Chrissie Hynde Says Don’t Wear Heels if You Don’t Wanna Get Raped

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Sorta transcript:

Chrissie Hynde, lead singer of the Pretenders, has a new autobiography out in which she talks about how she was once raped by a guy in a biker gang. Which is horrible, and to make matters worse, she is coping with that memory by telling herself and others that it was her fault. And to make matter even worse still, she expands upon that broken thinking by telling other women that if they get raped, it’s their fault, too.

We’ve been over this territory many times before: telling women, as Hynde does, that if they wear high heels then it’s their fault they get raped because they should have planned to be able to run away from their attacker, leads to more and more ridiculous situations until we’re all in burkas being told that we deserve to get raped because we blinked the wrong way or showed a bit too much ankle.

It’s a pretty stupid thought process, but it IS what we should unfortunately expect from a woman coming out of rock and roll in the 70s and 80s. Unfortunately, to get by in a severely misogynistic culture, sometimes it can seem easier if you have to become one with the misogynistic culture. Become the “cool girl” who doesn’t care if she gets groped or raped, who doesn’t go out of her way to help other women, and who in fact helps enforce the existing hierarchy.

And if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that Hynde was already playing that role. In 1994, she had some truly shit advice for other women interested in getting into rock and roll, including insisting that they shave their legs. Because nothing says “rock” like spending a lot of time and money conforming to society’s expectations of you, am I right? She also suggests that women don’t sound “hysterical” by “belting” or “screeching,” which is in fact hysterical considering that “hysterical” is derived from a sexist idea that a woman’s over-the-top emotions come from her uterus, and considering that there were a number of amazing female singers who were about to hit it big by belting and screeching in 1994, like Courtney Love and Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney.

Hynde’s first point of advice is the worst by far, though: she says that women shouldn’t “complain about sexist discrimination.” Because again, quietly accepting abuse is SO fucking rock, right?

It actually reminds me of Hilary Clinton, in a way. Bear with me: Clinton has the chance to become the first female President of the United States of America. Her toughest liberal competition right now is Bernie Sanders, who is way more radically progressive, and he’s spent decades maintaining a remarkably unwavering democratic socialist platform. If Sanders were anything but a white male, I don’t think he’d have a chance in hell. Those privileges balance out his radical ideals in the same way that Hilary’s conservative centrist ideals balance out the fact that she is a woman.

In other words, it’s really, really, really hard to be both a member of a marginalized group AND a radically progressive thinker who is accepted by the majority. People like that can kick off movements and inspire generations to come, but they also tend to get murdered.

So Chrissie Hynde worked hard and fought through a lot of sexist bullshit to be a woman in rock for that long, but she wasn’t good enough to do it without throwing other women under the bus. She wasn’t strong enough to do it without telling herself that the horrific things that happened to her were her fault. Because if we believe that something horrible is our own fault, we also get to have the optimistic hope that we can prevent it from happening again. It’s a comforting idea, but I much prefer to understand that shit happens and we should all fight back as best we can, even if we end up pissing some people off along the way. Because that’s truly rock and roll.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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  1. I’ve never really considered the white and/or male as free points towards “moderate” idea before. It’s kind of tempting, and the skeptic in me is wanting to come up with a way to test the idea sociologically.

  2. “People like that can kick off movements and inspire generations to come, but they also tend to get murdered.”

    This is why I worry about our beloved Rebecca.

  3. Don’t forget that Courtney Love was blamed for Kurt Cobain’s suicide, if we’re talking about early 90s music culture.

    John Edwards summarized the question of radicalism-as-privilege in the following way: “Hillary’s a woman from New York, Obama’s a black man from Chicago, and [exaggerating his dialect] I talk like this.” (Of course, it’s good that the Dems didn’t nominate Edwards, given his extramarital affair while his wife was dying.)

    There are other forms of privilege to consider as well, though: Being related to an ex-president is a fairly exclusive group, and there are only two candidates in the whole race who have at least one ex-president in their immediate family.

    And of course, poor and minority students ironically tend to shy away from ethnic and gender studies courses. (Poor and minority students generally are more likely to learn a trade or have a more traditional major, because even with scholarships specific to poor and minority students, financial aid balances in favor of rich white kids. And rich kids’ daddies can pay the way, of course.) So in some ways, radical politics tends to be a privilege itself. (Which…explains a lot.)

  4. “In other words, it’s really, really, really hard to be both a member of a marginalized group AND a radically progressive thinker who is accepted by the majority.”

    Elizabeth Warren, anyone??? Granted, she’s not running for president, so we don’t know how she’d be doing in the polls, but — anecdotally, since it’s the best I’ve got to work with — a lot of the Sanders supports I run across would likely be Warren supporters had she entered the race.

    Also, is Rebecca trying to suggest that rock music is composed of a bunch of “radically progressive thinkers”??? I don’t deny that there are such people in rock music, but there are a lot of regressive thinkers, too.

    1. One could also argue that Bernie Sanders isn’t white. Or that Eli Sanders wasn’t white when the Nazis were putting his family in death camps, at least.

    2. Is Rebecca suggesting the average Bernie Sanders supporter would have looked at a black female candidate and thought that they would support her if only she wasn’t female and/or black? I don’t buy that.

      I think in the case of Elizabeth Warren, we can safely assume that if she was running, Bernie Sanders wouldn’t even be a blip on the radar. Sanders was the concession candidate for Warren supporters disappointed that she said she wasn’t going to run.

      White/male privilege is going to provide significantly more advantage when appealing to less progressive voters IMO.

  5. Yeash.. Yeah. You pegged muddled thinking just about right. Had one person tell me, “Sanders is too old.” My reply was, “Right… So, you would rather elect a woman, because she is a woman, despite the fact that she flat out stated, several times, that she only ‘panders’ to the left, and progressive ideals, to get elected, rather than elect and ‘old guy’ who actually seems to believe in the shit he talks about. That makes a lot of sense…”

    The whole damn country needs a psychologist at this point, I think, and not just about rape culture issues.

    1. I would support Bernie over Hilary any day. Bernie sees the big picture, Hilary’s main interests ARE special interests and lobbying groups. She wont even say she’s against the Keystone pipeline. Bernie trumps Hilary on honesty and the polls reflect that.

  6. My own mom was one of those female so-called “trail blazers” that broke barriers and gained respect in a variety of male dominated fields (the most humiliating, I recall, being umpiring boys Little League Baseball games). ALL of them, and I can’t emphasize this enough, ALL of them, could reduce down to her being really, really good at what ever and smart and all that but always Chill. She was “post-suffragette” and “pre-feminist” in a way, in that she was impressive enough to be accepted into formerly exclusively male domains but she certainly didn’t upset any status quo apple carts to be allowed inside. So I wouldn’t credit her with breaking any barriers, but I would credit her with the kind of confident, “hell I can do this thing as well as a man” thing that helped keep the doors from swinging shut again. It took courage then to step from “women’s” line into the “men’s” and have confidence that you could deflect with “chill” so nobody gets threatened by you. And nobody did, that I remember. Nobody laughed at her that she didn’t laugh with them.

    My mom was a gifted but not ambitious person and she really never saw Any Problem with Status Quo. She just didn’t accept that the Status Quo meant “females can’t participate”. The notion that Status Quo was this rigged “Male preference/deference/default” patriarchal reinforcement mechanism didn’t trouble her in the least. So Hurrah! Women like my mother were “trailblazers” in that they were women who wedged themselves into formerly male-only cultural roles supporting the male-made-world most of us were born into. My mom “broke in” to the world. But she didn’t “fix it”, she most excellently, effectively serviced it! As well as any man!!

    Chrissie Hynde’s definitely more edgy than my mom was, light years better musician, and way more cool hair etc; but otherwise, not .. so .. much .. more .. advanced.

  7. “Those privileges balance out his radical ideals in the same way that Hilary’s conservative centrist ideals balance out the fact that she is a woman.”

    What was her husband’s excuse, then?

  8. She’s got some Brass spouting off like that. She’s no rock-and-roller, just a Pretender! I say throw her on the Chain Gang.

    (Seriously, I love her music this sucks. At least I still have Joan Je- oh, right….)

  9. That’s a shame. I missed the ’94 ado. But I was probably making out in my Mom’s station wagon the first time Oedipus spun Mystery Achievement on ‘BCN After Hours. Not with my Mom, I should perhaps clarify. I was a big fan from the get-go, and she probably ranked second to Debby Harry as the baddest ass woman in progressive rock ‘n’ roll for three or four years. And she portrayed such feminist confidence, the lyrics and intonation seemed to regularly sneer at the posing and preening little boys in her life, none quite qualifying for the designation of man. “You’re not allowed on the couch, get DOWN off the couch!” And she didn’t tart herself up, it was biker chic, perhaps, but nothing lurid or kittenish. She seemed to be part of a continuum from Jospehine Baker through Beyoncé, and including Mama Cass, Janis Joplin, Pat Benatar, Heart, The Runaways, Joan Jett, strong women who kicked ass while heartbroken….plus the whole publicly triumphant rather than ashamed deal with her out-of-wedlock children via Ray Davies.

    It’s terribly disappointing to learn that she’s just dumped it all into a shitpile of schadenfreude toward her “lessers”. And that she’s not advising young rockers: “if the director asks you to wear heels during the MTV filming, punch the twerp in the throat!’

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