Flowers For My Feminine Side
Driving a car by yourself too often is just about the quickest way to become a bonafide misanthrope. You find yourself isolated from the rest of the populace in a small, mobile world with its own microclimate, the ability to easily manipulate an incredible amount of steel, torque and speed, and a psychological barrier separating you from the outside world, a fact that somehow justifies the treatment of complete strangers in ways that you would never dream of doing if you were standing right in front of them.
If there is an upside to this sort of isolation, it is in the use of the tight quarters and several speakers to turn the automobile into a traveling shower-singing talent show. Although I do not enjoy driving, I like being able to sing along in my best Cookie Monster Death Metal voice at the top of my lungs while driving to the bakery for a boule. It’s private time in public.
I was on a long drive a couple of weeks ago, belting out one of my favorite songs, when I paused for a brief moment to take stock of the song that I had chosen to apply my unique duet styling to. I was about three-quarters of the way through (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, Aretha Franklin‘s soul classic, which contains the repeated title refrain that I’m sure most everyone knows, and I suddenly felt self-conscious and aloof. Why?
Well, it might have something to do with the fact that femininity is not a trait that dudes are encouraged to express. Behold:
The difference between me and this kid is that I didn’t have anyone in my car telling me that it was impossible for me to feel like a natural woman and so I went ahead and felt like one. After my brief pause to reflect on my gender, which is a social construct dictating appropriate behavior as a “man”, I belted out Aretha’s proclamation with renewed vigor, breaking my vocal cords on all of her high notes, failing to match her emotive crescendo but feeling altogether comfortable as a natural “woman.”
Further reflection on how femininity is marginalized in music had me feeling sorry for dudes everywhere. I feel sorry for dudes because it’s a sad state of affairs when they are told it is inappropriate to express themselves as nurturers or as being vulnerable or as feeling “pretty.” I feel sad that men aren’t encouraged to express their femininity more. To say that men don’t have it in them only further plunges us into the argument about the social construction of gender (which we don’t have the space for here) but we can probably all agree that you don’t often see men acting in ways that are considered more appropriate for women. And when you do see it, it is considered deviant.
I think it’s important for me to point out here that I am not trying to conflate femininity with “women”. People are much more complicated than that. I am speaking directly to what would be the set of traits that one would normally assign to femininity, which is not assigned for these purposes to gender. Moreover, rather than plunge further into the argument, let’s switch gears and focus on celebrating femininity in music. I find this a hard thing to write about. There is this part of me, admittedly, that wants to temper any expression of my own femininity by stating my allegiance to the sweaty masculinity of Big Black or by asserting my own physical presence by challenging any man who would try to shame me for finding meaning and solace in a Macy Gray song. But instead of treading water in the baby pool of masculinity, I’ll state that I have a deep and abiding love for Joni Mitchell and thumb my nose at any detractors.
How do we fight this urge, bros, to suppress our more delicate emotions? How do we celebrate our femininity? Let’s start with this week’s playlist, which is an exploration of the maternal, the conflicted lover’s fortitude, the pretty and the strong. These are songs that evoke the feminine in all of us and as such they serve as my own little ode to my mother and my sisters and my lover. It’s an ode to men who are honest and truthful and aim to create from a space within themselves that allows for all of the traits mentioned above to poke through and inform and temper the masculine world in which they reside. It’s an ode to the true gift of femininity, something we could all do to embody and embrace more often. As always, feel free to add any feminine favorites in the comments.
[audio:http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/05%20You%20Make%20Me%20Feel%20Like%20A%20Natural.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/09%20The%20Way.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/11%20Black%20Girl%20Pain.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Roberta%20Flack_02_Just%20Like%20A%20Woman.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/06%20Next%20Lifetime.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/04%20I%20Try.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/04%20Bachelorette.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/03%20Right%20Here%20Right%20Now.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/01%20So%20Much%20Love%20To%20Do.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/06%20Give%20You%20My%20Lovin.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/01%20Look%20At%20Miss%20Ohio.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/01%20Summer%20Close%20Porlolo.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/01%20Tomorrow%20On%20The%20Runway.mp3|artists=Aretha Franklin,Jill Scott,Talib Kweli,Roberta Flack,Erykah Badu,Macy Gray,Bjork,Cassandra Wilson,Scout Niblett,Mazzy Star,Gillian Welch,Porlolo,The Innocence Mission|titles=You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman,The Way,Black Girl Pain,Just like A Woman,Next Lifetime,I Try,Bachelorette,Right Here Right Now,So Much Love To Do,Give You My Lovin,Look At Miss Ohio,Summer Close,Tomorrow On The Runway]
1. Aretha Franklin – (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman
2. Jill Scott – The Way
3. Talib Kweli – Black Girl Pain
4. Roberta Flack – Just Like A Woman
5. Erykah Badu – Next Lifetime
6. Macy Gray – I Try
7. Bjork – Bachelorette
8. Cassandra Wilson – Right Here, Right Now
9. Scout Niblett – So Much Love To Do
10. Mazzy Star – Give You My Lovin’
11. Gillian Welch – Look At Miss Ohio
12. Porlolo – Summer Close
13. The Innocence Mission – Tomorrow On The Runway