July 17, 2008

"But I'm still an embryo/With a long, long way to go."

For some reason I didn't reflexively change the channel when Helen Reddy singing "I Am Woman" came on the radio today, and I even listened to the lyrics, something I probably hadn't done since the 70s. (I've always considered this song annoying and embarrassing.) I was amazed by the line "But I'm still an embryo/With a long, long way to go." Here's this big old feminist anthem, and the woman is calling herself an embryo.

IN THE COMMENTS: Invoking the most well-known line in the song — "I am woman, hear me roar" — Amba writes:
A roaring embryo? That is grotesque.

Actually it explains something about the psychology of abortion: the unready (unReddy?) pregnant woman feels she is in competition with the embryo because she herself has not yet had a chance to fully develop. It's a question of whether she is expected to abort her own development and step aside and put that new embryo at the center. It's indignation at all those thousands of years when it was rarely considered important or even permissible for girls to develop their own gifts and interests, and when at best they had to subordinate doing so to being mothers. It's a making up for lost time kind of thing. (This is the other side of the story, which I can also understand.)
Brillliant. I write that before reading the next comment, from Victoria:
Brilliant!
She goes on:
It's a making up for lost time kind of thing.

Maybe I'm missing the gene which allows people to think in these terms, but this is just absurd.

If you're going to live your life based on a quasi-revenge factor, then don't be surprised if others do too. A man might think: hey, you know the millions of women throughout the ages who suckered men into marriage by getting pregnant?

Guess what ladies? It's payback time today!

Then Maureen Dowd wonders why she can't get a man.
Amba responds:
Hadn't thought of it as revenge -- more a sort of plaintive "Hey, what about me? It's MY turn!" -- but now that you mention it, hmmm. In some of the stories on I'm Not Sorry, e.g., there is a lot of rage, as if the embryo were a parasite that had attacked the woman.

But e.g. this song, it's definitely competitive. "I want to be the one at the center of attention. I want to be the one that's celebrated and anticipated and nurtured. I want to nurture ME!"
chuck b. said:
It's amusing to think that somewhere in the American midwest, today a radio station played "I Am Woman".

Maybe it was a dream.
It amuses me to think that you take comfort in consigning the playing of "I Am Woman" to a place in the "American midwest." I was listening to a channel called 70s on 7 on XM satellite radio.

He actually throws this on top:
Did the masculine women of the American midwest with their tight perms and mom jeans unite in choral joy?
Now, that's just irksome. It irks reader_iam (who lives in Iowa). (I think chuck's in San Francisco.) (Reddy was Australian.) Reader:
Why the "Midwest"? ... [I]t's clear I'm missing something. What is it? That's an actual question. Are either of you willing to plainly state an answer?
Chuck tries to answer:
Why midwest? Well, A-house was driving there, and that song came on, and I thought, Women of the midwest, unite! But there is kind of a jokey-understanding in America about midwestern women being manlyesque, having tight perms, wearing mom jeans.

I'm playing with a crude stereotype, that's all. I could play it with people in other places too.

I don't want to be cruel; I just want to offend. Sarah Silverman is, like, my girlfriend. And she would be my girlfriend if she wasn't with that Jimmy guy, and if I wasn't gay. And if was a lot funnier and more intelligent and Jewy than I really am.

A childhood spent reading Penthouse Letters taught me the other stereotype about midwestern girls... they all attend large midwestern universities and have long, honey-blond hair and tanned, pert little titties.

It's all good.

57 comments:

Chip Ahoy said...

That is extremely weird. You could have aborted it while it was still a blob.

ROLLAND BANKER said...

a pyschic ghost borne on the wings of a song...hiding (out in the open) the unspeakable, the irrepressible, the very human and biological imprint of our paradoxical nature in melodious air...

I heard the song a thousand times as kid, but this is the first time it kind of shocked me...

One of those thousand natural shocks the flesh is heir to...

Ron said...

Wow, I saw the post title, and thought 'Is that a line in Van Halen's "Just a Gigolo"?'

losergrrl said...

Oh, for the love of God, not another thread with embryos in it!

Helen Reddy!?  Is she still alive?  I already think of her as being an embryo in her next life.

vbspurs said...

Helen Reddy!? Is she still alive

Funny anecdote about this.

There's a chi-chi bookstore in Coral Gables that, for whatever reason, had two huge TOWERS of Helen Reddy's recent autobiography just as you entered.

I was standing nearby when middle-aged guys walked in, did a double take, and said in not-so-hushed tones:

"Wow. I don't think there's going to be a run on Helen Reddy's book any time soon."

I think Reddy is one of those hyper-feminist women from the 70s guys would just as soon forget. Hello, Germaine Greer.

Cheers,
Victoria

Meade said...

I Am Woman lyrics that got revised:

I am pre-Roe v Wade
And I'm wearing macramé

I've a thong
I am an embryo
I am roaring on the floor lamenting my bell-bottoms off

Seven Machos said...

Is this irony? Or is this more like rain on your wedding day?

I defer to the experts.

reader_iam said...

So shoot me, Althouse (really, why not?): Helen Reddy singing"You and Me Against the World" to Kermit the Frog.

May or may not be in reference to her young children amidst what early on was a, shall we say, difficult marriage.

reader_iam said...

FROM early on ...

chuck b. said...

It's amusing to think that somewhere in the American midwest, today a radio station played "I Am Woman".

Maybe it was a dream.

chuck b. said...

Did the masculine women of the American midwest with their tight perms and mom jeans unite in choral joy?

vbspurs said...

Mom jeans, Keds, and lighting a ciggie

Heh.

reader_iam said...

chuck b:

Why the "Midwest"? That seems sorta weird, and now, given Victoria's comment (which I read after starting this one), it's clear I'm missing something. What is it? That's an actual question. Are either of you willing to plainly state an answer?

vbspurs said...

Don't ask me. First time I heard it, hence my Googling the photo.

However, I love it! "Mom jeans". Teehee.

amba said...

A roaring embryo? That is grotesque.

Actually it explains something about the psychology of abortion: the unready (unReddy?) pregnant woman feels she is in competition with the embryo because she herself has not yet had a chance to fully develop. It's a question of whether she is expected to abort her own development and step aside and put that new embryo at the center. It's indignation at all those thousands of years when it was rarely considered important or even permissible for girls to develop their own gifts and interests, and when at best they had to subordinate doing so to being mothers. It's a making up for lost time kind of thing. (This is the other side of the story, which I can also understand.)

vbspurs said...

(unReddy?)

Brilliant!

It's a making up for lost time kind of thing.

Maybe I'm missing the gene which allows people to think in these terms, but this is just absurd.

If you're going to live your life based on a quasi-revenge factor, then don't be surprised if others do too. A man might think: hey, you know the millions of women throughout the ages who suckered men into marriage by getting pregnant?

Guess what ladies? It's payback time today!

Then Maureen Dowd wonders why she can't get a man.

Cheers,
Victoria

amba said...

Hadn't thought of it as revenge -- more a sort of plaintive "Hey, what about me? It's MY turn!" -- but now that you mention it, hmmm. In some of the stories on I'm Not Sorry, e.g., there is a lot of rage, as if the embryo were a parasite that had attacked the woman.

amba said...

But e.g. this song, it's definitely competitive. "I want to be the one at the center of attention. I want to be the one that's celebrated and anticipated and nurtured. I want to nurture ME!"

reader_iam said...

Amba: FWIW, I did put in a (very brief, though direct) word, in the form of a question, encouraging people to actually read your essays. I read them at the time; I re-read them in the interim when, at another point in time, they came up; and--yes--I re-read them again, every word, this time.

If my saying all that gets even one more person who's been following the latest discussions here but hasn't read them to click over, I won't have wasted the space taken up by this comment. It's not a matter of proselytizing the POV. It's a matter of reading the development of the POV; exploring what the POV is, regardless of inclination toward or against it, much less agreement or disagreement with it; and, oh, just truly respecting that there ARE different explorations and POVS, thus rejecting the notion that entertaining opposing views are somehow contaminating (even dangerous?).

Eh, another not-so-concise comment. So it goes. But maybe a person or two will overlook that and get the point.

chuck b. said...

Why midwest? Well, A-house was driving there, and that song came on, and I thought, Women of the midwest, unite! But there is kind of a jokey-understanding in America about midwestern women being manlyesque, having tight perms, wearing mom jeans.

I'm playing with a crude stereotype, that's all. I could play it with people in other places too.

I don't want to be cruel; I just want to offend. Sarah Silverman is, like, my girlfriend. And she would be my girlfriend if she wasn't with that Jimmy guy, and if I wasn't gay. And if was a lot funnier and more intelligent and Jewy than I really am.

A childhood spent reading Penthouse Letters taught me the other stereotype about midwestern girls... they all attend large midwestern universities and have long, honey-blond hair and tanned, pert little titties.

It's all good.

chuck b. said...

My revised take on the Project Runway season premier.

Speaking of legs, Heidi Klum's legs seemed uncommonly muscly last night. Like she's been riding bike marathons lately.

And there's a designer-competitor who's apparently going to wear shorts the whole time. I didn't care enough to pause the DVR, but a casual viewing suggests that he does NOT have the right legs to pull off constant shorts. Worse, I think his name is Wesley. His garment, made of different yellow things, shown fleetingly, was interesting.

The producers telegraph who they're going to keep around by letting the viewers get to know them a little better than the others. That viewer-designer relationship drives the show into it's five furious episodes.

This season, we're getting to know Blayne, which is too bad because he fake tans, and I won't be able to get past that with him. I want him whacked. Whacked--not whacked off.

I also did not care for Korto who got props for using tomatoes and lettuce on her gown. This is the first time they've returned to the grocery store for garment materials since the fabulously fey Austin Scarlett's model sashayed down the runway wearing his with his corn husk dress, and the rest is history. Apparently, judging by the judges' remarks, if they take you to the grocery store, they expect you to use the fucking produce.

I give Korto props for actually slicing open the tomatoes and putting that risk of sludge on her garment--on the first episode.

Moving on.

I would have liked Kenley more if she hadn't worn red and yellow together. She wore a red dress and a fake yellow flower-thing in her hair). People should do not wear red and yellow together unless they work at McDonalds. Period.

Stella reminded me of the creatively talented, emotionally damaged people that I hung out with in the late 1980s. She's my early favorite.

Kelli, the winner, deserved to win for her stained and dyed vaccuum cleaner bag skirt. It was lovely and marbled-looking. The burnt coffee filter bustier left me cold, but what-evs.

My favorite article was Terri's hand-woven mop-head sweater.

Jerry, the loser's serial killer raincoat (with yellow dish gloves--nice! Very Dexter.) was just that vital bit more appalling than Leanne's marzipan-stippled poofball of a skirt that made the model look fat, so fat as to be deformed. Alas, she wasn't even in the bottom two. No accounting for taste.

The plastic cup dress was cool and that guy's a contender but I didn't catch his name. Also, the model was totally hot and perfect for the dress, pulling just the right Helmut Newton cards to make it vital.

The judges seemed recently roused from their cryogenic sleep and put in position just before taping began. There is nothing notable about them to say here except that Nina Garcia's job title has changed, but s'all on Wikipedia my friends.

This bunch of designers seem ready to let it rip and get nasty in ways we haven't seen since Amy Pepper. Jerrell and Korto will be right at the center of it. The two freshfaced drippy white girls will be out by the half-way mark. Only the strong will survivie.

I think Kelly might win.

rhhardin said...

Synchronism, transcript of an old Imus sportscast with Mike Breen, that starts with I Am Woman, reporting on ladies' golf.

hmm transcript

That was back before I had RealEncoder to save the audio. It's instructive to try to produce exact transcripts, by the way. You really don't hear the dysfluencies that you want to transcribe, even when trying very hard to do so.

rhhardin said...

the unready (unReddy?) pregnant woman feels she is in competition with the embryo because she herself has not yet had a chance to fully develop.

She wants to be the center of some man's attention. The man has to be tested for whether he can do this : can he be a knight in shining armour, which includes responding to her moods correctly and listening to how her cat is psychic.

A man is happy to do this provided she shows she's satisfied with him, so it all works out, through a series of displacements, with each actually loving the other.

A baby interferes with the initial step, of finding a man.

Her need to develop completely is a female mood; guys don't have it. Guys just do what they do without commentary.

Moods are to test men with.

rhhardin said...

The Obama keeps on giving

Throughout our history, America's confronted constantly evolving danger, from the oppression of an empire, to the lawlessness of the frontier, from the bomb that fell on Pearl Harbor, to the threat of nuclear annihilation. Americans have adapted to the threats posed by an ever-changing world.

via Tim Blair

sure to be an internet all-time hit.

blake said...

The bomb that fell on Pearl Harbor?

Was there one really bad one?

MadisonMan said...

I was not a big fan of that song in the 70s. Being a teenager, I changed the words to But I'm still so embryonic, and I wrote this song moronic. Of course, the next line doesn't really fit in then, but that wasn't the point.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Was it over when that German bombed Pearl Harbor?

(Seriously, it could just be a typo for "bombs".)

Pogo said...

I have always hated that song. Not for it's content, but for its sheer ubiquity on the radio at the time. Ack.

A long, long way to go?

I'll say. As an embryo, the future may be pluripotent. The human embryo is visually indistinguishable from a chicken or goat or a snake or a shark.

All have equal worth, and therefore no real or separate worth at all. So finally a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.

For modern man, then, one indeed has a long, long way to go to merit protection, much less nurturing. It must be hard to "spread your lovin' arms across the la-haa-and" while knocking off the next embryo.

Help make this brother understand; how much have you gained?

My song?
I'm weak, and very vincible.
I can be bent, even broken.
So fragile, yet resilient.
With grace, I can face many things.
But even failing, still be forgiven, and welcomed home.

So I cannot judge here, and don't pretend to. It is enough for me to hope that people change their minds.

AllenS said...

Helen Reddy: "I'm still an embryo/with a long, long way to go."

AllenS: "I'm just a sperm/with a long, long way to swim."

Meade said...

blake said...
The bomb that fell on Pearl Harbor?

Was there one really bad one?


You don't remember? The one that the Germans dropped?

Meade said...

(Oh. Just saw Paul Z's comment,)

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meade said...

AllenS,
Hilarious!

Bissage said...

One of the many great horrors of my pre-adolescence was a 7th grade in-class Christmas party where I was beaten savagely about the face and neck by female classmates wielding Helen Reddy records.

All three of these young women were bigger than me and stronger than me. They were also better looking, more popular and they got much, much, much better grades.

I ran away with tears streaming down my face. There was some kind of quavering, high-pitched noise coming out of my mouth that seemed to come from my gut at the same time.

I went home feeling utterly worthless to find my father unaccountably absent and my alcoholic mother passed out on the sofa (next to a pile of cigarette butts) with a Helen Reddy record on the turntable set to repeat over and over again.

I committed suicide.

AllenS said...

Thanks, Meade. I remembered that from my birds and bees class.

paul a'barge said...

Chuck b. said ...and if I wasn't gay. And if was a lot funnier and more intelligent and Jewy than I really am

There are no gays or Jews named Chuck.

Meade said...

"A childhood spent reading Penthouse Letters..."

Sounds like Chuck may have spent childhood in the same mis-functional family as the late Bissage.

Meade said...

"IN THE COMMENTS: Invoking the most well-known line in the song[...]"

Finally. Some law and order returns to this untamed frontier blog.

rhhardin said...

Man is an oak. Nature contains nothing sturdier. The universe need not arm itself to defend him. A drop of water is not enough to preserve him. Even if the universe were to defend him, he would no more be dishonoured than whatever does not protect him. Man knows that his reign has no death, that the universe boasts a beginning. The universe knows nothing: it is a best a thinking reed.

--Lautreamont

Wurly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo said...

And yes, reader_iam is quite right in recommending Amba's striking series. A stunning read.

dr kill said...

Dear Pogo, I was meaning to respond to your possum vs. muskrat love post. I'm sure you're aware (from looking inside your diaper) that possum boys have a bifurcated penis, meant to fit the twin cervices of the possum girl. Alas, only one va-jay-jay.

Muskrats must love the old-fashioned way, one penis at a time.

Pogo said...

And all this time I thought I had diplopia.

Well that explains the lack of returned calls for second dates. I'd begun to worry that it was my personality or profession.

But no! Mere bifurcation!
I may sing the body electric, but it looks like I need an adapter when travelling across species, like an American abroad.

Still, it does make Pogo's absence of pants even more bewidlering.

Fritz said...

Rush has a better version.

Ann Althouse said...

I just took off the Project Runway tag. I had included a reference to it, then took it off, forgetting about the tag.

David Walser said...

It amazes me how much society changes over relatively brief passages of time. We don't notice the changes until a song or something else reminds us of how we used to view things. I Am Woman reminds us of the sea change in our view of what defines a "meaningful" life for a woman. In the '60s and '70s, a meaningful life was all about becoming the "real you". It was career and personal achievement -- achievements divorced from family connections. For the Me Generation women, a meaningful life was all about "me".

Contrast that with the view of the prior generation -- my mother's generation. This view is powerfully articulated by another cultural artifact -- the film It's a Wonderful Life. Remember how George Bailey had been granted his wish to never have been born and was able to see how life in his small town would have been different but for the contributions he'd made? What one change was so horrible, so unthinkably bad, that George begged to go back and willingly faced his difficulties? It wasn't that he wasn't there to save the druggist from inadvertently killing someone. It wasn't that he didn't save his brother's life and his brother wasn't able to save a ship from sinking. It wasn't that his father's savings & loan business failed and his mother was forced by poverty to run a boarding house. Nor was it that Mr. Potter had taken over the town and was taking advantage of the less fortunate. No, the thing that caused George to beg to be born was that, without him, Mary became the town librarian! He was horrified by the thought she'd never married and had never had children.

To my mother's generation, the most meaningful thing for a women to be was a successful wife and mother. That was better than being a teacher (my mother's profession), a business person (my aunt's profession), a doctor, a lawyer, etc. It wasn't that such occupations were bad; it's that you wouldn't sacrifice being a wife and a mother for them.

The '70s woman thought being a wife and mother was a burden and held her back from becoming all she could be. The '50s woman thought being a wife and mother exalted her above the very things the '70s women coveted. A remarkable change in a very short time.

Miles from Kansas said...

Reddy roared "I am Woman", then 20 or so years later we had "I'm a B*tch", by Meredith Brooks.

Redundant, I say.

Mister Snitch! said...

" 'Is that a line in Van Halen's "Just a Gigolo"?'"

VAN HALEN??? TRY LOUIS PRIMA!

Just an embryo
Long, long way to go
Folks can't hear the song I'm playin'.
Not much room to dance
Made from sweet romance
(Y'all know... what I'm sayin'.)
But there will come a day
I will have my say
There's not a doubt about me -
'Cause when the end comes, you know
I'm not just an embryo -
Life would end, without me!

K T Cat said...

What about ME? What about MY turn?

I love it! This isn't a feminist song, it's a narcissist's song and everyone is playing along these days.

Women and men are both acting this out. That's how all those single parent families cropped up. You know, the ones where the kids are at a huge disadvantage from the get go.

No problems there, though, just so long as YOU get YOUR turn. And make sure your turn takes a long, long time. We wouldn't want to leave adolescence too early now.

reader_iam said...

k t cat:

OWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!

Now I've got that Diana Ross song burrowing its way into my brain. Thanks for the worm, dude (or dudette). Not.

reader_iam said...

At least this version isn't as insipid, musically speaking. Maybe I can get my brain to at accommodate a substitute, if it won't expel the damn worm altogether.

RR Ryan said...

It was Louis Prima, although David Lee Roth had a hit with it.

Patm said...

I've always half suspected that Reddy did not write those lyrics, anyway. Kind of like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck "wrote" Good Will Hunting. And then never wrote anything else again.

But fun analysis, guys.

AST said...

When Feminism began, I thought it was about reminding men that women are essential to society and are at least as capable and intelligent as husbands and fathers. I never really doubted that women were as capable in any role they chose as men were, but I assumed that they were just tired of having their contributions to culture and their opinions being ignored.

Silly me. I should have realized it was about women seizing power to be as boorish and sexually irresponsible as men were.

blake said...

So...I'm confused. A German dropped a bomb on Helen Reddy?

M. Simon said...

Midwestern girls aren't manly.

They are sturdy.

Ready (Reddy?) for some hard pounding.

submandave said...

"Hey, what about me? It's MY turn!"

OK, since when did Jungian themes of a collective racial (or, in this case, sexual) subconcious suddenly apply to an issue like abortion? Even if every woman since the dawn of time up until shortly before your birth (at which time everything was magically changed to how you've experienced life) had lived in an actual cage and subjected daily to ritual humiliation and abuse, I fail to see how that history should personally inform an individual decision or choice you might make that has no explicit connection to that history. How does an individual decision to abort or bring to term have any meaningful relationship to past injustices? If a woman had an abortion because she "feels like an embryo" that is her personal feeling and I don't think it can legitimately be blamed upon a history of patriarchal oppression. I do, however, see that a taught perception of such oppression might convince someone that this was a reasonable feeling.

Basically, what I hear from your "it's MY time" is a fancy way of saying "I'm young and want to be free of the responsibility implicit in what's growing inside of me" but attempts to shift the responsibility for any such decision to the shoulders of history. Whenever I hear one profer the "I'm not ready" argument as supporting abortion I am tempted to ask if the "I'm not ready" argument should be equally acceptable to support a young man not supporting the result of a choice not to abort.