Flowers, Bugs, and the Lyrical Double-Standard

When I was younger, the only time I had ever heard of the word “azalea” was either to describe the flower, or a town in one of my favorite video games. Now, that word is associated with a singer who I constantly hear on the radio, and I couldn’t figure out why one of her songs didn’t sit well with me; then I took a closer look at the lyrics.

While the overplayed beat of “Fancy” prompts some eye rolls from me, the song itself is essentially harmless; her other hit song is what captures my attention.

A Google search for the song “Black Widow” results in the description “…its lyrics chronicle subjects of revenge and feminism in a failed romantic relationship (X).” I was dumbfounded to see this description, especially with these lyrics (sung by Rita Ora) in mind:

“You used to be thirsty for me
But now you want to be set free
This is the web, web that you weave
So baby now rest in peace”

Feminism? Really? The implication of the murder of a (cheating) man is somehow feminist? If this song were sung by a man, it would become an anthem of domestic violence, with a fate similar to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” or Maroon 5’s recent hit “Animals.” But now that the tables are turned, and the victim of domestic violence is a man, it’s suddenly feminist?

The song even opens with the hook, also sung by Rita Ora:

“I’m gonna love ya
Until you hate me
And I’m gonna show ya
What’s really crazy
You should’ve known better
Than to mess with me, honey
I’m gonna love ya, I’m gonna love ya
Gonna love ya, gonna love ya
Like a black widow, baby”

Great. Let’s also perpetuate the notion of the crazy ex-girlfriend while we’re at it. Such empowering; so feminist.

I’m a feminist, and it is so disheartening to see something labelled under the name of the movement when it just ignores that men are victims of domestic violence as well while portraying some revenge fantasy. Feminism is the understanding that women have been oppressed by the patriarchy for centuries. While men are not oppressed in the same way by this structure, they are, alongside women, hurt by the patriarchal standards. I like to describe feminism as essentially equalism through the feminine lens. And this song reinforces the idea that if a relationship turns sour, violent revenge is an acceptable, empowering response.

And that’s not feminism.


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