The Wednesday Weigh-In: “Just One Of The Guys”

So, Jenny Lewis has a new video. The song is “Just One Of The Guys” and she dresses up a bunch of famous, pretty, feminine movie stars as dudes. Really, just watch it:

I have so many questions. Autostraddle likes the video, and I like Autostraddle and Jenny Lewis, so I’m trying to stay open to their reading:

The song is all about questioning gender roles and fucking with the patriarchy — “I’m not gonna break for you/I’m not gonna pray for you/I’m not gonna pay for you/That’s not what ladies do!” she sings, inspiring much hell-yessing by me.

The video takes the androgyny power to a new, amazing level. Lewis wears a magical rainbow star suit, and Stewart, Hathaway, Larson and others form her backup band. The alternate between playing instruments in feminine-cut white suits and doing great, weird stuff in Adidas track suits.

I’m just not really seeing the irony, though, which makes this look like one big big Gender EssentialismFest to me. Take these lyrics:

No matter how hard I try to be just one of the guys
There’s a little something inside that won’t let me!
No matter how hard I try to have an open mind
There’s a little clock inside that keeps tickin’ !

There’s only one difference between you & me:
When I look at myself all I can see,
I’m just another lady without a baby

If we take the lyrics on their face, this is Jenny Lewis announcing women are fundamentally different than men because — and only because — they can have babies, which is reductive and transphobic and something I imagine a great aunt saying while I cringe. And by that reading, the drag isn’t really blurring any gender lines but reifying them: paired with those lyrics, the half-hearted wardrobe-swapping appears to ridicule the idea of “women acting like men” rather than challenge gender roles. 

I’m worried I’m just completely clueless and should obviously know this is satire… but I don’t really see that. I’d loved to be convinced otherwise, but this feels pretty sincere (or, as sincere as one can be in that suit) to me. And I’m hesitant to go too far out of my way to give something that looks so much like essentialism the benefit of the doubt.

What do you think? Patriarchy-smashing or patriarchy-reinforcing? My other questions include: can I pull of an all-white tracksuit? what is going on with Kristen Stewart’s hair? does this make Anne Hathaway likeable enough for America? was I supposed to know who Brie Larson is?

Please discuss.

AlexandraAlexandra Brodsky is a Feministing editor, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted July 16, 2014 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    First, I don’t think she’s trying to speak for women as a whole, just how she (or a character) feels sometimes. Second, the “little something inside that won’t let me” gets changed to “a little cop inside” in the last chorus. I think she’s referring to something that is not essential, like internalized misogyny, or the effects of gender policing. After the first few listens, I kind of get the impression that this might be about trying to fit in as The Cool Girl (see “ Jennifer Lawrence And The History Of Cool Girls“).

  2. Posted July 16, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    You hit some of my concerns about the video on the head. I was uncomfortable with the drag because it seemed like “lets do some stereotypes of guys.” And the lines of the song you highlighted “No matter how hard I try to be just one of the guys / There’s a little something inside that won’t let me!” made me feel weird, too, as a non-binary trans person.

  3. Posted July 16, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I vote patriarchy-mocking. I totally took it as a send up of the whole ticking biological clock thing, particularly with the drag and Lisa Frank-ness, not to mention a line like “just another lady without a baby.”

    Also, I think KStew found her calling – she’s never seemed more vibrant than she does in her drag bits in this video. And Brie Larson is the shit :P

  4. Posted July 16, 2014 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    I think the intention is ironic. I read it as attempting to satirize the hetero-male fantasy that there’s something biologically reductive about women. (When you actually name the fantasy, it’s so ridiculous that you recognize it as fantasy). It sounds like this hits a little too close to home, though – sadly, the fantasy does not sound too ridiculous to many folks, because the beliefs she is articulating are actually very operative in our society. Maybe this is just bad satire, in that it doesn’t give the audience enough clues that it’s satire.

    Another theory: maybe it’s meant to evoke outrage, because of the totally blunt delivery of the patriarchal sentiments coupled with the playful melody.

    I might be giving it a too charitable reading… since I, too, love Jenny Lewis.

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