Oct 7, 2014

Homophobic Moments in Music: It's a Man's World

From the moment I turned 13 to the moment I moved to Texas at age 24, my life consisted of a nonstop interrogation of girls! girls! girls!

From parents, teachers, Sunday school teachers, bosses, neighbors, and friends:
"Is there any girl in school that you like?"
"That girl is cute -- why don't you ask her out?"
"You'd have a girlfriend if you weren't so picky!"

From friends, classmates, bullies, jocks, and strangers on the street:
"Doesn't that girl have large breasts - why don't you ask her out?"
"Which actress on tv would you like to have sex with?"
"How many girls did you have sex with last night?"

So the last thing I needed during my senior year in high school was the most uber-heterosexist song on Earth.


During Homecoming, the orchestra had to play for the Gong Show, an adaption of the popular game show where singers could perform for a panel of judges until they were "gonged" off.  The one who made it through the entire performance without a "gong" was the winner.

There were 20 songs, mostly pop hits of the era: "Convoy," "I Write the Songs," "Stand Tall," "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing."

Some dinosaur numbers that got quickly gonged: "Blue Suede Shoes," "My Boyfriend's Back," "Luck be a Lady Tonight."

A duet, "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better," from last spring's musical, Annie Get Your Gun.

"Voi che sapete," an aria from The Marriage of Figaro, got gonged after just a few bars.

The song that won: "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," originally recorded by James Brown, the flamboyantly feminine but apparently heterosexual "Godfather of Soul" (1933-2006).  It's a heavy-beated, immensely sexist number about how men are in charge of everything:

This is a man's world, this is a man's world, this is a man's world.
Men make cars and trains, electric lights, toys, well, just about everything.
If you're a man, you're in charge.
But you're nothing without a woman or a girl.
Yeah...you're nothing, nothing at all, without a woman or a girl.
You're lost in the wilderness
You're lost in bitterness

Great, just what I needed to hear.

Things haven't changed much since the 1970s.  Recently the song was played over a gay male couple who appeared on So You Think You Could Dance, to emphasize the producers' belief that same-sex relationships were worthless, "lost in bitterness."  The judge suggested that they try being with women: "Who knows, you might like it."

See also: So You Think You Can Dance; and 12 Songs I Hate.