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‘Take a Drunk Girl Home:’ Is the song sexist?

January 9, 2019

‘Take a Drunk Girl Home:’ Is the song sexist?

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- I couldn’t believe the song the first time I heard it on country radio.

“Take a drunk girl home/ Let her sleep all alone.”

Seriously? I thought. My husband’s always made fun of my penchant for country music, for its beer and bros and twang. But I grew up listening to country in the backseat of my dad’s car, and I’ve loved it ever since. Especially Dixie Chicks and Jennifer Nettles, with their feminist themes.

Take for example, Nettles’ “Drunk in Heels:” (This would be a good spot to wonder why so many country songs have “drunk” in the title.)

“If I bring home the bacon

I have to fry it up in a pan

I ain’t saying that it’s easier to be a man

But let’s get real

When we get drunk

We do it in heels”

Nettles, I love to belt out the car windows, along with my 5-year-old daughter. But I was so flabbergasted by Chris Janson’s lyrics, co-written by Tom Douglas and Scooter Carusoe, that I called a friend to ask if she’d heard the song.

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I still can’t decide if the lyrics are sexist:

“Leave her keys on the counter, your number by the phone

Pick up her life she threw on the floor

Leave the hall lights on, walk out and lock the door

That’s how she knows the difference between a boy and man

Take a drunk girl home”

I wasn’t the only one taken aback.

“Seldom has a musical creation been so well-intentioned yet so wrongheaded; leave it to country, I thought, to gussy up in soulful piano chords and self-satisfaction a P.S.A. about not raping women,” Kathryn Schultz wrote in The New Yorker.

But Schultz is ambivalent, too. In the age of Brett Kavanaugh, she said, the song actually takes a stand.

And maybe it’ll do some good. One fan told Janson he rented a big-screen projector to show the video to his nephew’s college fraternity.

The song earned a Country Music Association award nomination and peaked at No. 7 on the country charts. Apparently it started a movement.

“There are so many people who come to the table and go, ‘Oh my gosh, we just never thought of it that way,’” Janson told Taste of Country in November. “There is a huge community out there, believe or not, in the world that unfortunately or maybe fortunately haven’t had the right information given to them, or raised with the right information.”

Well, that’s terrifying.

Every time the song comes on the radio, I turn it up and listen, trying to reconcile the good intentions with the disgust it sparks within me.

“Is it sexist?” will be a regular feature on cleveland.com’s Shatter. Send your questions/anecdotes/pop culture examples to ljohnston@cleveland.com, and we’ll try to tease them out. Meanwhile, for more on Cleveland women’s issues, like Shatter on Facebook.

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