commentary, through words that at first blush seem racists, misogynistic, etc., but so many people never reach that level of analysis. And definitely not a 12 year old!

    And if you like Sarah Bareilles, may I suggest some Sarah Harmer, Sarah Slean, and Kathleen Edwards? Those are some of my other favorite singer songwriters.

  • Ladyofashion 12 May 2011, 6:59 am

    She's amazing, I like her voice! I love music far too much to not listen to the lyrics, sometimes it cannot just be about the melodies, especially if from an artist that I like quite a bit. I loved her duet with Ingrid Michalelson as well. -xo
    Ladyofashion of FASHION TALES

  • Jesspgh 12 May 2011, 3:41 pm

    In the 90s I was really into Riot Grrl music which was kind of a gateway drug to feminism. Though she had a complicated relationship with that scene, I also was a big fan of Courtney Love.

    I've never heard of Sara Barielles but am excited to check her out!

  • For Those About To Shop 13 May 2011, 5:51 pm

     Wonderful post! I agree wholeheartedly but also can't help loving the beats of those sometimes derogatory songs. Re: the fairy tale. It's tough to balance the silly rescue fantasy with the fact that we do need men on a certain level. Everybody craves relationship and more and more I'm believing true equality does not exist. I am independent but sometimes wonder if we are meant to do everything ourselves. Especially when I'm mowing the lawn or shovelling the driveway 🙂

  • Zoe Gomberg 14 May 2011, 6:26 am

     This is my favorite song and the number one song on my iPod (number two? Love Song). 

    The interesting thing is that Disney seems to be moving away from the damsel in distress stereotype. Tiana from The Princess and the Frog had her own dreams and while I didn't see Tangled, I have heard that Rapunzel did her own rescuing as well. Fiona of Shrek fame is also a strong female character.