March 14, 2012


Is Bruce Springsteen's Music Sexist?

Rick Diamond
Rick Diamond

There’s an interesting article over at the dating site Nerve about the supposed gender bias in Bruce Springsteen’s music.

Essentially the author's point boils down to this: The ladies who exist in Springsteen’s lyrics are present only to enhance the male hero’s story, and they never get starring roles themselves.

Here are the women she points to:

Exhibit A: Mary in “Thunder Road” and Wendy in "Born to Run"
“She is... a goal that the male hero can strive toward (in which case, the real story is all about him, his trials, and his tenacity),” writes Rebecca Bohanan. "These women exist to save men from grand cosmic themes like unhappiness or small-town ennui.” 

Exhibit B: The women in “Candy’s Room” or “Backstreets”
"These female characters are damaged. They're making the wrong choices in life, often by walking away from the men who love them in exchange for lives filled with something perverse, like prostitution or gratuitous wealth."

Exhibit C: Mary in “The River”
“There's a third, somewhat darker role women can play in Springsteen songs: they can be noble burdens,” she claims. “You really think Mary's goal was to get pregnant and get married by eighteen? What's she thinking in all of this?”

These are all fair points, but I don’t find myself convinced. Even the male characters in Springsteen’s songs aren't specifically drawn. I grew up in the Midwest and I don't identify with his heartland boys. Ultimately, I think Springsteen’s songs are more about exploring general elements of American life than detailing a personal worldview you can relate to.

What do you think? Does the Nerve article have a point, or is the author being a bit paranoid? Are we just overthinking the whole thing? Tell us what you think while listening to this Springsteen tune from a woman's perspective: