Pseudo-Feminist Anthem: Paramore’s “Misery Business”
Yesterday, I counted down the top 5 pseudo-feminist anthems, the pop hits that are marketed on girl power but actually rely on the same-old anti-feminist messages. Readers: You're invited to weigh in with more contributions to the genre. This suggestion comes courtesy of Twitter user elenielstrom.
Pseudo-Feminist Anthem: Paramore's "Misery Business," one woman's response to the boring chick who tried to steal her man.
Second chances they don't ever matter, people never change
Once a whore you're nothing more, I'm sorry, that'll never change
And about forgiveness, we're both supposed to have exchanged
I'm sorry honey, but I passed it up, now look this way
Well there's a million other girls who do it just like you
Looking as innocent as possible to get to who
They want and what they like it's easy if you do it right
Well I refuse, I refuse, I refuse
Feel the Anti-Girl Power: On the one hand, Paramore is actively rejecting the markers traditional of femininity. Lead singer Hayley Williams announces that she "refuses" to be like the "million other girls" who are forced to get the sex they want by acting like they don't want it—by playing "as innocent as possible." In doing so, Paramore makes way for women who don't have the classic figure—"body like an hourglass"—or the accompanying reproductive fantasies—"it's ticking like a clock."
On the other hand, Paramore's classification of these more traditionally feminine women—"whore"—is less than liberating. Also, boiling down "girl power" to a question of aesthetics? Not cool.
But perhaps we are underestimating Paramore here! Perhaps this song and accompanying video are meant as a tongue-in-cheek rejection of female cattiness and body-snarking, and not an endorsement of it. Let's see how they do it:
The music video for "Misery Business" presents three classes of women: (a) a buttoned-up blond chick with a staid single braid, representing "innocence"; (b) a mild brunette staring longingly into her man's eyes, representing "boredom"; and (c) a sexually voracious woman who attempts to steal the men of (a) and (b), representing "sluttiness."
At video's end, Williams shows up to reveal lady (c) as the fake, catty bitch that she is. This is Williams' chance to really stick it to her! To show everyone that we shouldn't try to steal girls' boyfriends just because we don't like the way these chicks look! And so . . . Williams teaches (c) a lesson by pulling her falsies out of her bra, thereby publicly embarrassing her on a purely physical level. In the end, Williams—signified to the audience to be a "real" woman through her punk-rock aesthetic and alternative dye-job, of course—reveals that "girl power" actually is all about the way chicks look. Thanks, Paramore.