Monday, 19 April 2010

Pop songs that piss me off: She Said by Plan B

As a feminist, a lot of things in our pop culture piss me off. That's a given. But nothing in recent weeks has come close to provoking the sheer rage that this song does:

You might be watching this and thinking, what is this song about? Why is it making Helen so angry? It's catchy and musically interesting and the video has some cool dancing! All of this is true and it makes me sad that I have to hate Plan B for it. Let's get the lyrics up for closer inspection.

she said i love you boy
i love your soul
she said i love you baby oh oh oh ohh

she said i love you more than words can say
she said i love you bayayayayby

so i said, what you sayin girl it can't be right
how can you be in love with me
we only just met tonight
so she said.. boy i loved you from the start
when i first heard love goes down
something started burning in my heart
i said stop this crazy talk
and leave right now and close the door
so now up in the courts
pleading my case in a witness box
telling the judge and jury
the same thing that i said to the cops
on the day that i got arrested
i'm innocent i protested
she just feels rejected
had her heart broken by
someone she's obsessed with
she likes the sound of my music
she makes out a fan of my music
so i love them diamonds to lose it
cos she can't separate the man from the music
and im saying all this from the stand
but my girl cries tears from the galleries
got bigger than i ever could have planned
like that song by the Zutons Valerie
so the jury dont look like they're buying it
and she's making me nervous
and i'm just screw faced like i'm trying it
their eyes fixed on me like i'm murderous
they wanna lock me up
and throw away the key
they wanna send me down
even though i told them she...


so i said why the hell you gotta treat me this way
you don’t know what love is
you wouldn’t do this if you did
oh no no no noo
...sorry about that. But I think it was necessary - you have to watch the video and hear or read all the lyrics to figure out what is actually going on. If you let it wash over you, you'll probably miss what the song is about. It's about a woman who falsely accuses him of rape. If you don't believe me, watch it again.

Where am I getting this from? Okay. The lyrics make it obvious that he has been falsely accused of a crime by a woman other than his girlfriend. The video together with the lyrics make it obvious that he slept with her and then rejected her, causing her to make this false accusation against him. I ask you: what other crime is there that she might accuse him of in this situation? I've tried to think of one.

Now comes the tricky part: explaining why this makes me incandescently angry. The immediate objection that is bound to be raised is: 'but this happens! Sometimes women do accuse men of rape, [insert case here as read about in tabloid of choice], why are you angry about Plan B rapping about it? Do you want to pretend it never happens?'

No. I am aware that there are occasions on which women have made the appalling and horrifying decision to falsely accuse someone of rape. It is of course an utterly detestable and unjustifiable thing to do, but it happens. Now, when this terrible thing happens, what do the tabloid media do? They sensationalise it, of course! They put it up in a big flashy headline to let everyone know: this is what women are like! Careful what do you (or who you do), boys, because they're out to get you! This has a threefold effect:
1) It puts the idea in people's heads that an accusation of rape is just as likely to be false as it is to be true.
2) Consequently, it makes it even harder for genuine rape victims to report their case and convict their attacker (more on this later).
3) It makes women aware that if you want to ruin a man's life, here is a way you can do it.

In other words, it makes everything worse for everyone.

So, back to Plan B. Is he sensationalising it? Actually, it'd be very difficult to argue that he is. The crime he is accused of is never directly referred to, and it doesn't seem to have been widely discussed (a Google search for "Plan B" + "She Said" + rape only turned up a few reviews stating that his music deals with subjects such as rape). So, given that he's being fairly subtle about it, why am I so angry?

Not being a Plan B fan, I had to do a little research into the album from whence this song came. It turns out the album tells a story about a singer who is imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit (this one, I guess) and his whole life is ruined. So, to clarify: he's the victim of a false accusation of rape, he is imprisoned for it and it ruins his life. Guys! This is exactly what the tabloids were trying to warn you about! False accusations of rape ruin lives!

You know what else ruins lives? Actual rape. And it's a hell of a bigger problem in our society than fake rape cases. Research suggests 1 in 4 women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape. Only a small proportion of actual rapes are reported. Only a small proportion of reported rapists are charged. And only a small proportion of charged rapists are convicted. The BBC news website gives me a conviction rate of 6.5%*. Everyone (who knows anything about the reality of the situation) knows that the justice system is not a friend of the rape victim. So why is Plan B presenting us with a story in which an innocent man ends up among that 6.5%? How unlikely does that seem? What motivation does he have for concocting such an unlikely story which also supports the negative effects on both women and men that the tabloids create?

I wouldn't like to speculate. I can only assume his reason was that it was an edgy, controversial subject. And that's just not a good enough justification for bolstering our society's tendency to disbelieve a rape victim.

Plan B, allow me to adapt your lyrics: you don't know what the reality about rape in the UK is. You wouldn't do this if you did. Oh no no no no.

[Thanks to Rosie, resident Plan B fan, for confirming my suspicion about the song.]

* to see a clearer breakdown of the increasingly small percentage, click here:

Friday, 16 April 2010

The Liberal Democrats: The Invisible 1/5 of the Electorate

So, like many others, I watched the first televised pre-election party leaders' debate last night. Although I felt Nick Clegg did quite well for himself overall, I was still surprised at the results of the polls which asked who had been the most successful. Let's look over those poll results, shall we?

ITV: Clegg 43%, Cameron 26%, Brown 20%

YouGov/The Sun: Clegg 51%, Cameron 29%, Brown 19%

Channel 4: Clegg 58%, Brown 28%, Cameron 13%

Sky News: Clegg 37%, Brown 32%, Cameron 31%

(thanks, BBC News.)

Why was I surprised? Because as someone who's quietly supported the Liberal Democrats my entire politically-aware life, I know very well how whenever they come up in conversation the almost unanimous reaction is "voting Lib Dem is wasting your vote, they'll never be in power, they haven't got a chance, etc etc". The political climate since 1945 has been structured along a two-party line: the two parties being Labour and the Conservatives. That's the choice you have. Liberal Democrat voters have been seen as bizarre anomalies, people who refuse to accept reality.

Yet put Clegg on tv alongside the other two - the representatives of the two parties received wisdom says we should vote for - and not only does he hold his own, he comes out on top! What's going on?

And this is where I drop the bombshell. You might want to sit down.

The Liberal Democrats are not a non-entity. They are not only now emerging from a swamp of total political obscurity. There are in fact people who regularly vote Lib Dem. And they are not an insignificant minority.

Time for some statistics!

In the 1997 general election, in which Labour stormed to power, the Lib Dems got 16.8% of the vote.
In the 2001 general election they moved up with 18.3%.
In the 2005 general election they took it up a notch again, with 22.1%.
(thanks, Wikipedia.)

Nowadays, support for the Lib Dems hangs pretty steadily around the 20% line. That's one-fifth of the voting electorate.  The point I'm trying to make is: that ain't nothing.

So why are the Lib Dems so marginalised? It's the electoral system, dummy. Our First Past The Post system means that where support for a party is spread thinly across the country, instead of being concentrated in certain areas, it will get disproportionately few seats. In the 2005 election, with 22% of the public vote, the Lib Dems got 9.6% of the seats in the House of Commons. Even I can admit, 9.6% does look like nothing.

So, to recap. About a fifth of voters support the Lib Dems, but in the public consciousness they are seen as non-existent. Or they have been, up until now. My sense is that the tv debates might change everything. With the majority of public support post-debate, no one can now claim that voting for the Lib Dems is voting for a non-entity. No one can claim that you're throwing your vote away and ignoring reality. We're not invisible any more.

The next couple of weeks, and the poll results that come out after the next two debates, will be fascinating to watch. For now I leave you with this nugget of information. Labour's landslide victory in 1997 was achieved with 43.2% of the popular vote. If the results of the debate polls are maintained, that's the kind of percentage Clegg and co. might be able to attain this year. Anyone who tells you the election is still a two-horse race is full of shit.