Monday, 5 May 2008

Misogynistic Lyrics

Apologies for the slight obsession with posting lyrics of late. It's simply that I have a couple of books of lyrics in my bag at the moment and it's been years since I've looked at them properly. They seem like perfect material for a blog-post; short, sweet and usually focussed enough for a brief but not over-complex discussion. Here's today's lyric (again from Luria and Hoffman):

A yong wyf and an harvest-gos,
Moche gagil with bothe;
A man that hath them in his clos,
Reste schal he wrothe.

I must (with shame) admit a certain affection for lyrics of the misogynistic variety. Lyrics against women, like the above, seem very human (or very male?). They communicate a very domestic sort of sexism. I wrote a little once on the use of Latin in bi-lingual texts to exclude women (lyrics of the Cuius contrarium verum est variety), and again found myself much more amused than perhaps I should have been.

So why do I find myself enjoying these poems so much? Am I a closet sexist? I think perhaps these lyrics contain something more than what we now call sexism. They sound like private complaints, like the basic humour of the changing room. In these lyrics you hear men speaking to one another, and of course complaining about women. Men's complaints about women have not disappeared - but a major source of modern comedy tends to be women's complaints against men (think of What Women Want). There are plenty of complaints against men in medieval literature, but I am yet to find one which is funny. Perhaps the reason is this; humour stems from experience, indeed from shared experience, and medieval complaints against men are rarely written by men, but rather are the imagined female complaints of male writers.

So my hunt begins, are there any funny medieval complaints against men? Have I over-looked anything obvious (apart from the Wife of Bath)?