I've Got 99 Problems, And Intellectually Justifying My Love For Sexist Songs Is One

Christina Aguilera says "99 Problems" is derogatory toward women, everybody feels a little guilty for loving it so much.

May 9, 2012 at 12:00pm | Leave a comment

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Just listening to sexist music, you know.

So last night was the finale of "The Voice," and I don't know who won yet because one of my 99 problems is that I've become one of those whiny people who bitches about spoilers since becoming a parent. (Another is people asking me if I'm pregnant when I wear empire-waisted dresses.) But I did tune into Monday's episode and saw former Mouseketeer Tony Lucca do this sexy, bluesy version of "99 problems" by Mr. Beyonce.

If you watch all the way to the end, you'll see my spirit animal Christina Aguilera noting that the contestant's wife and children are in the audience before commenting that the lyrics are "derogatory toward women" and then Adam Levine is all "It's a metaphor" (uh-huuuuuh) and then everybody in America collectively feels guilty for loving to shout the word "bitch" so much.

When pondering the thrill of a sexist song, I immediately think about some of the great ol' woman-hating-woman country songs like Tammy Wynette's "Woman to Woman" and Loretta Lynn's "Fist City," "You Aint Woman Enough to Take My Man" and  "Woman of the World (Leave My World Alone)." In just those three songs, Loretta refers to the women who are apparently always after her man as "trash," "a dime a dozen," "the devil"s woman," accuses them of dressing like sluts, and suggests they ought to go straight to hell.  For her part, Tammy recommends "Good Loving" whenever he wants it as the best defense against cheating, and recommends "standing by your man" after he inevitably cheats on you anyway.  

I adore these songs, love the stripped-down gender politics and folksy womanly wisdom within. They're far from politically correct, but they tap into age-old human emotions. Real people don't always feel like stopping to consider the cultural implications of competitiveness between women; sometimes they just want to cut a bitch for talking to their goddamned man! And music, more than any other art form, taps into our base, primal nature. I don't know about you, but my base primal nature is not that schooled in feminist theory.

I also think that an artist's job, especially in the genres of rap and country, is often to portray various characters and narratives. I don't always presume that the lyrics of a song are literal or instructive or the opinion of the artist. In addition, those characters are often coming from a culturally specific place and representing a marginalized experience, which makes me feel a little nervous about wantonly splattering my politics all over them.

Later on in the show, after a touchy-feely performance from Chris Mann of "The Voice Within" including inspirational text scrolling on a screen behind him, Christina stressed the issue by shouting "That's a real man! He respects women!"

Real men do respect women. In their lives. But must they always in their work? If music had to adhere to the set of political guidelines we increasingly expect from art (see: "Girls"), would it still touch us in the same way? I suppose I am willing to cut a lot of slack in the name of creativity.

Which pretty much does it for me on the intellectual justification front. But what if I am, as on commenter recently suggested, actually just fellating the patriarchal narrative with all this talk-thinky voodoo? (Thanks, commenter, for giving me a descriptor of my writing that will now stick with me forever like that time someone said I looked like a goblin.) (And while we're at it, isn't that pretty patriarchal metaphor?)

So, in order to spread some of the blame around, I confronted nearby xoJaners with two questions: What's your favorite sexist song? And how do you justify liking it? Lesley is such a goody-two shoes that she seriously can't think of any song she likes that qualifies as sexist, and Julieanne wordlessly sent me a link to Neil Diamond's, "Girl You'll be a Woman Soon" video, but the rest are below.

 Daisy: "Gangsta of Love" -- Geto Boys 

"I don't feel like I have to justify liking anything (shocking!), but the reason I do love this song is because it was popular when I was in 8th grade. Because it samples Steve Miller Band's "The Joker," it was automatically familiar to me. Add in the offensive lyrics ("the first piece of pussy that I ever fucked" was the first time I'd ever heard the word "pussy") and the fact that they were catchy and really easy to memorize and, well, I don't know... there was just something about singing along to the song that felt empowering at the time. "You think I'm this innocent girl, but I'll totally sing along to The Geto Boys" type of thing. Now, it's just nostalgic."

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Jane: "I love golddigger and I justify it because he says, "I'm NOT saying she's a golddigger." It's a weak argument, I know."

Julie: "I'm currently listening to "Beat the Pussy Up" by LoveRance on repeat, but he doesn't want to beat the pussy up against anyone's will. It's a mating call."
 

Cat: "The sad truth is that literally nothing about rock 'n roll or rap or music or art offends me. Sid murdered Nancy and he's still my hero. I'm AWFUL like that. I can't help it. Sid's cover of "My Way" is like my ANTHEM, you know? You know the song -- it blares at the end of "Goodfellas," when Tommy/Joe Pesci shoots the gun at the camera. I blast it in between Disney songs on my iPod shuffle when I'm walking to Juicepress every morning. And I mean, I guess it's just offensive because SId's way is stabbing girls, stuffing them under sinks, and being a disgusting junkie. God, he is so hot.

Another favorite is N.W.A.'s "She Swallowed It"! Hell yes: "She likes suckin' on dicks, and lickin' up nutz// And they even take de broomstick at the butt//Just to say that she did it with a rapper!" And so on. Do I really have to justify liking it? I hate intellectualizing everything goddammit! And I refuse!

So obviously my favorite is "I Used To Love Her" from GNR's LIES album (the next line is, of course, "but I had to kill her"...and then Axl (of "Battered Beauties" fame) goes on to say that he has to put her six feet under; he buried her right in his backyard...hahaha, I mean, it's so bad. But I LOVE it. And of course, he "can still hear her complain." That's the end of the song. It's so funny and brilliant. I think it's about Erin Everly. I'm obsessed with her, too. Best hair ever. I just love everything about Guns 'n' Roses.

Also, I don't think "99 Problems" is offensive. Or the word bitch."

Your turn! What sexist songs do you love? Or is it wrong to love sexist songs? And what are your problems? My other 97 largely involve DVR conflicts and this weird fungus-y rash I get in between my fat rolls.