I love country music.
Even writing that feels weird. Country’s always been this genre that’s usually been put down as cheesy, overcommercialized, and sappy. And to be totally fair, it is all of those things. The happy songs are really happy, and sad songs are really sad. Even the bittersweet songs are really, really bittersweet. Country lacks emotional middle ground, and while that technically does make it sappy, I kind of like that. I like to call myself a romanticist, but honestly, I’m just obsessed with stories. Almost every country song has a story.
I used to believe in true love and perfect relationships and never forgetting your roots. These days, those are things that I want to believe in; I’m not sure if I still do. Country music takes me back, though, and as long as I can deal with the twang of banjos in my ears, I can forget that real life doesn’t work as romantically as I wish it did. I can forget that I’m supposed to be a feminist. Country music is idealistic and realistic at the same time, and I love that.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always felt like not being a feminist has never really been an option. It’s always been about independence regardless of gender and women’s rights, and while I totally support empowerment and generally good stuff like that, sometimes I’m conflicted between feminism and romanticism.
See, feminism often feels like a constant campaign for more independence and more equality. Feminism is supposed to make me question the things I do every day—am I a product of gender roles thrust upon me by my society? It’s supposed to make things better, because critical thinking is supposed ensure that the world we live in is the world that we think we ought to be living in. At the same time, though, it’s hard to reconcile that with the sweeter, softer edges of romanticism, where the importance of fitting or not fitting gender stereotypes takes the backseat to simple self-respect and respect for others. It sounds so much simpler than feminism, and I wish that that could always be the case.
Feminism could argue that girls are totally capable of opening their own doors, and letting a guy hold the door is an insult to women’s strength.
But the thing is, women don’t usually wonder if they’re being oppressed because their significant other held the door for them. Holding the door is a gesture that the other person cares; it doesn’t need to be perceived as an insult. Everyone knows that girls can open their own doors, but it feels nice when someone else cares. That’s romanticism.
It’s difficult to make the two overlap, but country music is the closest I’ve gotten. The focus is on the story—not on the gender roles. It reminds me that I can dream of escaping to someplace bigger and more beautiful, but that life is complex and sometimes painful. It reminds me that it’s okay to want someone to hold the door every now and then—that it’s possible to be a little bit of a feminist and a little bit of a romanticist at the same time. While I’m listening, I can believe that.