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The Beatles as feminists
15 November 2020
9.12pm
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Dark Overlord
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Edit by Joe: I removed a survey link which originally opened this thread. The OP was posting the link on several threads but wasn’t otherwise engaging in the forum, so their account was removed.

Welcome @lydiarosefm i’m glad you decided to join the forum.

While your survey was interesting, i don’t think i’d consider The Beatles to be feminists. Sure, they wanted all people to be treated the same but that’s not really feminism, that’s just being a decent human being and there’s plenty of instances where they did some very un-feminist things.

A great example of this is how Yellow Submarine has an all male cast (bar a few non-speaking background characters). Don’t get me wrong, i LOVE this film (their best IMO) and have no problem with this personally but a key component of feminism is diversity, of which there is none.

Also, as much as i HATE to bring this up, all 4 Beatles cheated on their wives (or fiancée in Paul’s case). Of course, all 4 of them later regretted it and became better husbands later in life but feminists (as well as women in general) want their husbands to be loyal to them and The Beatles didn’t become better husbands until after they broke up.

Not to mention, they regularly objectified women, something feminists hate. Take this comment from Ringo regarding the time he met German actor Marlene Dietrich during their iconic 1963 performance at the Royal Variety Show:

Marlene Dietrich was also on. I met her and I remember staring at her legs – which were great – as she slouched against a chair. I’m a leg-man: ‘Look at those pins!’
Now this isn’t to say that The Beatles were against feminism or never supported feminist talking points. For example, they challenged male stereotypes by growing their hair out and they were one of the first rock bands to write songs that weren’t about romantic love, with Rubber Soul having 3 (Nowhere Man , The Word , and In My Life ). But to call them feminists would be a huge stretch IMO.

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16 November 2020
1.04pm
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sir walter raleigh
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Lennon was a self-identified feminist, engaging in lots of feminist activity alongside Yoko, although his reputation with women is terrible because of his abuse of Cynthia. I do believe that John cared about feminism and as genuinely upset by the inequality that he saw. “Woman is the N****r of the World is a great example of him really trying to understand women’s struggles.

As for George, he isn’t quite as clear, however, his attitude towards Patty Boyd with Eric Clapton seems to be at the very least non-possessive. He just asks if she’s coming home with him or Eric, then later remarks how it’s better she be with him than some bum or something to that extent. So while his infidelities were rampant, it doesn’t seem like he was hypocritical or control over his wife, even as a younger man. George is also tied to classical institutions of Indian music and philosophy, which unfortunately have deeply rooted histories in controlling women’s bodies and excluding women and other non-elite from practicing in these classical institutions. Ravi Shankar and His daughter have actually done a lot to progress the field in recent decades, combined with the popular surge aided by George.

George himself gave the Maharishi the benefit of the doubt over Mia Farrow’s sexual assault allegation (although the origin of the allegation is controversial) while John immediately chose to condemn the Maharishi for his behavior. 

Paul and Ringo are still alive, and while they’ve both had some uncomfortable history with women, particularly Ringo who unfortunately has a slightly violent history of domestic issues during his heavy alcoholism days. I’m sure both are very supportive of the feminist cause in today’s day and age through social media.

Generally, the Beatles aren’t associated with the progressive sides of Racial and Sexual politics, despite being under the radar advocates throughout their careers while directly or indirectly contributing to sexist institutions racial inequality in the music industry. It is unfortunate and complicated. I like to hope most Beatles aren’t proud of their history with women or the complicated way in which they usurped rock and roll from black America, however, there likely are some horrible people who are happy about these things.

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"The pump don't work cause the vandals took the handles!"

-Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues

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-Brian Wilson, Surfer Girl

24 November 2020
8.33am
gabhold1
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although i’m not writing an essay about The Beatles as feminists, i was always wondering similar things. thanks for sharing, i really love hearing more stuff like this. any other update is much appreciated

4 December 2020
5.14am
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Vera Chuck and Dave
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4 December 2020
8.01am
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Ahhh Girl
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Vera Chuck and Dave said
Run For Your Life

/endthread

  

But what about

Man I was mean but I’m changing my scene.

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4 December 2020
11.43am
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Little Piggy Dragonguy
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Ahhh Girl said

Vera Chuck and Dave said
Run For Your Life

/endthread

But what about

Man I was mean but I’m changing my scene. 

He was only saying he doesn’t beat women anymore. That doesn’t say much of anything, if you ask me. 

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4 December 2020
1.22pm
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Dark Overlord
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If you look at the line, it says:

“I used to be cruel to my woman, i beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved, man i was mean but i’m changing my scene and i’m doing the best that i can.”

Sure, it says both “i beat her” and “i’m changing my scene” but that doesn’t mean that John and Paul are only changing their views on women when it comes to beating them, as it would make much more sense for them to just list the worst mistakes they’ve made instead of every single one.

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4 December 2020
3.05pm
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Little Piggy Dragonguy
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Dark Overlord said
If you look at the line, it says:

“I used to be cruel to my woman, i beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved, man i was mean but i’m changing my scene and i’m doing the best that i can.”

Sure, it says both “i beat her” and “i’m changing my scene” but that doesn’t mean that John and Paul are only changing their views on women when it comes to beating them, as it would make much more sense for them to just list the worst mistakes they’ve made instead of every single one. 

But Paul was mad about his girlfriend/fiancee having success of her own and was unfaithful to her. John was unfaithful to Cynthia and did very little to help with the child they shared. From that information it seems like their views on women weren’t the best and they weren’t particularly respectful. 

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6 November 2021
12.24pm
Toxic34
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Little Piggy Dragonguy said

Dark Overlord said

If you look at the line, it says:

“I used to be cruel to my woman, i beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved, man i was mean but i’m changing my scene and i’m doing the best that i can.”

Sure, it says both “i beat her” and “i’m changing my scene” but that doesn’t mean that John and Paul are only changing their views on women when it comes to beating them, as it would make much more sense for them to just list the worst mistakes they’ve made instead of every single one. 

But Paul was mad about his girlfriend/fiancee having success of her own and was unfaithful to her. John was unfaithful to Cynthia and did very little to help with the child they shared. From that information it seems like their views on women weren’t the best and they weren’t particularly respectful. 

  

I wouldn’t call Paul an absolute raving control freak about Jane’s career, @Little Piggy Dragonguy . It’s not having an independent, free-thinking woman that was the problem. Linda was the epitome of free-thinking and independent; she didn’t just subsume her entire identity to only be wrapped up inside Paul. She had her own things and continued to up until her death. Jane and Paul simply weren’t compatible, so if anything, they drifted apart and were going to even if Paul hadn’t had trysts. He’s not a full-on chauvinist by any means.

John certainly started out as that, and he always admitted that he treated Cynthia horribly and was not a father to Julian. Cynthia also pointed out that he only beat her once, which is still inexcusable, but she said “I told him if he ever did it again, I’d leave immediately…and he never did.” This was also around the same time the Bob Wooler incident scared John and made him give up violence, up until his relapse during the Lost Weekend on the night he was tied to the chair with neckties. Yoko brought out the best in him, and he evolved accordingly, to become an ardent and sincere feminist, to an activist focused on helping change the world, to the househusband who baked bread and raised Sean. And John’s assassination is all the sadder because he was clearly going to continue to evolve as a human being, as an activist who would’ve returned to the scene and found a way back into it that suited him that wasn’t subject to the whims of the Rubins and Hoffmans of the world, and making amends to Cynthia and Julian.

29 November 2021
7.15am
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QuarryMan
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Interesting idea for a thread. I think it’d be maybe a little more useful to expand the discussion a bit further beyond The Beatles themselves, though – to me it seems obvious that the sexism prevalent in the earlier years of the Beatles’ music and lives comes from two sources respectively. First is the sexism you can find in rock and roll as a genre and culture which is highly prevalent in many of its older songs, a culture which was immensely formative to the band. To me, while they might have their uncomfortable similarities with their personal lives, songs like ‘You Can’t Do That ‘ and ‘Run For Your Life ‘ sound a bit more gimmicky, like they were trying to imitate American country/rock style songs based around a jealous guy persona, no pun intended. I think you can see this decline a bit somewhat in their music as it went along, possibly coinciding with their use of psychedelics and other drugs, as their depictions of female characters becomes a bit more nuanced, empathetic and interesting over time, I’m thinking specifically of songs like Norwegian Wood , Eleanor Rigby , She’s Leaving Home , Dear Prudence , Lady Madonna and Blackbird

The second source is the unavoidable fact that they were lads who grew up in the 50s and not exactly in ultra liberal circles either.. It’s easy to forget from our vantage point in the present day that some of the sexist attitudes that were commonplace even ten years ago would be shocking to us today, let alone those from seventy years ago. In the 60s second wave feminism was barely getting going and attitudes were very different. I think The Beatles in particular initially were very much a product of their times in respect to this, and it was only as what we now think of as ‘The Sixties’ really got going that their attitudes started to change somewhat. 

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