If Taylor Swift is boy-crazy, is Dylan’s ‘Idiot Wind’ confessional?

Taylor Swift is a great writer, yet lately, the media seems determined to trivialize her lyrics as “boy-crazy” and “confessional.” Huh, I thought lots of artists, including, believe it or not,  males, wrote about love and break-ups.


I read all over the internet about how Taylor Swift humiliated herself in April’s Vanity Fair. I finally bought it and to my surprise, the actual piece is so great, I gave it to my nine year old daughter to read. (April’s Vanity Fair is great for kids. There’s a good piece on Malala Yousafzai and also one on Sheryl Sandberg, both which my daughter read.)

What I love about the VF article on Swift is that it makes clear what a driven, hard worker she is:

Watching her rehearse that day, it became clear that Swift works incredibly hard. While her band– which she commands in a friendly, laid back way– was taking a break, she continued practicing, playing songs on her guitar and piano, and going over sound issues with her soundman. “I’m the type of person, I have to study to get an A on the test,” she would tell me later. “I have to work really hard to get that record deal– I have to spend years at it to get good. I have to practice to be good at guitar. I have to write 100 songs before I write one good one.

I would’ve bribed Swift to convey that exact message to my perfectionist, easily frustrated daughter. But, lucky me, no bribery needed and my ethics remain intact.

In another part I love, Swift says:

For a female to write about her feelings and then be portrayed as some clingy, insane, desperate girlfriend …that’s taking it and turning it and twisting it into something that is frankly a little sexist.


This from the woman who says she’s not a feminist. But as I wrote about it then, she is 23 year old. Look at her actions, not what she calls herself. I am so glad she said this. It is SO sexist. For God’s sake, Eminem writes incessantly about break-ups, not to mention classic stars like the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Would anyone ever call Dylan, the great poet, “confessional?” Or any male artist girl-crazy? Is that even a term?

Check out the lyrics of “Idiot Wind” rumored to be about Dylan’s wife Sara. Does this song remind you of anyone younger and blonder?

Someone’s got it in for me, they’re planting stories in the press
Whoever it is I wish they’d cut it out quick but when they will I can only guess
They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy
She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me
I can’t help it if I’m lucky.

People see me all the time and they just can’t remember how to act
Their minds are filled with big ideas, images and distorted facts
Even you yesterday you had to ask me where it was at
I couldn’t believe after all these years you didn’t know even me better than that
Sweet lady.

Idiot wind blowing every time your move your mouth
Blowing down the backroads heading south
Idiot wind blowing every time you move your teeth
You’re an idiot babe
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe

I ran into the fortune-teller who said beware of lightning that might strike
I haven’t known peace and quit for so long I can’t remember what it’s like
There’s a lone soldier on the cross smoke pouring out of a boxcar door
You didn’t know it you didn’t think it could be done in the final end he won the wars
After losing every battle.

I woke up on the roadside daydreaming about the way things sometimes are
Visions of your chestnut mare shoot through my head and are making me see stars
You hurt the ones that I love best and cover up the truth with lies
One day you’ll be in the ditch, flies buzzing around your eyes
Blood on your saddle.

Idiot wind blowing through the flowers on your tomb
Blowing through the curtains in your room
Idiot wind blowing every time you move your teeth
You’re an idiot babe
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

It was gravity which pulled us down and destiny which broke us apart
You tamed the lion in my cage but it just wasn’t enough to change my heart
Now everything’s a little upside down, as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped
What’s good is bad what’s bad is good you’ll find out when you reach the top
You’re on the bottom.I noticed at the ceremony, your corrupt ways had finally made you blind
I can’t remember your face anymore, your mouth has changed your eyes don’t look
Into mine
The priest wore black on the seventh day and sat stone faced while the
Building burned
I waited for you on the running boards, near the cypress trees while the
Springtime turned
Slowly into autumn.

Idiot wind blowing like a circle around my skull
From the Grand Coulee Dam to Capitol
Idiot wind blowing every time you move you teeth
You’re an idiot babe.
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

I can’t feel you anymore, I can’t even touch the books you’ve read
Every time I crawl past your door, I been wishing I was somebody else instead
Down the highway down the tracks down the road to ecstasy
I followed you beneath the stars hounded by your memory
And all you raging glory.

I been double-crossed now for the very last time and now I’m finally free
I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline which separated you from me
You’ll never know the hurt I suffered not the pain I raise above
And I’ll never know the same about you your holiness or your kind of love
And it makes me feel so sorry.

Idiot wind blowing through the buttons of our coats
Blowing through the letters that we wrote
Idiot wind blowing through the dust upon our shelves
We’re idiots babe
It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves.

I Prefer My Misogyny Straight Up

For those of you who think I am pro-censorship, I’m posting something I wrote years ago about Eminem. I wrote this when I was talk radio producer for KGO and the male radio hosts were upset about Eminem’s lyrics.

I am more into parent education than I was when I wrote this. Though then and now, I didn’t think Eminem was good for little kids. What annoyed me so much back then is the same thing as today– protestors who normally don’t care much about sexism or women focusing on the wrong issue, the way Eminem described inequality instead of actual inequality. I remain passionately committed to helping women get into a position where they can tell their own stories.

This op-ed is from sfgate.com. I hope its not illegal to post the whole thing but I can’t believe they’d really care. Here it is.

‘I prefer my misogyny straight up’
Wednesday, July 12, 2000

I LIKE hip-hop music. I know I’m not supposed to because so many of the songs have horrifyingly violent, sexist or homophobic lyrics.

Hip-hop is also the most innovative thing to happen to music in a long time.

When you compare hip-hop to its biggest rival for domination of the music charts – the corporate-created Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, and pop-princess clones Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera – rappers/producers like Dr. Dre and Method Man are infinitely more talented. Hip-hop is captivating precisely because it tells a story, overlaying lyrics on top of familiar backbeats, creating songs that are at once new and familiar.

The story hip-hop tells may be disturbing or degrading, but that’s no reason to shun it. As art has always done, hip-hop describes our times, exposing a sometimes ugly world – of drugs, sexism, poverty and violence – that middle-class America may prefer to hide away.

In the ’60s, Bob Dylan enraged those who upheld the status quo. Today, we have a whole new slew of musical poets.

Just like they did with Dylan, the older generation asks, “How can you listen to this awful music? There’s no melody! And those lyrics!”

Baby boomers protest that THEIR songs were about peace and love, while hip-hop celebrates killing and humiliates women.

But surely rock ‘n’ roll stars have never been known for their kindness to women. The Rolling Stones cranked out hits like “Under My Thumb,” “Brown Sugar” and “Little T & A,” sneered through lyrics like “You make a dead man come” and glorified violence in songs like “Midnight Rambler.”

Sexual violence in lyrics wasn’t limited to bad boy bands either. Old peaceniks Jerry Garcia and Neil Young sang songs like “Down by the River” about murdering a lover. Ever since Elvis shook his pelvis, music has shocked, and the older generation just didn’t get it.

Critics charge that hip-hop crosses a line, most recently fingering rap sensation Eminem, who sings about raping his mother and slicing up his wife in front of their daughter.

But Freudians would tell you Eminem’s mother rage and sexual fantasies are pure id, the uncensored subconscious struggling for self expression. The views of Sigmund Freud, of course, are infamous for his distorted views on women, though that doesn’t stop us from studying him in our best educational institutions. Nor should it.

Hip-hop may be more shocking and graphic than your run-of-the-mill shapers of Western thought, but I prefer my misogyny straight up. Movies like “Pretty Woman,” in which Julia Roberts plays a prostitute with a heart of gold, may be prettier packaging, but if you think women are “hos,” just tell me so.

Tales of sex and violence aren’t limited to male artists. “Goodbye Earl” by the Dixie Chicks and Macy Gray’s “I Committed Murder,” two recent hits by women artists, both detail violent killings with unrestrained glee. Angry young women muttering obscenities include Alanis Morissette, Courtney Love and Ani DiFranco.

Nor is disdain for men by women artists a new fad. Sylvia Plath, the late poet and darling of ’60s English lit majors, famously compared male genitalia to turkey necks and gizzards. Never one to shy away from sex or violence, she once said she “eats men like air.”

The difference, of course, is when women say these things, it really is just art. Because men are the guys with power, their expressions of domination, violence and sexual exploitation contribute to a culture where women really are forced into limited categories of queens or hos, where masculinity is defined by how many babes you score, and where women often are left powerless and exploited.

But sanitizing music is just shooting the messenger; it can’t transform a sexist culture. Warning stickers on CD covers are no protection from the deeply entrenched social realities that hip-hop pushes right in your face.

Women won’t feel threatened by lyrics when they overcome real inequities and get real power. Women will then be too busy making art and making deals to waste time wondering if they should side with the radical right, clamoring to keep obscenities out of Wal-Mart.