In popular music mythology Thin Lizzy are iconic. Sitting in a bar on an Austrian mountainside, the instructor picked up a guitar and played the opening bars of ‘Whiskey in the Jar’. He stared at me, ‘You know this, of course’.
Of course, I knew it. Of course, I had heard it, and other Thin Lizzy songs, played countless times. Of course, somewhere among my album collection there is at least one by Thin Lizzy. Lead singer Phil Lynott is a legendary figure; even if he hadn’t died years before his time, he would have been a legendary figure.
To question the attitude behind Thin Lizzy lyrics seems tantamount to heresy, a questioning of the integrity of a venerable institution, but, on International Women’s Day, listening to the words of ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’ prompted thoughts about the stuff we accept without even thinking.
The past is another country, they certainly did things differently there, but when the song, recorded in 1976, has been played, never once have I ever heard the presenter ever ask a question about whether it’s OK to treat women as objects; objects of sexual desire or objects of humour if they presume to reject male sexual advances. If that’s not what is going on here, then I have misheard the lyrics for almost four decades:
You know that chick that used to dance a lot?
Every night she’d be on the floor, shaking what she’d got
Man, when I tell you she was cool, she was red hot,
I mean she was steaming.
And that time over at Johnny’s place,
Well, this chick got up and she slapped Johnny’s face,
Man, we just fell about the place
If that chick don’t want to know, forget her
So, Johnny’s behaviour, that has prompted a violent response, is acceptable and the woman’s objection is a cause for hilarity? What subliminal message has been conveyed by decades of this stuff? If we can accept such sentiments without question, what else gets under the radar?
In those far off days, maybe even still, there were double standards in language used to describe behaviour, one of the ‘boys’ who had a string of relationships was ‘a bit of a lad’, a girl behaving similarly was a ‘slut’. Did anyone ever hear of males being described so pejoratively?
Asking questions is not about feminism or sexism or any other -ism, it’s about human dignity. If we respected human dignity, there would be no need for international days.