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Is 'Trad music' sexist?

Jackaroodave 03 Feb 18 - 08:15 AM
Bonzo3legs 03 Feb 18 - 08:14 AM
Big Al Whittle 03 Feb 18 - 07:48 AM
Vic Smith 03 Feb 18 - 06:19 AM
Bonzo3legs 03 Feb 18 - 05:18 AM
GUEST,Morris-ey 03 Feb 18 - 04:56 AM
Andy7 02 Feb 18 - 08:01 PM
Jackaroodave 02 Feb 18 - 07:30 PM
Jackaroodave 02 Feb 18 - 06:12 PM
GUEST,Morris-ey 02 Feb 18 - 05:46 PM
Brian Peters 02 Feb 18 - 03:32 PM
Brian Peters 02 Feb 18 - 03:03 PM
Reinhard 02 Feb 18 - 02:54 PM
Jim Carroll 02 Feb 18 - 02:52 PM
Joe Offer 02 Feb 18 - 02:37 PM
GUEST 02 Feb 18 - 01:56 PM
GUEST,John 02 Feb 18 - 01:48 PM
Jim Carroll 02 Feb 18 - 12:58 PM
GUEST 02 Feb 18 - 12:44 PM
GUEST,akenaton. 02 Feb 18 - 12:33 PM
Vic Smith 02 Feb 18 - 12:27 PM
CupOfTea 02 Feb 18 - 12:26 PM
GUEST 02 Feb 18 - 11:20 AM
Jeri 02 Feb 18 - 11:14 AM
Vashta Nerada 02 Feb 18 - 11:10 AM
Dave the Gnome 02 Feb 18 - 09:56 AM
GUEST,akenaton 02 Feb 18 - 09:42 AM
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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Jackaroodave
Date: 03 Feb 18 - 08:15 AM

Morris-ey: "You however, seem to believe that one can judge the past using our more enlightened modern sensibilities. I do not."

Judge "the past"?

I think I was pretty clear about what I believed we could judge:

"We may feel we can't judge people who adhered to their community's standards--though there were always those who opposed them--but we certainly can judge those standards themselves."

And actually I think most of us do: that most of us believe people should be free and not chattle, that women should not be utterly subjugated to the oldest male in their household. That, in fact, they should receive the same opportunities and have the same rights as men.

You of course know yourself, and I do not, but I sincerely believe that if you or I or most mudcatters spent a week in, say, 1854 Charleston South Carolina, getting to know what was going on, and what rules were played by, we'd be pretty well appalled.

I think the same would hold, to a much lesser extent, of 1954 New Britain, Connecticut, about which I have some personal knowledge.

I don't think those differences are grounds for self-congratulation about contemporary enlightened sensibilities. Instead, the invisibility of systematic injustice back then to people of good will cautions me to consider what's invisible to me, and how my attitudes and actions--and inactions--might look to someone like myself in, say, two generations from now.

I apologize for going this deep and wide in a thread about traditional songs, but that's where I'm coming from with respect to the original question.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 03 Feb 18 - 08:14 AM

And we know who they are!!!!!


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 03 Feb 18 - 07:48 AM

i don't give a shit.
look at all the religious paintings that were done to glorify a church that burned people in the market place.
do you say well that does it for me, renaissance painting is of no value, because it pushes the values that i don't agree with?

really the more we understand of history. the more, generally we forgive.

we all have feet of clay - one day the people of the future will get all judgemental about us. in fact some folk on mudcat have started already.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 03 Feb 18 - 06:19 AM

The question posed in the thread name has intruiged me and given me cause to think and I welcome it for that reason.

I have thought of another example of differing performances to match the Belle/Cilla that I gave above.
When I first started going to folk clubs in the early 1960s and in the years after, a very popular song sung especially to guitar accompaniment by young women was The Shearings No For You. It was sung in a pretty, pretty way that made me wonder if they were even thinking about the words. It is about the most heinous crime imaginable after murder. In some ways it is worse because the victim survives and lives with the horror for the rest of her life.

In the late 1960s I was at an informal singaround, somewhere in Scotland (Aberdeen? Blairgowrie?) and the people in the room were all Scots travellers or folk revival enthusiasts. Jeannie Robertson was there and sang The Shearings No For You. Like nearly all her singing in her later years, the singing was slow and stately. I had never heard her singing it before or after and to my knowledge, she never recorded it - but the impact was immense.
Jeannie was the only person I have heard who did not repeat the first line, Taking away the lift that comes from the way the tune rises at the end of the repeated line changes the way the song is received.
She sang it with passion.
She sang it with anger.
There was a fierceness in her delivery.
She sang it in an accusatory way.
I found that I could not look at her whilst she was singing it. Other men in the room also seemed to be looking down. I think all the men were feeling a sort of gender guilt.

Unlike my previous example, it was the older woman, the tradition bearer that was getting it right this time.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 03 Feb 18 - 05:18 AM

Dead right guest Morris-ey, trad songs should be listened to, enjoyed and not be subject to pontification. They are what they are.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: GUEST,Morris-ey
Date: 03 Feb 18 - 04:56 AM

Lackaroo

I think agreeing with me actually - times and attitudes change over time. You, however, seem to believe that one can judge the past using our more enlightened modern sensibilities. I do not.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Andy7
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 08:01 PM

Very nicely argued, Jackaroodave.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Jackaroodave
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 07:30 PM

Morris-ey,

Interesting that we both claim that folk songs reflect their times and draw opposite conclusions about their sexism.

I'd argue that community standards and cultural institutions were, objectively, more sexist then than now, also more racist, more overtly anti-semitic, etc. These attitudes and this morality weren't just different in those respects, they were worse. We may feel we can't judge people who adhered to their community's standards--though there were always those who opposed them--but we certainly can judge those standards themselves.

The US Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson, mandating Jim Crow laws, was more racist than Brown v. Board of Education, which overturned them. The US was less sexist and racist after the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed than when only men could holld property unrestrictedly, and human beings were among that property. In the 19th Century, American women could not vote; in 2016 Hillary Clinton won a popular majority in the presidential election. In popular fiction, greasy Jewish userers are no longer slotted as comic or villanous characters, as they were in the fiction of Anthony Trollope and Arnold Bennett. etc.

I agree, if you feel uncomfortable singing a sexist song, don't. And if you feel uncomfortable listening to one, walk out.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Jackaroodave
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 06:12 PM

Is this a serious question? Since cultural institutions like literature, law, philosophy, and progressive politics were generally more sexist 150 years ago than they are now, why would we expect songs to be exempt?


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: GUEST,Morris-ey
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 05:46 PM

Traditional music reflected the attitudes and morality of the time they were sung. They were not sexist or racist.

Looking backwards with our modern morality does not alter that but it seems people today feel obliged to apologise for what was perfectly normal and legal several centuries ago.

If you feel uncomfortable singing a song then don't sing it.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 03:32 PM

CupofTea has it right as well.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 03:03 PM

Vic Smith: I would say that the answer is in the way the song is performed and the way it is introduced.

If I knew how to make a thumbs-up sign on here I would give this comment a hundred.

I also find it hard to agree with the original comment that:
Trad Music almost always portrays women as victims

You can find plenty of songs that do that, and plenty that don't, including plenty of strong women characters in the Child corpus. Which ones you choose to perform is up to you, of course. And in any case the 'victim' variety can still provide a powerful commentary on modern day domestic violence, rape, murder, etc. (see Vic's comment again).


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Reinhard
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 02:54 PM

A few years ago, Kim Edgar and Karine Polwart were fed up with traditional murder ballads in which women never were allowed to do something exciting; they were just being murdered or the cause of murder. So they wrote their own ballad "Blood, Ice and Ashes" in which the heroine got to be the murderer.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 02:52 PM

"and the lyrics are certainly in the traditional genre."
No really - a typical Victorian parlor ballad tear-jerker
"Put that pen-knife away, dear!!!"
Talk to them like that Joe (especially the "dear" bit) and they'll probably find a good use for the pen-knife
Do you need any falsettos for your church choir?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 02:37 PM

OK, folks, be civil. This is the music forum.

Whether it's sexist or not, it's the tradition. I think we need to just suspend judgment and sing the songs.

I guess one could say there is an element of male chauvinism in much guitar-accompanied "trad" music. But when the music is unaccompanied, the women often seem to dominate - especially with ballads (but definitely not with sea songs). When I go to a ballad session, I quickly realize that I must be on my best behavior. All that stuff about pen-knives and such can get a little scarey. And those pen-knives often get stuck in the tender torsos of menfolk.

So, please, I'm behaving well, right? Put that pen-knife away, dear!!!

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 01:56 PM

Linda uses a traditional tune and the lyrics are certainly in the traditional genre.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: GUEST,John
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 01:48 PM

snidy comments from Vasha ... and we don't need trolls

Eh??? In what way, shape or form can Vasha's comments be seen as trolling?

Also you start a thread about traditional music and then quote a modern song written by Linda Thompson to make your point. In what way, shape or form is 'The Banks Of The Clyde' traditional? Bizarre...


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 12:58 PM

"Vic, I agree wholeheartedly with your comments regarding "Blue Blazin' Blind Drunk"
Me too
It seems that men seem more ready to celebrate motherhood when they don't have to face the reality of it
I've always thought that the most practical songs "celebrating motherhood" and family" from the more realistic point of view of women come from the UNITED STATES.
Much of this has the ring of "A woman's place is in the home, in the kitchen and in bed"
I'd love to be a fly on the wall when that one's fed to many of today's women!!
'Those were the days, my friend' TBTG
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 12:44 PM

Vic, I agree wholeheartedly with your comments regarding "Blue Blazin' Blind Drunk"
Mickey's Warning was very much social commentary.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: GUEST,akenaton.
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 12:33 PM

Despite the snidy comments from Vasha, this is supposed to be a serious thread and we don't need trolls.
I have always loved traditional music, but I have been surprised and disappointed by the lack of songs celebrating motherhood and family in favour of those showing women as victims.
One great exception is Linda Thompsons heart wrenching song
In which there is victimhood, but overcome by mother love and the protection of family and creed.
She tells of a young girl lured by the bright lights of London who through lack of work or money "takes to the whoring...of her own free will" the girl soon succumbs to sickness and begins to hate herself and the hard selfish city. "Oh how I long for ...my mother's arms"
"Come all you young women, a warning take by me, to be tied up in love, means more than liberty.
They'll protect you and keep you, like no one else can do,
Except God and all his angels looking after you".
The young woman is of course referring to her family which she left in search of "fame and fortune".......it is a beautiful song and I find its truth fills me with emotion every time I hear it.
The banks of the Clyde


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 12:27 PM

I would say that the answer is in the way the song is performed and the way it is introduced.
I remember that in the 1960s I remember hearing one of my great heroes, Belle Stewart quite frequently singing Blue Blazing Blind Drunk and delivering it as a comic piece and I can remember feeling uncomfortable about the way she sang it.
No, Belle, the song is about domestic abuse and it isn't funny!

Later, I can remember Cilla Fisher, a much younger woman, singing exactly the same song and delivered it as though it was a really sad blues. Cilla gave the song a feminist perspective and I felt much happier with that treatment.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: CupOfTea
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 12:26 PM

Dunno how music can be sexist.

Lyrics, on the other hand... Sexism is part of the traditions we have. How we uphold the sexist nature of them is what is telling of contemporary performers who work in the tradition. Then, too, tradition is a dynamic, growing, changing thing. Those who would hold tradition static, frozen at some particular year/era, claiming the virtue of being a "purist" are usually unwilling to consider anyone's opinion but their own.

The poke at "liberals" making amendments, and jumping to the assumption that everything must be changed if anything is, is a typical attempt to politicize a cultural issue. So much of traditional song needs respect for context and audience. Denigrating politeness as a sneered at "political correctness" only shows meanspiritedness. Do you sing a ballad about a rape to a group of rape survivors? Do you sing Stephen Foster lyrics exactly as written to an audience with black members? Do you sing a song about murder or infanticide to a grade school audiences?

Being aware that certain subjects can be touchy to your listeners means putting them ahead of yourself. Things that you might value and they might not, might well be acceptable if presented with a dose of context. There are many traditional subjects that are about outrages - murder, betrayal, forced marriage, revenge - that are simply examples of the darker side of human nature, and illuminating them in a cautionary way can show both shifting cultural values, or the ways some evils still exist.

Joanne in Cleveland


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 11:20 AM

I know some pretty hardcore feminists who seem quite happy singing the sort of trad material mentioned.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Jeri
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 11:14 AM

Songs reflect culture, and culture was formally more sexist than it currently is. Most people are capable of learning.
The ones who aren't, complain, but there isn't much else they can do.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Vashta Nerada
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 11:10 AM

You're tilting heavily toward trying to start a BS thread in the music section when you cast aspersions and use quotes ("liberals") in your statement. That's what got you into so much trouble down below.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 09:56 AM

There are plenty of songs where the woman gets the upper hand. Look at all those sailors wandering round ports with no clothes or money for a start:-)

DtG


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Subject: Origins: Is 'Trad music' sexist?
From: GUEST,akenaton
Date: 02 Feb 18 - 09:42 AM

As most TM is about male work songs, wild drinking and sex (usually leaving the poor girl in the lurch), or war in all its forms, is this genre seen as sexist in these "enlightened times"
I suppose if we were "liberals" we could go through the whole traditional itinerary deleting and amending......in fact there are a couple here who would be bloody good at it?
Additionally Trad Music almost always portrays women as victims
Shurely shome mishtake?


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