A little over a month ago the country world got kinda lit up when Maren Morris wrote about womanhood in country music for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter. These are my kind of moments. I absolutely love when the issues of country music become national topics.
Probably because I tweeted something out (however off-handed) about the Lenny Letter, a journalist who I respect reached out to see if I had any comment on the subject: she was working on a piece about it and about Maren. It was a busy week, and although I did (barely) get my response delivered in time for the deadline–it didn’t make the article. My tweet, however, did. And that’s fine. But I decided to go ahead and share my response with you here. Not because I think it’s the end all be all on the subject, but because I think this continues to be a subject of vital importance. And…because it’s a damn interesting topic.
So here is my response. I hope you’ll see it as an invitation for hearty discussion.
I think Maren’s comments were refreshing and dead on.
There is definitely an expectation that women look sexy. However, it’s not as acceptable that women actually be “women.” Women, who are adults, with real lives, real struggles, real desires verses “girls.” Looking sexy and being sexy are very different things. I don’t want to be limited to looking “sexy” in a vacuum that isn’t tied to having real experiences, a real body, and actually being an adult woman. It’s not just about appearance. It’s about perspective, and a larger story we as women can bring to the genre.
Currently, I think a lot of nuance is missing from the portrayal of women in country music. I’m married. It would be disingenuous to paint myself as wild & promiscuous in my songs. However, it would be equally disingenuous to paint myself as a virginal teetotaler. But being sensual, doesn’t mean you’re a slut. And liking a good bourbon, doesn’t make you a lush. However, I think there’s a mistaken belief that the audience can’t discern the difference, so we sweep women into much broader stereotypes.
Historically in country music we have some great examples of women dealing with real-life issues that go far beyond trying to turn the head of a “cute boy.” Songs like Loretta Lynn’s “The Pill,” Reba McEntire’s “Does He Love You,” even Sugarland’s “Stay”—all these songs are dealing with life from a woman’s perspective in a broader way than what has recently been acceptable on country radio.
What are your thoughts on femininity, and womanhood in country music? Are we making any progress? What would you like to see change? Tell us in the comments. Xx