Phallic woman war machine

by Yule Heibel on October 30, 2003

With my apologies to the exceptions, this diatribe is for scary ladies everywhere. And I bet you know who you are, you iron fists in velvet gloves, you. You’re everywhere these days, and The Guess Who were right. It’s not only Barbara Bush with her “beautiful mind” who’s beyond the pale — meaning she’s dead in the centre of the current Amerikan dominant market-media-mindset — it’s the Barbies everywhere:

On March 18, two days before the U.S. invasion, Barbara Bush had an interview with ABC-TV’s Diane Sawyer.

”Why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many, what day it’s gonna happen?” Mrs. Bush declared. ”It’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?” [Source: Helen Thomas, Who’s Counting the Dead in Iraq? (in Common Dreams on 9/5/03)

Barbara’s “beautiful” mind, which allows no rupture or failure, is like the other Barbie’s body. Cleaned up, rupture-free Secret Spells Barbie is part of the package, as is the whole marketing shtick: sanitised magic. Listening to American Woman on the radio the other day, I was again struck by what a brilliant song this is. It’s got the rock song formula down pat: there’s the pounding rhythm, like a sexual-hormonal involuntary drive, which is martial, too, already hinting at the song’s agenda; there’s the love lyric, this time from the hurt lover angle; there’s the generalization (not “Mandy” or “Michelle” or any sappy sentimentalism: the address is to The American Woman, plural, generic, and entire); there’s the manipulation of expectation (love song?, sexual conquest?, what?), and then there’s the detournement into anti-war protest:

American woman, I said get away
American women, listen what I say
Don’t come hangin’ around my door
I don’t wanna see your face no more
I don’t need your war machines
I don’t need your ghetto scenes
Coloured lights can hypnotize
Sparkle someone else’s eyes
Now woman, get away from me
American woman, mama let me be.

What always impressed me about this song was its distrust of the pretty packaging, the glamour, the crap dressed up as credible, the seeming success of Canada’s big “sister” south of the border. The song seemed to suggest that when you take her clothes off, chances are that many a success-driven American Woman is just another American man. And so the pounding beat is not a sexual throbbing in overdrive, it’s the sound of jackboots marching in unison.


Joel November 2, 2003 at 2:13 am

I’ve often felt more nastiness coming from American women regarding my anti-war views than from men. It’s been the soccer moms who have been most eager to turn my compassion for Iraqi and American lives into “hatred”.

Go figure.

Yule Heibel November 2, 2003 at 9:39 pm

It probably has something to do with how much you have to lose. Soccer moms can stand to lose a lot, so perhaps they’re liable to buy into the ruling ideology with especial gusto. And I sure do think that women aren’t naturally “better” or fairer or more humanitarian than men.

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