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“Penis Envy”

Posted by purplemary54 on March 8, 2012

In honor of International Women’s Day, a little feminist ditty.

You might not think a song about penises is feminist.  That means you never listened to the Dr. Demento show.  Dr. D. used to play this song by a group called Uncle Bonsai on a regular basis.  Novelty songs are usually just funny (or not, depending on your sense of humor).  But sometimes, as with Wil Rogers, Mark Twain, and Saturday Night Live in the 70s, humor is used to make a point.  I think humor is the best way to get your point across.  People are more receptive to learning when they’re laughing.  Some of my best teachers were also really funny people (maybe not stand-up funny, but good enough for a classroom).  And as with the best satire, you don’t realize you’ve been taught a lesson until the very end of the song.

The theme to “Penis Envy” (such as it is) is a girl imagining the increasingly ridiculous things she’d do if she had a penis.  They run from silly to logical to sly to utterly improbable.  Just how does one take a penis to “pet shows and teach it to stay”?  The women singing are really having a good time: you can hear the smiles in their voices.  The ideas slowly become more and more pointed, although it’s not obvious at first.  There are lines about bragging with the boys about (presumably) the size of her penis.  She’d “run to my mother, comb out the hair and compare it to brother.”  The chorus is especially revealing: “A penis to plunder, a penis to push, cause one in the hand is worth one in the bush.  A penis to love me, a penis to share.  To pick up and play with when nobody’s there.”  The song reveals the level of narcissism and entitlement that many men feel simply because they have male genitalia.

I don’t believe all men are like this (I have a number of male friends who, if they don’t actively call themselves feminists, believe in women’s equality).  But true equality is still a dream (and if you don’t believe that, look up some of the stuff Rick Santorum has been saying on the campaign trail).  Sexism is still so institutionalized in this country (kind of like racism).  And feminist has become a dirty word (kind of like liberal).  Women the world over suffer from sexism and misogyny.  Men everywhere are afraid of what might happen if women had control over their own lives.  With good reason, IMO; I think many women would realize that they don’t need men for much beyond having children–if women had the education, financial means, and political agency they deserved as just over half the world’s population.

Back to the song.  Because “Penis Envy” is about what a woman could do if she had the ultimate symbol of male agency, what a woman could do if she were treated equally in this society.  But you don’t fully realize it until the end: “If I had a penis I’d climb every mountain.  I’d force it on females, I’d pee like a fountain.  If I had a penis I’d still be a girl.  But I’d make much more money and conquer the world.”

Which is probably exactly what men are afraid of.


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