Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Outside Woman Blues
I was listening to this song from Cream's Disraeli Gears album the other day and I had a thought. In this time of extreme political correctness, you wonder where the line delineating appropriate lyrics lies. Ditto cultural appropriation. When is a writer correct to accurately evoke a character and when does it become racist and insulting? Here's the lyric in question but you should listen to the song -
Well, you can't watch your wife
And your outside woman too
You know you can't watch your wife
And your outside wimmens too
'Cause when you're out with your woman
Your wife will be at home
doing your dirt, cooking your food
Buddy, what you trying to do?
Cream, Mayall, the Alexis Corner gang and the Stones borrowed heavily from American blues music, which was basically black music. The bold highlighted line mimics an African American slang vernacular, putting an s on an already plural word. Besides the latent misogyny and stereotypical generalizations of infidelity. Now I am okay if Muddy Waters wants to sing it this way but Eric Clapton? Isn't it a bit gratuitous if not demeaning? Would you knowingly say Aks him a question today? No, because it is also sort of a cheap shot. Doesn't have the necessary verité when a white guy talks about his wimmens.
Dylan engaged in something similarly demeaning but not to minorities, more subtly classist in nature, intoning the voice of poorly educated dust bowl white folk in Don't think twice, it's alright.
It ain't no use in turning on your light, babe
That light I never knowed
And it ain't no use in turning on your light, babe
I'm on the dark side of the road.
Knowed? Is it okay for Dylan to dumb down and pretend he is an illiterate okie here? Is it any better or worse than Clapton in blackface talking about his wimmens? Are either or both of these examples acceptable or are they culturally patronizing? When is it acceptable to portray a character and when does it step over the line? Where does the difference between flattery and imitation and snobbery and bigotry lie? For an experiment why not use wimmens and knowed in polite conversation and note the reaction. Do you feel comfortable saying either word? Are either, both or neither of these affectations acceptable in your way of thinking? Let me know.