I listen to mainstream radio while driving because I am 100 years old, which means I hear the same songs over and over and over again. Some I don’t mind. Others annoy me greatly yet are virtually impossible to avoid.
Rude, by Canadian pop-reggae band MAGIC! (yes, it’s spelled in all caps and with an exclamation mark because originality) is currently one of those annoying songs played on every station ALL THE TIME. It’s bothersome mainly because of its lyrics.
The song’s premise concerns a young man who decides to ask his girlfriend’s father for permission to propose marriage, something that remains a popular tradition for many folks in our culture, and it plays out like a conversation, with the lead singer switching back and forth between the two characters’ voices.
Spoiler alert: I am not a fan of this tradition.
The act of asking a woman’s father for her hand in marriage prior to popping the Big Question to her is just one of a vast number of gross patriarchal customs related to marriage. (Indeed, though I have been known to enjoy a wedding – especially when an open bar is involved – I find the whole concept of marriage and all the details that go along with it to be highly problematic.
This particular custom serves to reinforce the notion of women as chattel, i.e., possessions to be passed along from original owner to new owner as said owners see fit (see also: the equally offensive tradition that is a woman’s father ‘giving her away’ during a wedding ceremony).
Also not cool is the message such an act sends about the importance — or lack thereof — that our society places on a woman’s agency over, what is ostensibly, a fairly big life choice.
Shouldn’t she be one of the people deciding whether or not she is getting married? (THAT IS A HYPOTHETICAL QUESTION.) Like, what if Daddy-o says no? Is she then not ‘allowed’ to exercise her own free will?
Lucky for us, MAGIC! explores THIS EXACT SCENARIO!
Rude begins on a Saturday morning.
“Jumped out of bed and put on my best suit,” recounts our hero.
“Got in my car and raced like a jet, all the way to you.
Knocked on your door with heart in my hand
To ask you a question.”
Now at this point you might think that he’s talking about showing up on the doorstep of the woman he loves. BUT THE JOKE’S ON YOU BECAUSE HE’S ACTUALLY TALKING ABOUT HER DAD.
A dad, he notes, who is “an old-fashioned man.” (It’s unclear as to whether that’s supposed to be a compliment or just a neutral observation or what.)
Asks the would-be groom: “Can I have your daughter for the rest of my life? Say yes, say yes, ’cause I need to know.”
Things don’t go well.
“You say I’ll never get your blessing ’til the day I die
Tough luck, my friend, but the answer is no!”
Note whose voice is missing in this riveting exchange. Note, too, the specific word choice used and what it tells us about our culture’s understanding of gender roles; who gets to have power and who gets to play silent partner on the sidelines.
Dude is asking to “have” another human being for the rest of his life. Everything is framed in the context of what he wants, when and for how long. Why, it’s as if the woman’s wants — sorry, the “girl’s” wants (God forbid she be granted adult status in this pop-reggae fairytale) – doesn’t even register!
Clearly, when it comes to a man and a woman getting engaged, consulting with the woman is not necessary. No, this is between a man and another man. IMPORTANT MAN BUSINESS.
When continuing to listen to Rude with feminist ears, the song’s chorus is ridiculous:
“Why you gotta be so rude?
Don’t you know I’m human too?
Why you gotta be so rude?
I’m gonna marry her anyway.”
HIS FEE-FEES ARE HURT, EVERYONE. DOESN’T THIS MEAN DAD REALIZE THAT HE’S A HUMAN BEING WITH DESIRES?! WELL FUCK YOU DAD CAUSE THIS DUDE IS JUST GOING TO MARRY ‘HIS’ GIRL ANYWAY. SO THERE.
The kick in the snapper is that Rude is presented as a love song. (Certainly, it’s portrayed as such in the video. (Warning: it is a terrible video.)
Call me a humourless feminist (GO ON I DARE YOU) but I don’t find scenarios like this one romantic in the slightest.