How Country Music Helped Me Come Out

Maddie-and-Tae
Maddie and Tae: More attractive than the men they sing about 

Around two years ago I was in a miserable situation, closeted, self-hating, and dating an abusive man who had long ago given up on being nice to me; he’d figured out he only had to get my son to like him and I’d feel sufficiently trapped. It worked for years. I was getting to the point where I couldn’t cope anymore. I needed a change or I was afraid I’d end my life. I started to hear about “misandry”, the fevered day dream of whining men or else a feminist joke. But I latched onto it as more, as a way of life.

I’d been putting men first in my life for so long, I needed to know the alternative was an option. I was at the same time trying to kind of reclaim my Southern roots from my cult leading grandma, who always acted like she owned the South and was the arbiter of who was and wasn’t Southern enough. I made a playlist of country women artists, that quickly morphed into a curated set of “country misandry” songs, sung by women who’d grown up in similar trailer parks to the one I did, who knew all the rules for Southern gentility and domesticity, and were done taking shit from men.

I still have that playlist and I still listen to it when I need to be reminded that women like me can kick ass, can be independent, can tell men to go fuck themselves and sell a gold record after. I needed some spunk and spitfire, and that was where I found it. I can’t promise the following songs will speak to you the way they have for me, because your roots may look very different. For me, it was nice to hear a feminist message from the women I’d always been told weren’t “too much”. Bad girls with long hair and Sunday school teacher credentials, like me.

The following songs fall into a few categories: songs about abuse, songs that are unimpressed with men, and songs about leaving when you’re miserable. They were exactly what I needed to hear, each in their own way. 

“Independence Day” by Martina McBride has in its chorus about a mother turning on her abuser (and presumably killing him) “Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning.” That’s such a good, strong, Biblical word. In the Biblical culture of the South, claiming that term for an aggrieved woman is satisfying. Note: the video has bruise makeup on the woman’s face which some may find upsetting.

Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead” continues this theme, this time from the perspective of a woman who knows her abuser who she has left is coming back to hurt her. She grabs a six pack, a cigarette, and her shotgun and waits for him, ready. “His fist is big, but my gun’s bigger.”

Banned-from-country-radio artists and heroes The Dixie Chicks evoke strong memories of Fried Green Tomatoes with their downright cheerful song bidding farewell to the definitely deceased abuser in “Goodbye Earl”. He’s killed by his victim and her BFF and they don’t get sent to jail like the poor mom in our first song. “It turned out he was a missing person who nobody missed at all.”

Shania Twain leads off our unimpressed with men subcategory with the appropriately named “That Don’t Impress Me Much”. This one I actually knew since high school, so in addition to the fun of the song I get some happy memories of singing this with girl friends way back when. I always wonder how Angelina Jolie feels about the line “So you’re Brad Pitt, that don’t impress me much.” Also fun? That flawless 90s cheetah print ensemble.

Maddie and Tae are the epitome of country misandry artists. “Girl In a Country Song” specifically calls out and mocks the lyrics of popular male country artists and the video puts a couple of good ole boys in some cut off overalls and crop tops to see how they like it.

Ahem. The feelings I have about Carrie Underwood’s thighs in the video for “Cowboy Casanova” are not heterosexual feelings. I think I’d forgotten what attraction felt like in nearly ten years of dating only three men, none of whom I can stand now. Carrie is definitely not impressed with this man’s debaucherous ways.

The lead singer of The Band Perry isn’t taking any shit in “You Lie” which has such delightful metaphors as “you lie like a penny on the parking lot at the grocery store”.

Some songs are just plain unapologetic. “Hell on Heels” by the Pistol Annies turns accusations of being gold diggers on their heads and promises “Sugar Daddy, I’m coming for you” with a note of menace.

Leann Rimes’ “Crazy Women” places the blame for “crazy women, ex-wives and old girlfriends” on the men who drove them mad. “He cheats and lies, then plays the victim. He don’t know why they always seem to pick him.”

Classic country artists represent in this genre too. Country legend Loretta Lynn, who was also banned from country radio for her rousing endorsement of birth control in “The Pill” makes this playlist for “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)”. She gives him an ultimatum I can remember well, “leave the bottle or me behind.”

Seriously unimpressed Lorrie Morgan asks some flat questions in “What Part of No (Don’t You Understand)?”

Linda Rondstadt is ready to write off the subject of her song entirely in “You’re No Good”. This is also the first of many songs that overlaps “sick of his shit” and “leaving his ass” categories.

 

Starting off the songs about leaving, “Little Bird” by folk country artist Kasey Chambers is quietly heartbreaking, and helped me understand exactly what kind of man I was living with. “I don’t want you that bad” was exactly how I was feeling about someone who waned constant sacrifice from me in the name of making things work.

 

“My Give a Damn’s Busted” by Jo Dee Messina gave me some of the permission I felt I needed to stop mopping him his emotional messes and trying to fix him.

Faith Hill’s slow ballad “I Aint Gonna Take It Anymore” reminded me that I’m allowed to want more than survival in my living.

What can I say about “If I Were a Boy?” Whether we’re talking about Beyonce’s version, Reba McEntire’s cover, or BC Jean’s original, this song turned me gay. This was the song I was listening to at the moment I realized I am a lesbian and I have no desire for a boy who “understands how it feels to love a girl” but I would very much like to be the “better man” a woman finds after leaving the dissatisfaction of “just a boy”.

This was the playlist that got me out of the closet. Country Misandry did what a performing arts school and nights at gay clubs couldn’t. It helped me not just accept my attraction to women, but my objections to men as partners too. It opened doors the artists probably never intended to. But it makes me feel stronger, and that’s worthwhile.

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One thought on “How Country Music Helped Me Come Out

  1. Thanks for sharing the playlist. Me and country music……hmmmm, well there have been times when I’ve been more offended by it than by gangster rap :/ I do have country music in my collection though. Types of it. I have a Linda Ronstadt compilation and I recently bought Car Wheels on a Gravel Road by Lucinda Williams. I’m happy to see Australian Kasey Chambers in this list. She did a duet with fellow Aussie Paul Kelly who I like.

    There are a bunch of songs that have a woman telling off (presumably)a man that I like. “Harden My Heart” by Quarterflash(1981), “I Could Be Happy” by Altered Images(1982), “Birmingham” by Amanda Marshall(1995), “I Am, I Feel” by Alisha’s Attic(1996).

    Like

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