One of the few decent songs playing on Top 40 radio these days is Daya’s “Sit Still, Look Pretty.” I say it’s decent because it sounds cute and bouncy and will get stuck in your head for hours without making you want to smash your head into a brick wall to get it out. (I’m looking at Kiiara’s “Gold” when I say that.) Daya’s lyrics gave me pause because they’re about the modern girl’s (woman’s) refusal to conform to the already-antiquated 1950s stereotype of being the picture-perfect “wifey” and taking care of a husband while he works the typical 9-to-5 job (but nobody really has one of those anymore, do they?).
From what I hear in the news and at work (my company has a “Gender Center,” which is about as ridiculous as it sounds), nobody is telling their little girls that their greatest aspiration or only option in life is to be a housewife, sit still, look pretty, and wait around on their husband to meet their every need. I don’t even remember reading a fiction book where a young female protagonist’s parents tell her that. It just isn’t the reality anymore. Feminism seems to have already won that battle. Girls (at least in the United States; I can’t speak for other countries) have way more options today than they did even 20 years ago, and they are constantly being told that they can achieve greatness* in other ways besides through their biological capabilities (i.e., being a wife and mother). The fact has been established and doesn’t need any more repeating.
The song also reminds me of the old saying (I believe Gloria Steinem popularized it) “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” Daya is simply repeating the girl-power anthems and feminist spiels that she has heard since she was a baby (born in 1998, so practically an infant compared to old folk like me), or else she went through a bad breakup, and every girl’s first bitter instinct upon going through a breakup is to rebelliously, tearfully announce, “I don’t need a man. I didn’t want that white-picket-fence life anyway.”
So I don’t see how the song is particularly rebellious or countercultural. The countercultural thing these days would be to actually adhere to common sense and recognize that yes, women and men do need each other because, um, hello, that’s kind of how you came into this world in the first place. Human beings may try to subvert the biological reality of the world to conform to their crazy notions about “gender equality,” but in the end, it’s just not going to work. No amount of feminist anthems, gender-bending mind experiments, and rebellious teenagers singing about not needing a man is going to undercut biology and the fact that humans were created male and female for a reason.
A huge overanalysis of a simple pop song? Of course—because that’s what I do here. 🙂 But these songs are the kind of garbage young people are filling their heads with on a daily basis, so they are affecting the culture and do need refutation. And Daya, some girls do want to sit still and look pretty. Ain’t nothing wrong with it.
*Ah, but what is greatness? What is success? To be discussed in a separate blog post…