While we continue to notice tangible gender inequities in country music today, particularly the ratio of male artists versus female artists that are played on mainstream radio, the gap between what male and female artists can sing about has narrowed considerably. Moreover, it’s certainly not uncommon to hear a range of topics from female singers that reveal the strength of independent minded, empowered women.
In 1968, however, women’s anthems were not so common or accepted and if they were, it was somewhat of an anomaly. While Kitty Wells had a smash with “It Wasn’t God who Made Honky Tonk Angels” in 1952, written as an answer to Hank Thompson’s “Wild Side of Life”, the recording and release of Dolly Parton’s 1968 single “Just Because I’m A Woman” was still a bold move at the time.
Written in response to her husband’s disappointment that he was not her first sexual relationship, even though she was not his first either, Parton points out “my mistakes are no worse than yours, just because I’m a woman.” She even goes as far to detail the glaring double standard by observing: “Now a man will take a good girl/ And he’ll ruin her reputation/ But when he wants to marry/ Well, that’s a different situation.”
The tune is not especially catchy and it’s not bolstered by a raucous production like some of country music’s favorite anthems of today, but those missing elements only make Dolly’s anthem of gender equity even more poignant as she sings with both tenderness and matter-of-factness regarding a hypocritical attitude that still exists in 2011.
Written by Dolly Parton
Listen: Just Because I’m a Woman