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Has Beyoncé killed Jolene? Bad-bitch stereotypes undermine female resilience

(Cowboy Carter)


April 5, 2024   5 mins

Not long ago, a post crossed my timeline featuring a black-and-white, heart-stoppingly gorgeous photo of Dolly Parton in the Sixties. The caption read, simply: “What the hell did Jolene look like?” One can only wonder.

As a musical artefact, “Jolene” is hard to top. It’s an epic bit of Americana, the karaoke song of choice for many an amateur show-off, as well as a favourite for professional artists who want something to cover. What makes it fascinating, however, isn’t just its challenging melody, but its message: the narrator of “Jolene” knows she cannot compete with the song’s titular antagonist, and has no intention of doing so. Instead, she makes a plaintive appeal to the other woman’s sense of decency, and maybe even her vanity. “You could have your choice of men,” Parton sings, “But I could never love again, he’s the only one for me, Jolene.” (That the man in question isn’t exactly a catch is never said outright, but heavily implied; this is, remember, a guy who talks about other women in his sleep.)

Hence the excitement this month when a cover of the song appeared on Beyoncé’s new album, Cowboy Carter — and the stir when it was discovered that Bey had changed the lyrics, and with them, the character of the song. Beyoncé isn’t begging anyone not to take her man, thank you very much. What she’s telling you is, if you try, there’s going to be trouble, perhaps even violence: “I’m warning you, don’t come for my man,” she sings.

These changes are not so surprising. Beyoncé’s “Jolene” begins with a spoken-word intro by a 78-year-old Parton: “Hey, miss Honey B, it’s Dolly P. You know that hussy with the good hair you sing about? Reminding me of someone I knew back when.” The hussy in question is “Becky with the good hair”, an unidentified woman with whom Beyoncé’s husband, Jay-Z, had a much gossiped-about extramarital affair; although the celebrity couple have always been cagey on the details of Jay-Z’s dalliance, Beyoncé periodically references it in her work.

It’s unclear if Beyoncé’s “Jolene” is meant to be yet another jab at this woman specifically, or simply a warning to anyone who had thoughts of following in her footprints. Its message, however, is unmistakable — which is to say, trite and predictable. As The Atlantic‘s critic wrote: “Beyoncé replaced the vulnerability that made ‘Jolene’ one of the best tunes of all time with a bunch of bad-bitch cliches.”

What’s interesting about those bad-bitch cliches is how often they’re employed in service of something that claims to be feminism, but in practice seems like the opposite. Threatening Jolene with violence instead of begging her for mercy is of course the more empowered choice according to the tenets of YASS-KWEEN feminism — but what kind of feminism reserves all its opprobrium for the woman who pursues a married man, while letting the man off the hook? Add to this Beyoncé’s peacocking, masculinised “if you try to touch him I’ll kick your ass” posturing, which paradoxically reveals how disempowered and insecure she is. If she’s a queen, as the song says, and has no doubts about her man’s devotion, then why is she threatening to throw hands at any woman who looks at him sideways?

But then, this brand of photogenic but ultimately insubstantial feminism is one that Beyoncé has long trafficked in, dating back at least a decade to her 2014 VMAs performance, where she stood in front of a screen on which “FEMINIST” was projected in giant block letters. At the time, all eyes were focused on the FEMINIST sign, but when I look at video of that performance now, what strikes me most is the faceless silhouette of her body against it: high-heeled, legs akimbo, virtually indistinguishable from the stock images that appear on the flyers for a certain type of establishment in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Of course, when those places use this sort of imagery, it’s objectification and sexism. But it’s different with Beyoncé, for, you know, some reason.

“This brand of photogenic but ultimately insubstantial feminism is one that Beyoncé has long trafficked in.”

It’s not that you can’t be sexy and also be a feminist, but there’s always been something a little strange about the circa-2014 idea that feminism itself is sexy, that this is its chief selling point. This same mindset has given us a culture in which diverse archetypes of female resilience have been increasingly replaced by the “badass”, a woman who has no feelings and no flaws, and who has little use for other people except as either casual sex partners or punching bags. It’s ironic, in a world where women can pursue ever more varied paths to fulfilment, that the representation of female strength in art has become increasingly narrow, one-dimensional, and masculinised. The self-rescuing princess; the emotionally aloof action heroine; the invulnerable, workaholic, commitment-phobic playgirl — an awful lot of “strong female characters” these days are basically just men, but with tits.

This category arguably includes the unnamed protagonist of Beyoncé’s “Jolene”, which makes the song an interesting example of the phenomenon whereby an allegedly feminist update ends up being less enlightened than the original piece of art. Parton’s song is actually, sneakily subversive, even as it fails the Bechdel test: these women are discussing a man, yes, but he’s more a prop than a person. Note that the singer doesn’t beg him not to leave; he’s not consulted, or even present, because he is not in charge. Instead, his fate rests in the hands of two women: the one who loves him in spite of herself, and the one who could have him, but hopefully won’t.

The narrator of the original “Jolene” is decidedly not a badass — but this is the point, and something she is not ashamed to admit. She’s heartbroken at the idea of losing her man. But she’s no fool, either; she knows that her best chance of happiness requires playing on Jolene’s decency, woman to woman — or, possibly, pre-empting any man-stealing impulses Jolene might have had by respectfully flattering her into submission. Here I will admit that after listening to the song on repeat for the better part of a day, Parton’s lyrics started to remind me of the scene from The Hobbit where Bilbo Baggins attempts to disarm the dragon Smaug by bestowing upon him an increasingly flowery series of superlatives: Smaug the Magnificent. Smaug the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities. Smaug the Unassessably Wealthy! And as such, Smaug who surely has much better and more important things to do than eat a hobbit of no importance.

Maybe the narrator of Jolene is truly the pathetic, simpering creature she pretends to be. Or maybe she’s just figured out that the best way to get what you want from a more powerful person is to make her feel magnanimous about giving it to you. And while the new “Jolene” struts around with its chest out, making superficially feminist noises (and, as such, acts as catnip for Beyoncé’s fans), it’s Parton’s that imagines women in the greater fullness, that recognises female power as it exists beyond the shallow archetype of the badass bitch. There is the soft power of the seductress, whose charms nobody can resist. And there’s the even softer power of the supplicant who — as another song would have it — ain’t too proud to beg.


Kat Rosenfield is an UnHerd columnist and co-host of the Feminine Chaos podcast. Her latest novel is You Must Remember This.

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Ali W
Ali W
1 month ago

I can appreciate Beyonce wanting to make the song her own, but I am also exhausted by the bad-b***h persona.
However, women catfighting over a man is arguably a low/working-class behavior, which may be Beyonce’s primary audience. This may be less of a bad girl trope than just a trashy one.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  Ali W

Because rich women never scheme to bag themselves rich husbands do they? How many gullible wealthy middle aged men have been tempted away from their missus and kids by the charms of some 20 year old totty?

Ali W
Ali W
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I wasn’t talking about infidelity in general being a low-class thing, I meant women committing violence or fighting over a man. Violence in general is more prevalent in the lower classes.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Ali W

But that’s only because their handbags are far too expensive to use as weaponry!

jane baker
jane baker
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

Those woman have killer eyes.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Ali W

Although rare, it does happen.

jane baker
jane baker
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You could lure Ernest Hemingway away from whichever latest wife with a tin of sardines,he was off,he loved being seduced. He says so in Moveable Feast.

Ian_S
Ian_S
1 month ago

“… an awful lot of “strong female characters” these days are basically just men, but with tits.”

Aah, too good. Too good. A great deal of insight has gone into this article.

El Uro
El Uro
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian_S

I didn’t see your comment before I wrote mine. I swear!

Dennis Lewis
Dennis Lewis
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian_S

Or more accurately, caricatures of men.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 month ago

“what kind of feminism reserves all its opprobrium for the woman who pursues a married man, while letting the man off the hook?”
I agree with the author that Beyonce’s update, and the feminism it represents, hates more than anything the idea of a vulnerable woman, particularly in the world of sexual relations and romance.
But I disagree with her line above… an undeserved dig at the man in the song. In Jolene there is no indication the singer and her man are married, nor that the man has betrayed her or been unfaithful in any way. The fact that he’s attracted to Jolene, and mentions her name in his sleep, is not infidelity.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 month ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

I thought the song came from Dolly having a rival for her husband, whom she fought for.

LeeKC C
LeeKC C
1 month ago

I thought the same.

jane baker
jane baker
1 month ago

I’m guessing she made that up to rationalize it for dumb people ie media journalists desperate to track down the ‘real” Jolene.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 month ago

Yeah it was (supposedly) inspired by a bank clerk who flirted with her husband. But Dolly Parton was not actually scared of losing her husband to the bank clerk. And he was not actually speaking about the clerk in this sleep. Cuz the lyrics are fiction… and in the song, there’s no indication of infidelity, just an attraction.

LeeKC C
LeeKC C
1 month ago

I’m so glad you have written this essay. I was witnessing a Bey video this morning actually and felt the same way. I am so tired and put off by it. I did wonder if its just me. The badass ‘b**ch’, does everything like a man – including having sex like one. What an absolute tragedy that is. I even like your version of ‘peacocking’. Damn, if I didn’t use the same term in a conversation I had recently about witnessing all the ridiculous peacocking by so many younger women at my local gym. Its almost soft porn by some – and entitled I might add. I wonder if they are really batting for the extreme version of the other side – advertising that their true worth lies only in their sexuality.
Cheap and rather nasty. Demeaning to themselves. As my mother use to say
“leave some mystery”.
I did also come to the conclusion long ago that the battle of the sexes, is really in fact a competition among themselves. Women to women and men to men. That’s the true peacocking.

Robert
Robert
1 month ago
Reply to  LeeKC C

“the extreme version of the other side”
Thank-you for pointing that out. It’s difficult to see and hear women make such stupid generalizations about men. Having sex like men? No. Those who say that are just making excuses for desiring to behave badly. And guess what? Most men never ‘had sex like men’. They never wanted that. They wanted to fall in love, too.

Elizabeth Bowen
Elizabeth Bowen
1 month ago
Reply to  LeeKC C

Do you mean ‘incessant sexual harassment and abuse’ ?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

It’s true that “an awful lot of “strong female characters” these days are basically just men, but with tits.” And yet at the same time, young men these days tend to be vilified for being, well, men without tits.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

‘Tis better to be a man without tits than a woman with a pen1s

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 month ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Confucius?

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 month ago

My favourite re-make/re-interpretation of Jolene is still this from America’s Got Talent a few years back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLKmDbDv6j0
Much more empowering, I thought. The message is neither the pathetic pleading of the Parton original, nor the fake bad-ass of “Kween B” – it’s “yeah, Jolene, you’re welcome to him because I’m done here!”

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
1 month ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

…or there’s the reading that ‘Jolene’ is just a metaphoric personalisation of ‘drink’. Not sure if that stands up tho.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 month ago

I don’t care about the feminism or otherwise. It’s a lovely song and exactly the same sentiments could be expressed by a cuckholded husband.

I can’t think of many finer lines than

“Your beauty is beyond compare
With flaming locks of auburn hair
With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green
Your smile is like a breath of spring
Your voice is soft like summer rain
And I cannot compete with you, Jolene. “

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

Even people who generally dislike country music like Jolene. Great song.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

Quite so. Sensitive and thoughtful,

Adam P
Adam P
1 month ago

Its a weak point in the album, playing to the country fan gallery. The album itself is a fantastic piece of art. The Blackbird cover is amazing.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
1 month ago

Not long ago, a post crossed my timeline featuring a black-and-white, heart-stoppingly gorgeous photo of Dolly Parton in the Sixties. The caption read, simply: “What the hell did Jolene look like?” One can only wonder.

One of the things which makes Dolly so iconic – over and above her immense talent – is that her empathy comes across as genuine and unforced.
She’s been a successful songwriter since her teens and a star since her early 20s, but she was born and grew up as one of 12 children in a family of Appalachian sharecroppers in East Tennessee.
Its understandably difficult to imagine someone who is as talented, successful, beautiful and driven as her ever feeling threatened by another woman. But in her youth she would have known countless women for whom “losing their man” to a rival was a very big deal and not just romantically.
Historically Tennessee was very poor and had one of the lowest life-expectancy rates in the United States (and still does, in fact), with the typical gap between women and men further exacerbated by WW2 in Dolly’s childhood (she was born in 1946). So, whether its intentional or not, there is a wider context to Jolene which is about the importance of marriage to women’s social and economic standing in post-war Upland America.
I think what helps explains Jolene’s appeal – as well as it being absolute banger of course – is that through it Dolly is speaking not so much for herself but for and to all of those women who would not have in any way recognised feminism as an analysis of the world, but did know all about struggle and strength in adversity.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago

I’ve always taken it that Dolly wasn’t singing about her own experience of losing her man, but for all those women who’ve found themselves in that position.
Just as when Kenny Rogers sang:
“You’ve picked a fine time to leave me Lucille
Four hungry children and a crop in the field”
Who ever thought he was singing about himself?

El Uro
El Uro
1 month ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

My paternal grandfather was resettled from Belarus to Siberia like a “kulak”. His wife, my grandmother died a year later, leaving him with three children, and a year later he married again.
You can’t survive in the village if you’re alone, and if you have children, you have no right to die.
Those who remember the pigs scene in “Unforgiven” may have noticed Clint Eastwood’s eyes as he rises from the manure. This is what real life might look like.
Against this background, modern feminists look to me like b.tches just mad from satiety.

David George
David George
1 month ago

Yes 2+2, post war relations between the sexes were very different.
People today often laugh at the overt femininity and fawning attentiveness of the women of that era but it’s exactly what you would expect. The men were returning heroes, there were a lot less of them and any women wanting a husband, one with all his limbs, had some strong competition.
Here’s a great version of Jolene from the gorgeous Ashley Campbell (Glen’s daughter)
https://youtu.be/GjtxCFdCWbY

james goater
james goater
1 month ago
Reply to  David George

A magnificent rendition, indeed, which provides useful backing to an absorbing article.
Thanks for the link.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
1 month ago

This is a song originally from the poor, socially troubled and now Republican-voting rural working class (often Catholic and of Irish origin) now performed by a glassy-eyed Democrat corporate queen chock-full of identity politics.
Nonetheless, it could be that liberal trolling become a significant thing in the coming year as they run out of political ideas, torn apart from the inside by neocons and the identitarian Left alike.

James Kabala
James Kabala
1 month ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

Catholics have played very little role in the history of country music, which originates from the low church Protestant world of Appalachia. Albeit its deep roots go back to the British Isles at a time when it was Catholic. Presumably the original anonymous authors of Barbara Allen and Lord Randal My Son and so forth were Catholic.
A more substantial point is that although Beyonce may have been wrong to rewrite this song, there is a genuine country tradition of songs of this kind. Many of them recorded by Loretta Lynn. One is literally entitled “Fist City.”

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago
Reply to  James Kabala

Catholics were victims of the KKK sometimes and generally hated in the South. Most of the early settlers in Appalachia were Scottish Presbyterians.

anthony henderson
anthony henderson
1 month ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

You will find the Irish Catholics mainly up Boston way, country music evolved from the folk tunes of the Protestant ‘Ulster Scots’ ie Northern English and Lowland Scots.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
1 month ago

Modern feminists see the ideal human being as an aggressive, domineering, rich, and boorish man. They see ordinary woman as falling short of this ideal. As such, they see ordinary women as being a sort of inferior man. They then set out to correct this by attempting to turn women into aggressive, domineering, and boorish girl-bosses.

This is sad on two levels. On the first level, the idea of seeing women as imperfect copies of an ideal man is misogynistic.

On the second level, it shows a lack of understanding of men. Men are not impressed by bullies. The ideal male leader is not a domineering bully. He is competent, can rein in his emotions, and lead by example and inspiration. He is last into a fight but always last out as well. He also cares for the weak, but just don’t mention it, it’s nothing. Think Hazel in Watership Down, Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander, Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, Jean-Luc Picard, etc. etc.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

Is that why these alleged feminists are, on balance, supportive of the trans infiltrators? There is an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” quality to that whole charade.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Well, I’m certainly not one of them. Trans women are men and have no business in female spaces and sports. In the U.S., the majority of women—Democrats and Republicans—feel the same way. Men feel the same way. I think the women you are referring to want to be cool and edgy. They also want to be nice. I imagine that some of these women fear being ostracized if they reject the trans cult.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Their role model is Judith Butler ? ?

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I think it may be simpler than that. The antipathy older feminists feel is towards men. The antipathy younger feminists feel is towards masculinity. For older feminists the trans thing is wolves in sheep’s clothing. Putting on a frock changes nothing. Younger feminists see the trans rejection of masculinity in a more positive light, and in line with feminism.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

Kind of get what your saying, but this isn’t really true:

Modern feminists see the ideal human being as an aggressive, domineering, rich, and boorish man.

It’s rather that they think this is really how men are, and that to compete, women have to be even worse. Sadly, with some women, asking them to be that unpleasant is an easy ask.

Of course men in general aren’t like that at all, and especially not to women.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
1 month ago

That’s a big generalization and idealistic. It’s not realistic.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Yes – I think he should have said “the male ideal” not “men”. Not all men behave even approximately like that, and not all men share that ideal. Then again, the negative stereotypes pushed by feminists are equally unrealistic.

Dillon Eliassen
Dillon Eliassen
1 month ago

Let’s not forget that Beyonce is first and foremost a pop star, and is obligated to reinvent herself every couple years. Beyonce as country singer is all just marketing and attention seeking, and as such, the form is divorced from the substance. Remember 8 years ago she performed “Formation” at the Super Bowl and she and her dancers were dressed as sexy Black Panthers? Huey Newton and Bobby Seale did not start the Black Panthers, and women did not join the Black Panthers, in order to promote the concept of a woman’s role as being great at f*****g and sucking, and crass materialism. Read the lyrics of “Formation.” There’s nothing in them about black empowerment or feminism.

Alan Groff
Alan Groff
1 month ago

Anger and setting boundaries versus the humility of appealing to another’s better nature. Both stand valid. Both wield the power of engagement and influence. Their success hinges on Jolene’s character. They surpass avoidance—the retreat into a tight coil of resentment and grievance.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
1 month ago

Terrible cafe, too.

I hope Cafe Beyonce is better.

Cathy Murphy
Cathy Murphy
1 month ago

It has always disheartened me that Beyonce can seemingly only release music in her underwear. Her billionaire musician husband flashes no flesh. It reinforces the illusory nature of the ‘empowerment’ she is regularly credited as displaying. The Jolene cover is not feminism as I understand it.

A A
A A
1 month ago
Reply to  Cathy Murphy

I agree but have you seen what her husband looks like? I don’t think anyone want that flesh flashed.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
1 month ago
Reply to  A A

Really! Beauty and the beast.

Kat L
Kat L
1 month ago
Reply to  A A

Exactly. She’s so out of his league.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago
Reply to  Cathy Murphy

I’m not sure anyone understands feminism anymore, not even the feminists. A few days ago, this site had a piece wherein the National Organization for Women was wholly on board with men cosplaying as women in sports and society, and anyone who objected was guilt of the usual – white supremacy and patriarchy. Men erasing women, and NOW is on board with it.

jane baker
jane baker
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Seems to me that after World War One there was a very good case for all those woman, normal attractive women to campaign for better rights in terms of employment etc as they knew,some with horror and dread that they would have to WORK IN A JOB their whole life. That many made a great success of it is to their credit. But strangely that generation of women who had all lost Sweethearts in the fake unnecessary war just like they want to foist on us now with lies,they were not the militant generation. By 1970 when I was on the edge of being a young adult,that was when the strident and vocal fake feminists had their stupid voices much amplified by the media especially the BBC,they particularly loved old Garson Garbage,the one with the gob as big as Orstralia as she was always good for an outrageous quote. Now I can shoehorn in my favourite joke/social observation.
Women for told cooking was drudgery and only morons liked doing it. So they all stopped and got jobs at Tesco instead .Once the field was clear MEN moved in and suddenly COOKING was creative,it was Art,it.was AMAZING,and they all.got tv series and book.deals!
Here is an as yet unused TV show format. It.could make someone a lot of money. You find a guy,charming and personable. You have him do household chores, Hoover,making the beds,washing the curtains,dusting,it’s SO.CREATIVE,it’s AMAZEBALLS. Why aren’t girlies into.sexy.stuff like that.
You can thank me when.youve.made.the first.million.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  jane baker

By 1970 when I was on the edge of being a young adult,that was when the strident and vocal fake feminists had their stupid voices much amplified by the media

Yes I think this was when feminism was at its most awful and man hating. And your point about Tesco – ie what it meant for women not in the high earning bracket – is well made.

I enjoy cooking, though I don’t make a big thing of creativity. But you’ll never convince me that hoovering is anything more than a chore.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Cathy Murphy

It has always disheartened me that Beyonce can seemingly only release music in her underwear. 

At one time this would have disqualified her as a feminist icon. But I guess feminism is struggling to find icons with mass appeal in the internet age who remain fully dressed when in public.

Hibernian Caveman
Hibernian Caveman
1 month ago

I recommend
Chapel Hart – “You Can Have Him Jolene” [OFFICIAL VIDEO] – YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lizBVO4MWFA

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

It’s cultural appropriation, innit ?
Turned on Radio 4 the other day to find someone banging on about how “racist” country music was and how it had “excluded” black people. Apprently Beyonce was doing us all a favour by exposing this …
Don’t think they mentioned Motown though. Funny that.
I like both country and Motown. Because they are what they are. And don’t make any apologies or compromises for that.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

re: cultural appropriation – As of late, Beyonce is channeling a ‘white vibe’ – the dyed blond hair, skin lightening, wearing cowboy outfits in red/white/blue, etc. It’s not clear why she’s doing this in a BLM (Black Lives Matter) moment. I am guessing it’s all about money in the end, I.e. widening her audience?

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
1 month ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

She’s also reinforcing a current trope: that black people can never ‘culturally appropriate’ because, you know – white supremacist patriarchy.

julianne kenny
julianne kenny
1 month ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Clever political influencing before next years election I think.Reviving old resentments about southern segregation and putting it firmly at the feet of southern Republican voters . Infiltrating country fans too…:) All with the best of intentions – Beyonce was voted most politically devisive song artist twice. Supports BLM, Black Panthers, all the colors of the rainbow and very much a Democrat supporter.Taylor Swift is the blonde white flip side of that coin. Some great tunes whatever your political persuasion and then the total desecration of a rarified type the American rancher..

jane baker
jane baker
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

Charlie Rich. Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Loads of others.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

cf. Loretta Lynn’s “Fist City” of 1968.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

Is there anything more tedious and overdone than the “creative” industry’s fixation on remakes. With alterations, of course. How original. How bold. How inspired. Just stop. It’s almost as boring as the bad-a$$, girl boss, she-b&*$# that is supposed to be so impressive. She’s not. She’s a male version of the over-Alpha guy that no one wants to be around. And amid all this, we get the tales of woe about the patriarchy, much like every couple in advertising is mixed race yet we live in an irredeemably racist society, two things that are wildly at odds.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Don’t you mean she’s a female version of the over-alpha guy?

Sean G
Sean G
1 month ago

Nicely done, lots of great lines. I really enjoyed this article and agree completely. If I have a single doubt about it, it would be in the form of this rhetorical question: why waste time on shit music made by dumbasses?

Charles Corn
Charles Corn
1 month ago

Brilliant. The Beyoncé cover is abysmal. The whole point of Jolene is that there used to be a country trope of fighting over men (‘You ain’t woman enough to take my man’, memorably) and Jolene inverted that.

But it reminds me of the debate over women and girls in childrens tv. The boy characters are always flawed, dumb or reckless. The girls are all ‘badass’ and save the boys from their scrapes. (See Octonauts, the most recent Thomas, even Peppa Pig’s parents). Guess what? The badass girl characters come across as tedious and vacuous and all the kids, even the girls, prefer the boys. Feminism is more better when representations of women are allowed to be complex and interesting (as women are!), not just ‘badass’ ‘girlbosses’ or whatever term is en vogue.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
1 month ago
Reply to  Charles Corn

More better?

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 month ago

Perhaps I spent too much of my life trying to figure out women, but I think the original version by Dolly was also a sly bit of self-regard. Dolly was gorgeous back then, with a voice like an angel; few men would hesitate to drop everything to follow her. But she knew that she was flawed, too. Just like the rest of us. Taking on the role of the narrator of this song was a fun sort of tease, a switch, and a show of humility, for her fans; who evidently loved her all the more for it.
Things were more complex back then.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

Dolly also has a sense of humor about herself: “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.” Perfect!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Self-deprecation is the best way to deflect criticism. But now I’m concerned that Dolly is trying to hang on too long to both her appearance and her voice. It’s always so painful to see singers unable to let go way beyond their expiration date.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 month ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Hey!!
Dolly does whatever Dolly wants!
Right!!?

jane baker
jane baker
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I love that,and,how long does it take to fix your hair? I have no idea,im never there!

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

‘Vaccine vaccine’ was the end.

LeeKC C
LeeKC C
1 month ago

I think we try to understand each other. I don’t always understand men – actually sometimes they can be a complete mystery.

jane baker
jane baker
1 month ago

Yes,no one believed Dolly was in the slightest danger of losing her man. But we also could imagine she was voicing a lesser woman’s fears too.

El Uro
El Uro
1 month ago

an awful lot of “strong female characters” these days are basically just men, but with tits.
Thank you!

jane baker
jane baker
1 month ago

Jolene is my least favourite DP song,of all time. Dolly has written so many GREAT songs,some justly famous,some undeservedly obscure,check out “I am just a country road that you keep turning down”.
This is a good analysis of the song but in my opinion Dolly deliberately chose to write a cartoonishly dumb and simple song in order to break into the much wider “pop music” genre and I’m sure she had the right industry contacts lined up,the music journos,DJs etc. Being Dolly she succeeded without losing her “country” authenticity but rocketing.her wealth,a lot of which she has recycled in good causes like books for children (in Sheffield!) and things like that. I’ll never hear Beyonce’s version,thank the Lord,but I think the late Loretta Lynn’s estate ought to get on to her as it sounds to me like shes raided (or sampled) a Lynn song, “Fist City”……if you dont let go of my man you’re going to Fist City”. Plagiarist!!!

Dominic Lyne
Dominic Lyne
1 month ago

Surely the modern woman should just say, “if you can take my man that easily then take him…. I don’t want him anyway.”. Why threaten to beat someone up for something, that is so seemingly fragile?

Maansson Hansen
Maansson Hansen
1 month ago

I recognize (sexualizing) american imperialism when I see it. We can do better. Choose your path (and clicks) wisely!

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 month ago

.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 month ago

I enjoyed this… ‘for you know some reason’. Interesting too that the archetypes of the ‘new’ feminism are caricatures of the shallowest male stereotypes, just as the ‘trans’ version of women is a hollowed out cartoon of what it is to be feminine, and nothing whatsoever to do with any real aspect of girlhood or womanhood: an insult to everyone really. As to the song itself ‘vaccine vaccine’ killed it for me.

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 month ago

Beyoncé didn’t kill Jolene, she reframed it in terms of today’s women. Nothing wrong with that. It’s helps men to understand what they might be dealing with… assuming they’ve not yet committed to the passport bro movement.

Kat L
Kat L
1 month ago

I think women have been cheated out of training by elders on how to charm to achieve the desired result. You can see it in old films, there is an art to it.

Thomas Donald
Thomas Donald
1 month ago

What a BS take. White people freaking out about Beyonce touching their beloved genres “country and western” is a bad look, Unherd. Stop chasing clicks with predictable right wing “hot takes” like this.

Gerry Quinn
Gerry Quinn
1 month ago
Reply to  Thomas Donald

I have no interest in Beyonce, but no animus against her either. I really don’t know how much I agree with this piece – maybe Dolly Parton and Beyonce would both say ‘It’s a song!!!’ – but I don’t think there is any real grinding about ‘cultural appropriation’ or whatever.

Thomas Donald
Thomas Donald
1 month ago

What a BS “hot take” gunning for clicks from panicky white folks. Unherd, you’re better than this.

Daniel P
Daniel P
1 month ago

Just saying, as a guy, I do not need or particularly want a woman who is a bad ass b***h in my life.

Strong? Absolutely.

But that is not the same thing.

Bowness Nigel
Bowness Nigel
1 month ago

and yet back in the time of ‘Jolene’ Loretta Lynn had a big hit with ‘Fist City’ among others of the same ilk.

Duane M
Duane M
1 month ago

an awful lot of “strong female characters” these days are basically just men, but with tits.

Yeah, that sums it up very well. Feminism is by its nature a reaction to the pre-existing dynamic of male-female relationships, which usually fall into the category of “patriarchal sexism”, in which women were dominated and suppressed by their male partners.
Feminism as an ideology, as far as I can tell, has always been a reaction against an attitude rather than the expression of positive vision for what healthy male-female relationships might look like. A vision that would require positive ideas of masculinity and femininity. What we get instead is contempt for status-quo masculine stereotypes and also contempt for status-quo feminine stereotypes. That does not provide any basis for what healthy femininity would look like.
As such, feminism falls naturally into the trap of seeking the attributes of the perceived power-holding oppressor (men), so the goal becomes to displace men from their dominant position, with the expectation that women will behave better just because they are women.
But as we observe, over and over, the outcome is that those women behave just as badly as men did. They are, as the author aptly puts it, men with tits.
And this also tells you something important about men, which is that the badly behaving men in dominant positions of power do so, not so much because they are male but because the dynamics of the system encourage that behaviour.
In other words, it ain’t so much about the sex of the participants, it’s more about the messed-up social-economic system in which we find ourselves living. Trading places does not change the system.