The women of country music have long defied the genre's patriarchal associations and used their music as a platform for subversive social messages about gender inequality, and in the past several decades, the country music establishment has grown more willing to alter its image and accommodate these feminist themes. Because country music is marketed and understood by many of its fans as a representation of a lifestyle, this shift in expectations for women’s social roles and possibilities in the genre has an impact on the women who identify themselves with the particular rural, down-home image country music aims to define. This potential for country music to reach women who may not ordinarily be exposed to feminist messages, or who may even feel those messages to be antagonistic in other mediums, demonstrates the possibilities and stakes in revising a fraught and problematic tradition, such as country music, for feminist, socially progressive aims. In this essay, I discuss country music as a type of mother figure, offering advice and defining expectations for its daughter’s lives. This ‘mother’ is imperfect and often maddeningly contradictory, yet, as with many real mothers, her messages should often be questioned but not automatically discounted. In light of the current “cancel culture” or “call-out culture” trend in feminist spaces by which traditions or people associated with current or historical promotion of social inequality are labeled irredeemable, the feminism of country music offers lessons about how one might work within a fraught tradition, or alongside a difficult mother, rather than tossing it/her aside.
Dewees, Alyssa. 2021. "“Ain’t My Mama’s Broken Heart”: The Mothers and Daughters of Hillbilly Feminism." Journal of Feminist Scholarship 18 (Spring): 43-60. 10.23860/jfs.2021.18.03.
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