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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Uke Why is misogyny so prevalent in trad? (57* d) RE: Why is misogyny so prevalent in trad? 10 Dec 03


From "The Folk Songs of North America", by Alan Lomax (Pg 169):

"... in American, the ballads have been women's songs, attached to the household and the fireside. The men, left to themselves, sang humourous or bawdy songs which satirized love or composed songs about work or deeds of violence. If the men sang the old ballads, this was in the presence of women and was a recognition of feminine interests... In my opinion the British folk songs most popular in the backwoods were... vehicles for fantasies, wishes and norms of behaviour which corresponded... to the emotional needs of pioneer women in America.

'The House Carpernter' [mentioned up above by Guest 12:12] ballad... represents the longings of pioneer women for love or for an escape from their log cabin life - both sinful wishes to the Calvinist. The ballad heroine has one moment of romantic splendour. Then she is harshly punished. No fantasy could have been better calculated to reinforce the Calvinist sexual morality of our ancestors. It counselled them to stick to what they had. Indeed, no women have ever been more long-suffering, or more hard-working helpmates, yet they did enjoy songs about women who rebelled, especially if the rebels were punished in the last stanza."

Sorry for the big quote, but I think it shows this question is more complicated than theories like 'hard-wired' instincts. What traditional songs have survived is a lot to do with their practical 'usefulness' in the Reality of Social Life.

Also, one of my interests in trad songs is their connection to this Reality, the insight this gives you into the past (like with 'The House Carpenter') - to my mind revising trad songs is like cultural vandalism, plus its ignoring what they may have to tell us below the surface.

My comment would be that labelling a song misogynist is an easy way to label it and dismiss it without looking any deeper into the matter.


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