The Humorless Feminist Files: “F*ck You” and “Clearly Obsessed”

So we’re all heard the term “humorless feminist” right? Or panties in a twist? It’s when feminists get outraged over something that is obviously a joke. Right. Like when feminists hate on Liz Lemon or 500 Days of Summer. (Sorry to beat up on Tiger Beatdown. They are one of my favorite blogs to lurk on, but sometimes they make demands on characters that seem a bit unreasonable, or assume that Tom in 500 Days of Summer is the moral compass of the film, which he isn’t. His little sister is.)

Chloe Moretz is always a moral compass. See?

So here’s my humorless feminist moment for the month. I really don’t like this song:

I understand the sentiment, and I understand why people find it so satisfying to sing. Cursing is fun, and getting back at exes is more fun. But listen to the lyrics:

I see you driving ’round town
With the girl I love and I’m like,
Fuck you!
Oo, oo, ooo
I guess the change in my pocket
Wasn’t enough I’m like,
Fuck you!
And fuck her too!
I said, if I was richer, I’d still be with ya
Ha, now ain’t that some shit? (ain’t that some shit?)
And although there’s pain in my chest
I still wish you the best with a…
Fuck you!
Oo, oo, ooo

I feel like I’m somehow out of the loop, but I’ve never actually met a woman who was only with a man for the dough. Not to say they don’t exist but it seems like a really cruel thing to say about somebody that you supposedly still love. Point is everyone eventually has a bad ex story, which is part of the reason why the song’s so popular (aside from the joy that comes from saying “FUCK YOU” as soulfully as possible.) For a long time I had real issues articulating exactly what upset me about it.

Then I heard this response from actress and singer Whitney Avalon:

Oh. Now I get it. “Fuck You” is based around a lot of common misogynist insults towards women. They’re gold diggers, they’re using you, they treated you badly so you have the right to insult or harass them. But the reality is that one woman is not all women, and being dumped does not always involve being treated badly. It’s the other person’s right to get out. It sucks, but it’s true. Why would you want to stay in a relationship that the other person didn’t want to be in?

I can’t help but bring up one of my favorite feminist movies, 500 Days of Summer. (Take that Tiger Beatdown!) There’s a moment in it where Tom (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is on a blind date and he begins talking about his ex. He begins saying all these horrible things about her. [A note: This is from the shooting script, so it’s a bit different from the final film.]

Tom: Either she’s an evil, emotionless, miserable human being, or… she’s a robot.

Alison: Can I ask you a question?

Tom: Shoot.

Alison: She never cheated on you?

Tom: No. Never.

Alison: Did she ever steal or take advantage of you in any way?

Tom: Not…really.

Alison: And she told you up front she didn’t want a relationship?

Tom: Well…yeah.

Alison: Jesus Tom…Did she break your heart or did you?

I understand dealing with a bad breakup can be hard, and bashing your ex is part of the grieving process, but do you really have to use misogyny to give your insults that little extra punch?

I will now remind myself why I love Cee Lo Green. St. Elsewhere is not just a great album, this video is just hypnotizing. And the lyrics have depth.

All I can say can be said by Lily Allen…

See you soon Lemons! I missed you so!


10 thoughts on “The Humorless Feminist Files: “F*ck You” and “Clearly Obsessed”

  1. “Point is everyone eventually has a bad ex story, which is part of the reason why the song’s so popular (aside from the joy that comes from saying “FUCK YOU” as soulfully as possible.)”

    I’m pretty sure it’s more the latter than the former…

  2. This was a fantastic post! The Whitney Avalon response to Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You” gave me chills. I knew that I wasn’t really okay with the lyrics to “Fuck You,” as much as it is a catchy song, but I hadn’t really articulated why, and the combination of your and her response was just excellent.

    Also, I find it fascinating that “Crazy” was Cee Lo Green — I actually know the song because my favorite soloist of one of my favorite a cappella groups sang it, so I had no idea that the person who sang “Fuck You” was the same one who sang “Crazy.” I learn new things everyday!

  3. I have to wonder if you ever scrutinized Pink’s “U + Ur Hand” to this extent?

    I wonder if you’ve even noticed the degree of disdain for men that is so prevalent in popular music today. Do you really need me to list the SCORES of songs that rip men apart?

    Here’s one to wrap your feminist noodle around. Blog this one:

    This is the thing about Feminism – it’s not about equality. Its about blind, shameless, and unwavering advocacy for women – period.

    • There’s a line between disdain and gendered insult. We all know that feeling of hating an ex or resenting somebody who assumes that because you’re at a bar you deserve to have to deal with unwanted attention that wants to manipulate and use you.

      As far as “U + Ur Hand” goes, I do take issue with Pink’s use of the word “dickhead,” though I can understand how someone might use a gendered insult that suggests that someone thinks with their genitalia if that person decided to touch them without asking. Aside from that the song is challenging the idea that when someone buys you a drink you owe them sexual favors. It also points out that everyone has the right to have a good time by themselves without being ogled or harassed. Yes, it is a woman’s narrative because the song’s by a woman, and talks about her experience with a certain kind of male driven bar culture, but I think it does a poor job of proving your point.

      A better example would be Katy Perry’s “Ur So Gay” which is all about mocking a guy for his lack of traditional masculinity after a breakup. It’s a truly mean-spirited, anti-men song because it suggests that heterosexual masculinity can only be one thing. I truly hate that song.

      I have no issue with someone showing disdain for an individual in their art or opinions, but when that disdain involves showing disdain for a gender or other group of people, I get worried (regardless of who the group is.)

      “Smile” is a good example of a song that shows disdain for an individual and conveys that painful breakup feeling and thirst for vengeance without using gendered insults. In fact, the only clue to the gender of the target is that the person was “f*cking the girl next door.” Does that always mean that it was a guy? I’m sure a lesbian could sympathize with the song, if not the (admittedly gross) video. I wouldn’t want that stuff done to anyone. It’s an attempt at the usual humiliation comedy, I’m sure. I just can’t get into that stuff.

      I’m tempted to do an extended analysis of both songs. If I do, I’ll make sure to link it to this post, but I don’t think that’s what you’re after. You want me to show myself to be a blind, biased bra-burner. Sorry. You picked the girl who likes Batman better than Wonder Woman, who is disturbed by the “man-laws” not just because of their misogyny, but because they suggest that men should hurt other men for not adhering to the code. I believe that gender essentialism hurts everyone, especially the men who are forced to play roles that might not fit them in order to maintain their place in the social order. I’m dismayed by people who argue that all men are potential rapists just by the virtue of being male. I believe that often fathers are prevented from fulfilling their role in families because we as a society have started expecting them to fail and/or to care more about their career and less about their children than women.

      All of these have been a problem since long before Mary Wollstonecraft suggested that women were thinking people or the women of Ancient Greece refused to have sex in order to stop a war. Violations of men’s rights are part of an ancient hegemony that hurts everyone regardless of gender.

      So, no, my definition of feminism IS about equality. It’s about making gender something that you can’t be punished for.

      I figure at least one of us has to keep an open mind.

  4. Wow. I think Mr Skala just defined privilege. When you make $.76 to our dollar, have significantly a better chance of being sexually assaulted before you graduate university than drawing a spade, and are overwhelming represented in your government by the opposite gender, we can talk.

    Until then, think about doing some advocacy for women yourself.

  5. webmonarch – This isn’t what I was going after, but thank you for opening the door. According to you logic, men can’t express their opinions until all the injustices of the world are all set right. Privilege, indeed. You just defined hypocrisy.

    I don’t want to talk about your claims of pay inequity. You can drag out however many specious “studies” you like in an effort to “guilt-trip” me into backing down on my original point; that pop-music is largely a hotbed of disdain for men. So put your over-deployed red herring back in your feminist toolbag (or wherever you stash it) and let’s stick to the thread’s topic, OK?

    Lillian – I’d love to read your comparative analysis on both “Smile” and “Fuck You,” but I too, share my doubts on what I wish to see and what you might deliver. For some reason, I suspect a tendency to mitigate the argument from the male perspective. Case in point: I provide a link to a Lily Allen video in which our protagonist hires goons to beat up a cheating ex (who is clearly a man), and you hypothesize that it could be a lesbian.

    Perhaps you never bothered to watch the video, and are interpreting the lyrics. If so, I sincerely recommend you watch the video. Even so, while I am reluctant to ascribe motive to your words (my original emotionally-charged response notwithstanding), why else would you try to extend the discussion to lesbians, if not to mitigate the male argument? Seriously, does EVERY victim issue have to involve women in SOME way?

    Since you brought up Katy Perry, I will only ask this (and this might require an honest self-assessment): How much of your concern about the mocking of men in the song is in defense of men in general, and how much is your objection to gay men being considered ‘lesser’ in some way? Stated another way, if KPs song mocked her ex for having a small penis, would you feel the same anger for her suggestion that masculinity requires having certain dimensions? How about if she suggested that he was less of a man for being bald?

    Which brings us to U = Ur hand. Before too many assumptions about me are made, let me say I’m bisexual. I was at a gay club with some friends and having a great time dancing with my bear buddies. There were a couple women (I’ll call them interlopers) there. Anyway, as I was standing in line for the toilet and U + Ur Hand Tonight started playing, and this interloper comes out of left field and starts pointing at ME as she rants the chorus – in a fucking gay bar. While she clearly wasn’t at a gay bar for the entertainment of the gay patrons, I don’t think she was affirming the general consensus within the club.

    What was this – some preemptive strike on her part? There are perhaps a thousand explanations that would minimize her boorishness, and while you might posit one or two, the more plausible explanation is that women feel free to spew their venom toward men, however inappropriate the message might be, and however inappropriate the venue for the same reason a dog licks his balls – because she can (not that she has balls, mind you), and my concern is that songs like this one embolden contemptuous attitudes, but once again, male concerns are subject to mitigation.

    Incidentally, because you might ask, “I swear to God” I wasn’t ogling her. The shame is that I feel I have to emphasize that her actions were unprovoked, because the general sentiment in western society is that the men “must’ve done something to deserve it” and I have to rush to prevent women from making that assumption.

    Perhaps you don’t notice it because you view the world through female eyes, but everywhere I look, I see female contempt for men. Without going into an exhaustive laundry list of examples, it’s everywhere. I hear it from female clients as they make blanket statements about men. I see it on TV. Shit, I even overhear it when I get a cup of coffee at Starbucks. It’s not like my feelings are hurt, but I’m offended at the notion that because women presumably make 3/4 what the average dude makes, I must remain silent and endure the mockery, yet that seems to be the prevailing attitude, as webmonarch has so conveniently demonstrated.

    Anyway, I’ll apologize for being a little accusatory in my original post. I hope you find this one to be more civil. I was so happy to finally hear a song about heartbreak from the male POV (that wasn’t some “bitch” and “ho” excrement from the rap labels), but I tempted fate checking to see if some feminist wanted to rain on my little parade.

    But then, we wouldn’t be talking, yes?

  6. wm, let me say this:

    I LOVE kittenwars!!

    but you’re changing the subject again.

    Troll or not, you could have posted that you actually watched the Lily Allen video and you were bothered by it. That would’ve defused my argument. If any woman who claims to be a feminist were to concede that much of pop-music (which is produced to satisfy market demand – but why the message sells so well is another topic altogether) conveys an anti-male tone, that would end it.

    But for some reason, you can’t. I wonder why…

    • Sorry monarch but this is a pretty articulate troll, and this is important.

      Here’s your Lily Allen proof from the post above: “I’m sure a lesbian could sympathize with the song, if not the (admittedly gross) video. I wouldn’t want that stuff done to anyone. It’s an attempt at the usual humiliation comedy. I just can’t get into that stuff.” Perhaps I should make it clear that when I say “I just can’t get into that stuff.” I mean that I honestly don’t enjoy watching it, no matter who it’s directed at (in the video, it’s a man.) I’ve had that Lily Allen album since it first came out, and I always found “Smile” a comforting little revenge song (without the video.) Mostly because I feel better about taking “musical revenge” on somebody because they cheated, not because they broke up with you and started dating a richer guy.

      You talk about strong emotional responses, and that’s what gold digger accusations do to me. They are just as common in popular music as disdain for men. That does not mitigate the ugliness of either gendered hate parade, but I thought that as I attempt to see things from a male prospective, it would be interesting for you to see things from a female one.

      As far as Katy Perry goes, yes, I have an issue with any limited definition of masculinity. “Ur So Gay” is the refrain of the chorus but most of the lyrics are about a guy dressing differently or (in the video) having a small penis. It’s complete dehumanization and it’s disgusting.

      I have no explanation for your “interloper” Pink singer, except that she probably did make you a stand-in for your whole gender there. Sorry. As far as “men must have done something to deserve it” that swings both ways too. Talk to a rape victim who gets asked what she (or he) was wearing, how much zhe had been drinking. Victim blaming sucks, but it’s also not gendered. Rape culture and the second-wave feminist view of men are eerily similar sometimes in terms of saying that “well, that person must have done something to illicit that (unwelcome) response.” Oppression and victimization goes both ways and in order to be good citizens we have to acknowledge both at once, fight our own, and protect others. If you view that as “mitigating the male argument” we are at an impasse, but if we can agree that we both have to defend each other, I think something really wonderful could happen today.

      We should work together to find a breakup song that insults neither gender as a whole. I bet it’s out there.

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