As I was finishing up my degree in Women’s Studies, I would often take my Feminist Theory book to my favorite country bar and study in between line dances. People would come up and ask what (and why) I was studying at a bar. When they found out I was studying feminism, they seemed quite surprised that I was also a regular at the place. After all, country music and feminism don’t mix, right?
The misconception that country music is anti-feminist is exactly that, a misconception. In reality, a lot of country music supports the feminist movement.
In 1975, Loretta Lynn wrote a song called ‘The Pill’ that is about why birth control is important. She was already a well-known and respected country star by this time, and came out with this song when birth control was still incredibly controversial.
A group called The Grand Fromage put out a song about the necessity of legal abortion, with lyrics stating, “I’m knocked up/but I ain’t knocked down/I have my feet planted firmly on the ground/I have got the right to choose/It’s a right we must not lose.” While other songs- of all genres- only hint at abortion if it is by chance mentioned, this song makes no mistake at exactly what the singer is talking about. Abortion being, and staying, legal.
In addition to its support of reproductive rights, country music also supports other aspects of the feminist movement. While country songs of the 60’s tended to have the “stand behind your man” mentality, that is no longer the case. Current country songs are all about sticking up for yourself when it comes to domestic abuse and not letting men push you around. Shania Twain’s ‘Black Eyes, Blue Tears’ is entirely about the refusal to stay in an abusive relationship. Shania sings, ‘Definitely found my self-esteem/Finally-I’m forever free to dream/No more cryin’ in the corner/No excuses-no more bruises.’ Plenty of other country songs are about escaping abusive relationships, including Independence Day and ‘A Broken Wing’ by Martina McBride.
Body acceptance also makes itself known in the genre. ‘Redneck Woman’ by Gretchen Wilson starts off with ‘Well, I ain’t never been the Barbie doll type.” The song continues as Gretchen sings how proud she is to be the person she is. Bringing round the fabulous Martina McBride once again, her tune My Baby Loves Me tells how her partner loves her exactly how she is and doesn’t want her to change. And not only does he love her for who she is, he loves her because she’s a complex woman! The song states, “He thinks I’m pretty, he thinks I’m smart/He likes my nerve and he loves my heart.” Now who wouldn’t want someone who appreciates all those aspects about you?
Another wonderful thing about country music is how it handles female sexuality. I know you are all looking at your computers skeptically, but stay with me. Other genres have more objectifying and sexualizing women, and I’m not saying it never happens in country music, but it happens a lot less often. There are plenty of country songs where women are able to talk about what they want sexually without turning themselves into sex objects, such as Bridgette Tatum’s I like My Cowboys Dirty. Bridgette says exactly what she wants and doesn’t apologize for it. But she also does it without turning herself into a sexual object simply for men’s pleasure. Jessica Harp’s Boy Like Me and Shania Twain’s Party For Two also follow this pattern. These are women who are having sex without being married *gasp* and enjoying it *bigger gasp!*
It’s not only women doing a great job with female sexuality, but the men are as well. There are many songs that revolve around men aggressively pursuing women (usually to the point where it’s harassment) such as Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines, male country stars are instead taking women’s feelings into account. In an instance of the radical notion of not pressuring women sexually, Blake Shelton’s Sure Be Cool If You Did, he croons, “Baby it’s your call/No pressure at all/You don’t have to throw back that pretty pink lemonade shooter and lean a little closer/You don’t have to keep on smiling that smile that’s driving me wild/[…]/You don’t have to keep me falling like this/But it’d sure be cool if you did.” His entire song is about how he likes the things that she is choosing to do, and he’d like for her to keep doing them, but it is perfectly fine if she chooses to stop. Now that’s what I call a good feminist love song.
In addition to respect in the song, the video also shows men respecting women in the bar setting. The mood of the video is consensual, rather than men being aggressive toward the women they are pursuing:
Not only do men in country music not pressure women in sex, they also encourage their strength. Chris Cagle’s song Let There Be Cowgirls supports this. The song states, “Let there be cowgirls/For every cowboy/Make them strong as any man.” In Mr. Mom, Lonestar recognizes that being a mother is not as easy as society wants us to believe, admitting, “balancing checkbooks, juggling bills/thought there was nothing to it/Baby know I know how you feel/What I don’t know is how you do it.” The song ends with the lead singer saying, “Honey, you’re my hero.” That’s right. Country music giving women the recognition they deserve for the work they’re expected to do.
So, the next time someone tells you that you can’t be a honkytonk lovin’ feminist (or if you clicked on this article because you thought I was crazy and it couldn’t be true, but obviously have changed your mind), send those people over yonder. They’ll soon learn the error of their ways and download some Martina McBride to boot.