Counterpoint: Keith Urban’s ‘Female’ Is DEFINITELY Mansplaining
With his new single, "Female," Keith Urban aims to celebrate, honor and empower. He doesn't quite achieve those goals, though -- because "Female" is mansplaining.
"Female" isn't mansplain-y in the way that guy next to you at the bar (or that guy you're on a date with, or that guy on the internet, or that guy in your college lecture ...) is when he starts trying to one-up your knowledge of [insert topic here] -- no, it's not condescending. It's not belittling or rude, either, and its intentions are good. But "Female" mansplains because of those involved in its creation.
Yes, Nicolle Galyon is a co-writer of "Female," and Urban's wife, Nicole Kidman, sings background on the song with Galyon. But they are the only women among the song's writers, producers and vocalists. Galyon's co-writers are Shane McAnally and Ross Copperman, while Urban and Dann Huff produced the track -- that's two women to four men. Men make up the majority of the team behind "Female."
Because of that female-to-male ratio, the chorus of "Female" -- "Sister, shoulder, daughter, lover / Healer, broken halo, mother / Nature, fire, suit of armor / Soul survivor, holy water ..." -- is less a reclaiming of those labels and more a man singing about what a woman is to him. It's awesome to hear a country radio single addressing rape culture and misogyny in its lyrics -- but surrounding it with a chorus that calls women "baby girl" and "woman child" is frustrating.
If "Female" prompts its listeners to stop and think and re-evaluate the way they regard, talk about and interact with women, mission accomplished. Next time, though, maybe a woman will get to be the one to make that happen.
The fact that Urban only heard "Female" for the first time in early October and was compelled to record and release it so quickly is wonderful. The week following its release, "Female" was country radio's most-added song. It's clearly a timely song, even if its writers weren't trying to write a "#MeToo anthem."
But would it have been if a woman was singing it? Were stations adding the song to their playlists because it was a brand-new song from Urban, a superstar, or because of its message?
If "Female" prompts its listeners to stop and think and re-evaluate the way they regard, talk about and interact with women, then mission accomplished. The song isn't perfect, but it's important that it's at least trying to do all of those things. Next time, though, maybe a woman will get to be the one to make that happen.
The Boot and Taste of Country’s collaborative Point / Counterpoint series features staff members from the two sites debating topics of interest within country music once per month. Check back on Dec. 20 for another installment.
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