Kelly Clarkson Is Apparently Proof That Men Have It Really Hard On The Pop Charts These Days


Big news about pop music on MSNBC.com: Apparently songs like Kelly Clarkson's new track "Mr. Know It All" (above), as well as older invective-filled songs like "U + Ur Hand" and "Before He Cheats" and "the not-even-that-big-hit "According To You"—songs in which wronged women sing about the men who broke their hearts— are proof that man-bashing is a surefire key to chart success. Apparently this is all an aftereffect of the riot grrrl movement, just another example of feminism ruining things for everyone. Or something like that! The piece is pretty muddled, with evidence coming in the form of one current hit, a couple of older ones, Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," and a listicle from Vibe Vixen claiming that Ciara's gender-bendy "Like A Boy" is actually a "male-bashing anthem." (TLC's "No Scrubs" is No. 1, in case you were wondering what to put on your next man-hating iTunes playlist.)

The piece trots out a couple of female music experts on the topic in order to bolster its thesis, although I do wonder how How Sassy Changed My Life author Marisa Meltzer and EW's Leah Greenblatt feel about being quoted in a story that puts a bow on itself with this doozy of a conclusion:

But according to Glenn Sacks, a men's issues expert, the lyrics of songs by Clarkson and others are indicative of anti-male stereotypes found today in sitcoms, movies, and commercials, where men are seen as inept and foolish.

"I think it speaks to something larger in the culture," Sacks said. "Where the man's always wrong the woman's behavior is never examined. I always found 'Womanizer' to be ironic because Britney had been married and divorced multiple times and is nobody to be pointing fingers about womanizing or being promiscuous or whatever."

How dare the harlot pop stars not be questioned! Why, no male singers ever focus on women ruining their lives because they were cheaters; nor do they call women whores or reduce them to their holes, nor do they use the word "bitch" judiciously, nor do the visuals accompanying them ever treat women like pieces of meat or shame them for taking advantage of the opportunities the current male-female climate affords them. (And let's not even get into the gossipsphere, which in its worst moments seems like a way to make pageviews off people in cubicles having hate-fuck fantasies about even the most minor celebrities. Thank God for Ke$ha, at least.)

Ugh and ugh. Look, the wronged-person trope is a common one in pop music, and it has been for a while—on both sides. (Can someone play Tony Sclafani—who, it should be noted, has bit of a thing for hanging his hat on the ever-more-tired trope of "women in rock"—that terrible Usher breakup record? Or, failing that, this?) The real secret of the current moment? Things are pretty lousy for everyone, no matter where they land on the gender spectrum. And yes, Clarkson takes on quite a few people who have wronged her straight-on on her new album Stronger—including crappy reporters who question her motives on the fiery "You Can't Win"—but instead of blanketing an entire gender with her accusations, she takes on individuals (whether they're real people or characters).

The album, by the way, is out today and it's pretty fun if you're a fan of rock-tinged pop with a few surprise twists (there is one musical bed that could conceivably be described as "chillwave," swear to God, although Clarkson's powerhouse vocals scotch that notion) and anthemic singalong choruses. It's also a nice way to briefly cleanse your brain of the notion that hacky writers like the one responsible for this piece—scribes who are so desperate to create trend stories out of thin air and a few quotes from "experts"—exist. The fact that their trollbait will get pageviews merely because it's inflammatory and, when it comes right down to it, wrong—but wrong in such a way that will only further heighten tensions on both sides of the battle of the sexes—is still there, but at least "I Forgive You," which somewhat neatly disproves this piece's threadbare notion as well, is too.

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15 comments
Justintwn57
Justintwn57

The thing is, male performers who write woman bashing content are held to account. Women are not...and that is how it has been for some time. Glenn Sacks is correct in pointing out that this small phenomenon does speak to something larger in our culture. Not to mention the criminally skewed custody and abuse laws that Sacks via Fathers and Families is working successfully to change...nothing threadbare in that.    

Larry3261
Larry3261

It's time for women to give up their legal and social privilege, and assume the responsibility of equality. If you don't like being criticized, get over it. 

Ohjioo
Ohjioo

 men are bashed and seen and portrayed as idiot barbarian sex fiend molesters in movies sitcoms and songs and it is very disgusting

Matt Johnson
Matt Johnson

So sad to see this author use the "we can do it because they do it" defense.  I think many people, including Presidents went out of their way to condem alot of the trash sung by men in reference to woman, but nothing happens the other way around.  It's not right either way.  Author you failed.

Brian
Brian

Hmmm. My take is that the bashing in general is kinda screwed up.So yes, they had a point and a counter point of "Hey there is woman bashing in songs too" is NOT a valid response. Two wrongs and all that.

Hard to call, but welcome to the world. Different views, different insensitivities. I tend to believe more of be tolerant. Do as you will if it hurt none. Being offended is something someone chooses, so I don't think we should defend anyone who is merely offended.

Forrest Lostin
Forrest Lostin

It's odd that someone would WANT to defend sexist lyrics, stereotypical societal desire to step on groups chosen to be a doormat for its "better than you" mentality. Maura, I would expect a person in the media to understand that it is not a good thing for genders to bash each other, races to bash each other, religions to bash each other, etc. All of us are human beings that deserve respect until we've proven we don't respect others. All this type of thinking does is show a complete lack of respect for someone else due to their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. Not because of who the individual is, but because of a group they were born into. Women should never stand for that type of thinking, and neither should men. HUMANS shouldn't stand for that type of thinking, so defending it moves you from the ranks of a respectful human, to one who wants to push the stereotype solely because of what is between your legs and what is between the legs of someone else. WANTING to believe something is not a reason to be disrespectful to every human that LOOKS like the one you want to target.

Gdumont
Gdumont

We admire the work of artists because of how they express their emotions and the widened understanding they give.  We admire entertainers  because of how they make us feel.

The question here is do we apply the same standard to songs by women artists/entertainers as we would to men artist/entertainers or does a double standard exist.

A song like Kelly Clarkson's Because of You is the story of a distant father and is well expressed.  But if a guy took a bat to a former beaus car and smashed it as country sweetheart Carrie Underwood does in Before He Cheats would the cry be "you go boy"?   Or would NOW be all over the airwaves having the song /video pulled.   Similarly when Pink beats her bf so he stays in Please Dont Leave Me , how does that get a pass?

Looks likie Glenn sacks and MSNBC just pointed out some blatant hypocrisy which it would be nice for the VV to also be able to discern the same bs.  Or maybe female readers matter more.

Guest
Guest

It's not about whether it's politically correct for someone to smash a car window and whether or not there will be fall out from that act based on gender.  It's about what women have been fighting for all this time...equality.  And to me, EQUALITY=being treated the same.  We women can't have our cake and eat it too...either  we embrace equality, which means we adopt the same standards (no female bashing, then no male bashing) or we quit complaining.  Men and boys, like women and children, have feelings, and are just as affected by media messaging and negative portrayals in media and the press as woman are.   Men deserve to be treated in a manner other than what our pre-conceived notions of male/female stereotypes have been drilled into us by television and movies.  I am so sick of hearing men lamenting about being unfairly treated when it comes to issues of custody or child support...sick because it is so true.  We are all important in this life, and all of us are important to SOMEONE, whether we are man or woman. Isn't it time we started valuing EVERYONE?  Mr. Sacks has taken on a difficult task, that of championing the cause of the male gender, and helping to keep men's right's from disappearing in the wave of so called gender equality.  At least someone has stepped up to the plate. 

Khall2
Khall2

Two words.   American Woman.

Lyrics below.

American woman Stay away from me American Woman Mama let me beDon’t come Hanging around my door I don’t want to see your face No moreI got more important Things to do Then spend my time Growing old with youAmerican Woman Get away from me American woman Mama let me beDon’t come Knocking around my door I don’t want to see your shadow No moreColored Lights Can hypnotize Go and sparkle Someone else’s eyesNow woman I said get away American Woman Listen what I sayAmerican Woman I said get away American woman Listen what I sayDon’t come Hanging around my door Idon’t want to see your face No moreI don’t need your war machinesI don’t need your ghetto scenesColored lights can hypnotizeSparkle someone else’s eyesNow woman, get away from meAmerican woman, mama let me beGo, gotta get away, gotta get awayNow go go gogonna leave you, womangonna leave you, womanBye-byeBye-byeBye-byeBye-byeYou’re no good for meI’m no good for youGonna look you right in the eye.Tell you what I’m gonna doYou know I’m gonna leaveYou know I’m gonna goYou know I’m gonna leaveYou know I’m gonna go, womanI’m gonna leave, womanGoodbye, American Woman

Stupidcow
Stupidcow

This song is about the US and the American Woman refers to the Statue of Liberty. The band is Canadian and was angry over US politics. What is your point?

Justin Town
Justin Town

uhm, wrong.

"...After that one particularly grinding tour, it was just a real treat to go home and see the girls we had grown up with. Also, the war was going on, and that was terribly unpopular. We didn't have a draft system in Canada, and we were grateful for that. A lot of people called it anti-American, but it wasn't really." -Jim Kale (bassist for the Guess Who)...so what's your point?

Rafaeljbaptista
Rafaeljbaptista

Wow. You've convinced me that this MSNBC piece was vapid and pointless. (Aren't they all?) But so. Who cares. Someone on MSNBC said something might be unfair to men. Quick turn on the bat signal! We've got to write it up in the Village Voice!

Love_For_Love
Love_For_Love

@twitter-2680911:disqus ...............This is crazy...Sister's girlfriend makes 73 hourly on the PC. She has been fired from work for 11 months but last month her paycheck was 7756 USD just working on the PC for a few hours. Read about it on this web site......http://alturl.com/74uch

Barry Bailey
Barry Bailey

Great write up, I checked it out when you mentioned on twitter. 

I'm much more interested in same-sex scorned-lover songs, or at least androgynous ones where one can infer by the writer's preference. Or even the idea that maybe, JUST MAYBE, an angry man or lesbian wrote/co-wrote a song the author would deem as 'man-bashing,' or the argument of context vs. content vs. intent. THEN I might get interested in personal reactions and popularity and some sort of gender/sexuality study. And even that's a maybe. If you're going to reduce one of the most common themes in music (love-gone-wrong) and turn it into essentially a too common sexist cliche ('bitches be crazy!!1'), then the author at MSNBC's done a whole lot of nothing for nobody.

Justin Town
Justin Town

reduce one of the most common themes in music (love-gone-wrong) and turn it into essentially a too common sexist cliche?The thing is, male performers who write woman bashing content are held to account. Women are not...and that is how it has been for some time. Glenn Sacks is correct in pointing out that this small phenomenon does speak to something larger in our culture. Not to mention the criminally skewed custody and abuse laws that Sacks via Fathers and Families is working successfully to change...nothing threadbare in that.   

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