Friday Genius Ten “Sorry, Liz Phair” Edition
The big “told you so” news this week was that a University of Minnesota study found that, contrary to the hysteria over the “hook-up culture”, there is no evidence to suggest that casual sex is either the only way kids are getting laid—far from it—or that it causes emotional damage. In honor of this “duh” study, I thought I’d base this week’s Genius Ten off a Liz Phair that was the original tale of casual sex vs. commitment.
Original song: “Fuck and Run” by Liz Phair
The funny thing about this song is it promotes a lot of the ideas that conservatives are promoting about the “hook-up culture”—namely, that it was established by men to avoid commitment, and women are victimized by it. (However, it disproves their theory that the “hook-up culture” is a new thing; the college kids these days that supposedly invented it were mere toddlers when this song came out. Yes, you’re old.) It doesn’t promote the idea that casual sex fucks you up or anything, just that it leaves women alone and disappointed, and suggests that the solution is to leverage enough self-control (“I better drink sodas”) to get a guy to commit in order to get at the pussy.
Or does it? The entire album isn’t exactly feminist, but it does paint a compelling picture of life as a young woman in a world still controlled by guys. In that context, I always felt the song was more about how frustrating it was that guys never wanted to even stop and consider that a woman might add something to their lives besides sex, and the schemes to get them to pay attention seemed doomed to fail. In nearly every song on the album, relationships between men and women are painted as doomed to fail, something that’s blamed on male unwillingness to really listen to women. Thus, I always took the sodas line in “Fuck and Run” to be a joke, but I could totally see how someone might take it on its face as a legitimate strategy to get a boyfriend.
And obviously, I don’t take it as gospel that relationships between men and women have to be so fraught, but I think that the album’s power comes from the fact that it often feels that way when you’re very young, and men are afraid to treat women with respect, which they’ve been led to believe is emasculating. They usually get over it.
Anyway, here’s my ten. Leave yours in comments.
1) “Alex Chilton”—The Replacements
2) “Divine Hammer”—The Breeders
3) “The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side”—The Magnetic Fields
4) “You Are What You Love”—Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins
5) “Star Witness”—Neko Case
6) “Gold Soundz”—Pavement
7) “Autumn Sweater”—Yo La Tengo
8) “Seether”—Veruca Salt
9) “Ana Ng”—They Might Be Giants
10) “Could We”—Cat Power
Videos below the fold.