Damn you and your double standards. Abortion is sung differently in pop music today than it was before

In its first-ever live broadcast, the crew of the Soundsystem podcast visited the Beseda u Bigbítu Festival. We deliberately disturbed the comfort of a hot August afternoon with a painfully updated topic – the restriction of freedom of abortion, which occurs, for example, in the USA, Poland or Slovakia. Michaela Peshtova and Karel Fiselich invited historian, musician, and columnist Pavla Johnsonova to the discussion and together they discussed how abortion is reflected in the history and present of popular music.

In 1965, 22-year-old American art student Johnny Anderson found out she was pregnant after her partner left her. It was a time when it was socially unacceptable for an unmarried woman to have a child and at the same time an abortion was not legally possible. Anderson gave birth to the child, but because she could not take care of them, she gave him up for adoption. A year later, she married and became Joni Mitchell – under this name she launched her musical career and became one of the most famous singers and songwriters in history.

Her unwanted motherhood was unknown until the mid-1990s, when she was tracked down by the tabloids, and fans had the opportunity to reinterpret some of her famous songs, which can now be read as coming to terms with what happened to her in her youth. . “Mitchell has used her story throughout her career, and when she finally met her daughter after thirty years, she announced that she no longer needed to be creative,” says Michaela Peshtova. He regards the Joni Mitchell story as a symptom of the portrayal of abortion in pop history. “However, for a woman, a miscarriage doesn’t have to be just a great tragedy, but often a happy ending, which everyone involved in the equation deserves,” he adds.

When the US Constitutional Court overturned the precedent of the Roe v. Wade from 1973, reflecting one of the most significant achievements of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. The federal abortion access law was an important pillar of a woman’s right to dispose of her own bodies freely, and its abolition represented a blow to conservative forces seeking to limit women’s equality. “There is a famous painting by artist Barbara Krueger who painted a two-tone portrait of a woman’s face in the late 1980s with the words ‘Your body is a battlefield.’ Now Krueger has reworked and rewrote the image: ‘Who is the killer in America after Roe vs. Wade?’,” he recalls. Pavla Johnsonova, How the battles of the culture wars moved once again to the areas they seem to have already won.

“Songs about abortion have always been at odds with the regulatory mechanisms in the music industry, which has rejected potentially controversial topics. Singer Robin felt this way at the end of the 1990s, when her album My Truth could not be released anywhere other than Sweden, Because it contained songs about her experience with abortion,” says Karel Vesselo. At the same time, only rockers could sing about it, who spoke about the girl’s decision to have an abortion from the site of harm. The exceptions were rappers like Tupac or Digable Planets, who were able to see the broader context of such decisions. “They don’t care about life, they just want to control a woman’s body,” the final rap on La Femme Fétal.

In the end, the most angry reaction to the current change in anti-abortion laws across the ocean comes from the rap scene. “Damn you and your double standards,” rapper Lato says in her Pussy song, which she released a few days after the Constitutional Court ruling. In Poland (Syxa, Brodka) and Slovakia (Catarzia) are strongly opposed to restrictions. “It is necessary that this topic comes up all of a sudden. Thanks to the songs, we hear what they really mean to women. It is important that abortion is not talked about as a tragedy,” says Michaela Peshtova in the discussion.

What is the song of Helena Vondrackova Why are there two little wings here? How did Madonna sing about miscarriage in the ’80s or Kurt Cobain a decade later? And has the topic of abortion been popping up in pop music in recent years more than before? Play a new episode of the Soundsystém music discussion podcast. If you want to keep up with the Soundsystem and listen to the music in question, follow this curated playlist on Spotify.

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