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A Guy is a Guy

So while the average folks of today only expect to hear a song like this at Shoppers Drug Mart on a Thursday, my partner and I enjoy incorporating wholesome 1950s music into our everyday lives – while we’re cooking, cleaning and subverting traditional gender roles – you know how it is with modern coupledom.

The only problem is, these songs are actually really not that wholesome. And a lot of time incorporate a whole lot of traditional gender norms (which shouldn’t be a thing), subtle sexist commentary, or straight-up overt “WTF” themes.

Most people reading this blog are probably familiar with some of the myths and harmful messaging that YWCA and other feminist organisations tackle:

  • Boys will be boys. (What does that even mean? And how can I get in on that excuse?)
  • Girls should be “good.” (Ew. That’s not how I racked up all those detentions in school.)
  • Women are property owned by a male (parent/sibling/husband). (I’m hoping most people have got this one out of their systems come 2018)

We know these messages are damaging, not only to the feminist movement but truly, in everyday life. They normalise rape culture. They uphold the gender binary. They keep individuals in boxes dictated by the social and cultural norms of the present day and the past. “Let’s put a halt on progress and equality!” they cry.

So it was much to my chagrin to hear this sort-of love song on one of our favourite 8tracks playlists. Despite the conditioning and acceptance of many other songs with similar messages, none managed to so bluntly threaten today’s movement as this one by Doris Day (sorry, Doris!):

“Guy Is A Guy”

I walked down the street like a good girl should
He followed me down the street like I knew he would
Because a guy is a guy wherever he may be
So listen and I’ll tell you what this fella did to me

I walked to my house like a good girl should
He followed me to my house like I knew he would
Because a guy is a guy wherever he may be
So listen while I tell you what this fella did to me

I never saw the boy before
So nothin’ could be sillier
At closer range his face was strange
But his manner was familiar

So I walked up the stairs like a good girl should
He followed me up the stairs like I knew he would
Because a guy is a guy wherever he may be
So listen and I’ll tell you what this fella did to me

I stepped to my door like a good girl should
He stopped at my door like I knew he would
Because a guy is a guy wherever he may be
So listen while I tell you what this fella did to me
He asked me for a good-night kiss
I said, “It’s still good day”
I would have told him more except
His lips got in the way

So I talked to my ma like a good girl should
And Ma talked to Pa like I knew she would
And they all agreed on a married life for me
The guy is my guy wherever he may be

So I walked down the isle like a good girl should
He followed me down the aisle like I knew he would
Because a guy is a guy wherever he may be
And now you’ve heard the story of what someone did to me

And that’s what he did to me

After reading the lyrics (or listening to the song), it may come as no surprise that Doris Day was more known as an Animal Welfare Activist than a Women’s Rights one. I make no digs at Ms. Day, as she was a pretty stellar lady for her time. But it’s clear to see how this “good girl” was fully wrapped up and embraced by the patriarchal forces that still exist today (just not this overtly).

I’m not saying I don’t still listen to our 1950s playlists or get this song stuck in my head. And I’m certainly not trying to corrupt – in the words of Youtuber Gema Ibarra – “a song reflecting a beautiful innocent romance between a young man and woman.” There is certainly enough warring in the comment section – some pointing out the inappropriate stalking/uninvited stranger kiss/overall normalisation of rape culture, while others point out and try and save the wholesome and innocent virtue of the white, straight, cis-gendered romances of the 1950s. I could put my English Degree to use and go on and on about how things happen TO the heroine of the song and that she appears to be lacking any agency of her own. But I’ll save the over-analyzing for those interested in reading the comment sections. I’m way too tired for that.

Today in some ways, the sexism – through media like music – is less in your face (in other ways it’s not). It can be harder to deal with, confront and change when it is hidden. However, I am so glad that the #1 hit today doesn’t use the line, “Like a good girl should” as it did in 1952.

(Or does it? I actually stopped listening to the radio a while ago… Most of the time I think I’m just *hoping* we’re not moving backward. Keep me posted, would you?)

2 thoughts on “A Guy is a Guy

  1. I hear what your saying about “wholesome” image with subtle undertones. Perhaps sometimes people over analyze and read too much into songs. This past winter, for instance, it was “Baby it’s cold outside.” The film actually presented two different versions, one where the man was rejecting the woman’s moves. What media and social media focused on was the other version with the man making moves to stay overnight because it was cold outside. In graduate school, a colleague analyzed the movie Pocahontas and she gave a very critical report (from a Native perspective). I understood it but asked her to explain it in plain English. I said, “So what can I tell my young niece who loves this movie?” Sometimes there is too much interpretation when songs are simply just for enjoyment. I get what your comments mean. I just can’t imagine songwriters sitting down and thinking: “I need to write a song about a man dominating a woman, and I will veil it with a really nice tune.”

  2. I know this is from a while ago:)
    I think this post was great! Thanks for putting it out there!
    And radio songs still have the same messages:) it’s is so surprising I have been totally caught off guard.
    Sexuality… I’m pretty sure one of our biggest setbacks from these types of messages.
    Thanks again😊

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