Male Appropriation

I have collected a number of songs on YouTube to remind me that I can fight this fight.  That I can recall and recreate who I am.

I had picked up Home Free’s cover of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 which is also the name of the film that starred Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda.  I did that because I enjoy Home Free’s music, and I remember the film with fondness.

But, every time I listen to Home Free’s version, it has been bothering me.  It’s not a huge anger, but an annoyance.  And I’ve been trying to figure out why it annoys me.  It’s taken  most of a week, and some research, but I finally understand what the problem is.

This particular film is one of many in the 80s that attempted to use satirical humor to create an awareness of the kinds of things women in the workforce were experiencing not only every day, but multiple times every day.

Other similar films include:

  • Private Benjamin (1980) starring Goldie Hawn, which deals with the stereotypical struggles women were dealing with at the time regarding being a woman in the armed forces.

    She then followed up in the 90s, focusing on other stereotypes of women, with

    Death Becomes Her dealing with the constant expectation of society that a woman must go to ridiculous lengths to somehow need to “keep her beauty”, and
    The First Wives’ Club focusing on the stereotype that men sometimes “trade up” by replacing an aging wife with a “younger model.”
  • She-Devil (1989) starring Roseanne Barr, which similarly to “The First Wives’ Club” deals with concept of replacing a wife who has “lost her looks” because she’s given her all to raise their children. The “other woman” wants to only deal with the husband, ignoring that he too has a responsibility to those children. It includes the ex-wife choosing to find herself, which from his standpoint means that she is somehow “evil” because she refuses to be his doormat anymore.

As much as Home Free’s version is inclusive of every person who has been exploited by the world’s über-corporations, it ignores the power of the original.  The film and the song were inseparable.

  • Sadly, we still live in a world where women are less likely to be promoted.
  • We still live in a world where women aren’t paid the exact same salary as a man doing the exact same job, even if she has more education and experience than that man.
  • We still live in a world where it is acceptable to sexually harass a female employee, but it has to be more subtle than it was in the 1980s to give the man the protection of  “reasonable doubt.”
  • We still live in a world where women are more likely to treat each other cruelly simply by believing the lies a womanizing male co-worker say about any very attractive female co-worker.

I don’t believe that Home Free went out of their way to appropriate the song.  I realistically think it was entirely not part of their ideas.  I believe they simply wanted to honor Dolly Parton by the cover, similarly to their cover of John Denver’s “Thank God, I’m A Country Boy.”

It is important to understand where a particular song comes from, and what it originally spoke about.  I was raised on folk music, myself.  Each and every song has a history, giving a snapshot of what life was like at the time it was written and initially performed.  As much as I understand we have far too much exploitation of both the middle class and the lower class, we cannot ignore the fact that women are still exploited far more than men are.


Categories: Feminism | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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