Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Top Five Feminist Lyrics from Metric

Thanks to a tip from one of the members of my elite clique of readers (and he's single, ladies!), the music of one band has invaded my head, where their songs are permanently stuck on a never-ending playlist. Metric, a Canadian indie rock band whose members include lead vocalist/songwriter and keyboardist Emily Haines, guitarist James Shaw, bassist Josh Winstead, and drummer Joules Scott-Key, features an awesome blend of rockin' beats, techno effects, soaring melodies, and hauntingly poetic lyrical imagery that leaves plenty to their fans' own interpretation. So, fan-girl that I am, I want to share with you all the Metric lyrics that have resonated in my feminist heart for two reasons: to exercise my creative license as said fan-girl, and to get you listening to Metric if you haven't been already. An OMG note: in June, we saw Metric live in Portland, and Emily TOTALLY looked at ME and sent me vibrations while singing "Satellite Mind" from the new album, Fantasies. Stop looking at me like I'm a delusional freak - it happened, really!

5. "What it is and where it stops nobody knows /
You gave me a life I never chose /
I wanna leave but the world won't let me go /
Wanna leave but the world won't let me go."
from "Blindness," Fantasies

"Blindness" is certainly a cryptic piece of poetry that could be read many different ways, but I am choosing to understand this lyric as an indictment of the choices, role models, and archetypes provided to both men and women. It speaks to the trapped feeling that we all sense as our consciousness of callow consumer culture grows, confined in a gilded cage of stereotypes against our volition.

4. "So hang high soft star /
Don't shine for swine /
Not a lot of room to move, but where's my guide? /
I tried looking up to you girls /
Please correct me, but didn't you let the work slide /
Capitalize on a novelty, cheap pink, spotlight."
from "Soft Rock Star," Grow Up and Blow Away

For me, this lyric conjures up images of Disney princesses and Hannah Montanas twirling about under the glitter of the novelty, cheap pink spotlight, blithely selling their wares: the importance of prettiness, the need to please, the desire for recognition and a pat on the head. Where else can our "soft star" young women look for their guides? A suggestion: mentors five to ten years older than them who they can talk to about the pressure of these expectations.

3. "All the gold and the guns in the world couldn't get you off /
All the gold and the guns and the girls couldn't get you off /
All the boys, all the choices in the world /
Is it ever going to be enough?"
from "Gold, Guns, Girls," Fantasies

Here, Emily turns her focus from the girls to the guys who live in a fantasy world that Michael Kimmel so aptly terms "Guyland." Overwhelmed by a commitment-phobic, machismo-obsessed archetype of what it means to be a man, many guys retreat entirely from their emotional inner lives, to the extent that even all the gold and guns in the world can't get them off. Until guys reclaim their right to embody feminine as well as masculine characteristics without fear of being called a fag, the answer to the question "Is it ever going to be enough?" is always going to be "no."

2. "Promiscuous makes an entrance /
Her mouth is full of questions /
Are we all brides to be /
Are we all designed to be confined /
Buy ourselves chastity belts and lock them /
Organize our lives and lose the key /
Our faces all resemble dying roses /
From trying to fix it /
When instead we should break it /
We've got to break it before it breaks us"
from "Patriarch on a Vespa," Live it Out

This lyric's feminism can stand without explication in its poignancy and directness. But her converse of the idea "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" - that if our patriarchal culture is broken, then we should stop trying to fix it - is such a refreshing departure from apologist neo-feminism. In neo-feminism, the coping mechanisms women adopt to survive patriarchal culture, such as her "independent" choices regarding pregnancy, escaping domestic violence, reporting sexual abuse, etc., are attacked and scrutinized, rather than the forces that cause women to have to make those choices in the first place. As Emily says, we should stop questioning other women's responses to their shitty situations and break the fucking thing before it breaks us.

1. "Every speed on our knees is crawling" from "Glass Ceiling," Live It Out

It's really worth reading/listening to this entire song, because I think that it should be the anthem of all "post-wave" young feminists (i.e., those of us who are sick of being categorized as second- or third-wavers and then pitted against each other for it). But this single line is so evocative, so loaded with significance, that it merits the #1 spot on its own accord. As long as women are getting 78 cents to a man's dollar for equal work (with African-American women receiving 67 cents and Hispanic women 58 cents to a man's dollar), no matter how far and how fast individual women can climb, we will all as a gender suffer from the confines of stereotyping's straight-jacket, crawling along with low expectations to a variety of positions on our knees.

1 comment:

  1. god is there anything better than Canadian Indie Rock!!!?? Seriously, Canadians do EVERYTHING better! Good lyrics though...your post made me go and download a song or two from iTunes!