Feminist Songs…: Day 7, More than an afterthought, not just an ampersand

Day 7 in our series of Feminist Songs for Women’s History Month comes to us from Christy Ferguson who has long been affiliated with SIUE and recently taught WMST 200 for us with great success and has also taught at colleges and universities throughout the Metro East. Ferguson introduces the work of Amanda Palmer, a performance artist and singer-songwriter who rose to prominence as half of the duo The Dresden Dolls. The Dresden Dolls described their style as “Brechtian punk cabaret” in order to forestall any possibility the press would take to classifying them as “gothic.” This particular long-form song chosen by Ferguson was released in 2008. I will leave it to her to explain its feminist significance.

–Alison Reiheld, Director of the SIUE Women’s Studies Program

This song has spoken to me for years.

I find that her lyrics and passion present such a strong feminist stance on heteronormative interactions, that even with a random line about ketchup, the messages are still clear…

I AM NOT INCOMPLETE WITHOUT YOU.  

I don’t NEED to be a part of a “couple” to be complete.  A relationship is not worth losing yourself over and even within a relationship, you can still be your own person and have your own separate, amazing life.

I also like that she specifically calls out some parts of our misogynistic societal norms (like catcalling) and she faces them head on. She does not hang her head and run away.

She does not even confront them with yelling or calling them out, but shocks them with introducing herself AS HERSELF, not as what they believe she is (something to be objectified and disrespected.)

I’ve transcribed the lyrics below for anyone who wants to read them without playing the video, or while it plays.

I walk down my street at night
The city lights are cold and violent
I am comforted by the approaching sounds of trucks and sirens
Even though the world’s so bad
These men rush out to help the dying
And though I am no use to them
I do my part by simply smiling

The ghetto boys are catcalling me
As I pull my keys from my pocket
I wonder if this method of courtship
Has ever been effective
Has any girl in history said
Sure, you seem so nice, let’s get it on
Still, I always shock them when I answer
Hi, my name’s Amanda

And I’m not gonna live my life on one side of an ampersand
And even if I went with you I’m not the girl you think I am
And I’m not gonna match you
Cause I’ll lose my voice completely yeah
I’m just gonna watch you
Cause I’m not the one that’s crazy
Yeah…

I have wasted years of my life
Agonizing about the fires
I started when I thought that to be strong, you must be flame retardant
And now to dress the wounds goes into question
How authentic they are
There is always someone criticizing me
She just likes playing hospital

Lying in my bed
I remember what you said
There’s no such thing as accidents

But you’ve got the headstone all ready
All carved up and pretty
Your sick satisfaction
Those his and hers matching
The daisies all push up’n
Pairs to the horizons
Your eyes full of ketchup
It’s nice that you’re trying
The headstone’s all ready
All carved up and pretty
Your sick satisfaction
Those his and hers matching
The daises all push up’n
Pairs to the horizons
Your eyes full of ketchup
It’s nice that you’re trying

And I’m not gonna live my life on one side of an ampersand
And even if I went with you, I’m not the girl you think I am
And I’m not gonna match you
Cause I’ll lose my voice completely
No, I’m not gonna watch you
Cause I’m not the one that’s crazy
Yeah…
I’m not the one that’s crazy
Yeah…

As I wake up to a cough
The fire burned the block
But ironically stopped at my apartment
And my housemates are all sleeping soundly
And nobody deserves to die
But you were awful adamant
That if I didn’t love you
Then you have just one alternative

And I may be romantic
And I may risk my life for it
But I ain’t gonna die for you
You know I ain’t no Juliet
And I’m not gonna watch you wanna burn yourself out baby
No I’m not gonna stop you
Cause I’m not the one that’s crazy, yeah
I’m not the one that’s crazy, yeah
I’m not the one that’s crazy…

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