Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sing It Sista: You Don't Own Me

Lately I've been looking back to when I was a wee little lass and thinking about some of the experiences that influenced me to become the woman that I am today. As a child I was always subjected to conflicting messages about the roles of women-my mother was a divorced, single mother who always told me that I didn't need a man to take care of me, but at other times she would chastise me for not acting "ladylike" and telling me that if I did [insert something "unladylike"], I would never find a man. I was always in a state of conflict with all of my divorced, single aunts who displayed the same contradictory behavior as well as my grandmother who married multiple men and threw them away whenever it suited her. I lived in a primarily immigrant neighborhood where many of the women didn't work and stayed home to take care of their men and families, while also often making fun of my mother and her single sisters for having "lost their men".

Apparently the rumor is that my father had an affair when I was three years old and my brother was only two weeks old. According to the family rumor (of course my mother will never talk about it), my mother threw all of my father's belongings in the front yard and set them on fire. I don't know if I can remember this happening, or if I have a memory of the rumors that my aunts have told me all of these years. I remember many similar occurrences over the years from my mother punching my father in the nose and giving him a bloody nose to my mother being arrested for doing something else to my father's new wife.

At the same time that all of this was happening, I also would see my mother lie around and cry over my father for having left her, even ten years after the fact. I grew up on reading my mother's notes that she would write to my father and leave all over the house, chastising him for having abandoned the family and begging him to come back. I can remember finding the notes even as late as when I was in high school. I also remember my mother lying on the floor crying for years and years, listening to sad music by women about their men having left them.

As I child I was so confused about the role of women. Are we supposed to pine away in misery when someone leaves us? Are we supposed to be self-sufficient, or do we need a man around? Everywhere I looked all I saw were women crying their hearts out over having been left by a man-in songs, in books, in real life, on television.

But then there were those ecstatic moments when I would see a different side of the strength and independence of women. I didn't see it often, but when I did I would suck it up as much as I could and I was never able to get enough of it. I can remember the first time that I heard Lesley Gore's 1964 hit "You Don't Own Me" and I couldn't stop listening to it throughout my childhood and adolescence:

I would have to say that this song has probably been one of the most influential songs for me in my life, and listening to it was like being in a safe haven away from the typical "why did you leave me, I can't live without your love" type of crap that is shoved down every little girl's throat starting at birth.

I just recently researched the life of the singer, Lesley Gore, and I found some interesting things about her. According to some reports she sacrificed her singing career so that she could go to college, which impacted her popularity and ability to perform. Over the years she has changed the lyrics to many songs when singing about gender pronouns; for example, on an album when she sang the song "You're the one that I want" (from the musical Greece), she changed "because I need a man" to "because I need a friend". In 2005 she came out as a lesbian and has been in a relationship with her partner for over twenty years.

Was this song ever significant for you? What were some of the other songs that have had an impact on your life?


C said...

I love this song. Growing up I had as you said the conflicting signals from women in my family. Those that acted like women should not be alone and the ones that acted like having sex was a terrible thing to do. My mom always says "Al que quiere azul celeste que le cueste!" In other words, make him work for it. Okay so you make him work for it and you build a relationship and then he dumps you when he does not like the sex. :) Yeah I call that setting yourself up for disappointment especially if you are not compatible in that area. To me compatible means you have similar needs in the bedroom, not he wants the good little woman at home and a freak somewhere else because his "wifey" is not like that even though that's what he longs for in a woman. The real conflict here is women are made to seem we should not like sex but let the man have it whenever he wants it and act like we do like it. Damn that shit.

Blackdove said...

Sounds like your mom was trying to protect you from what she went through ;)

It's amazing how we are a product of how we were raised. I guess I feel blessed to have been raised in an environment where I felt I needed to rebel, or else I might be another Stepford wife ;)

Mrs. Fish aka Two Fish said...

Such different times...we were taught by our mothers, their mothers, and aunts, etc that we should be the "good wife" very much a Stepford wife by all intents and purposes to never have our own thought, life, etc. Now we have learned to be independent and WANT our man...not need them. Definitely a great song...I would say mine was Dream On by Aerosmith still pretty much is the song to define my life and influence. Great post.

Blackdove said...

on a separate note, how is "Blogvertise" working out for you? Is it worth it?

Wicked Bitch, Latina Fatale said...

I've used it for some of my other blogs and it's pretty easy. You get paid to write a quick post about something. I'm pretty picky, so I bypass many of the offers that they send to me for this particular blog but I still like to look at the offers because if there is something that catches my eye I will write about it. I made $50 once out there in bloglandia just by writing two simple paragraphs.

Blackdove said...

Do you, per chance, have the post you wrote? I'm curious how you do that kind of thing. . .

Thanks for the input :)

Wicked Bitch, Latina Fatale said...

Let me find an example and I'll send you a link. I've got to think back cuz I haven't done it in a while. It's quite easy. About two-three short paragraphs about something with links. About 200 pages. The problem is finding things that will go with your blog and not sound too spammy.