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Chanson and tacit misogyny

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This article argues that behind the liberalism and revolt that the genre of French chanson is often seen to represent, many singer-songwriters embody conservative and ‘old-fashioned’ values, notably in their conceptions of women. The world of chanson has generally been dominated by men, and this article explores the work of three representative singer-songwriters (Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens and Léo Ferré) in order to illustrate that the unilaterally male perspectives offered by chanson authors testify to a wider social attitude of passivity in the face of gender inequalities. Chanson authors have contributed to the definition of French cultural identity by echoing fundamental national myths, in particular the myth of the left-wing intellectual and of the authentic ‘Gaul’ spirit. Indeed, the chanson author represents the ‘common intellectual’ who combines the ‘mediocre’ and the ‘poetic’, the ‘rough’ and the ‘cultured’, the ‘popular’ and the ‘intellectual’. In fact, there has been a long-standing analogy between chanson and laborious manual work traditionally associated with men. This article investigates the cultural tradition that seems to associate the concept of French authenticity – and even French identity – with the notion of masculinity.
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Keywords: Brassens; Brel; Chanson; Ferré; authenticity; gender relationships; misogyny

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 April 2013

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  • The Journal of European Popular Culture investigates the creative cultures of Europe, present and past. Exploring European popular imagery, media, new media, film, music, art and design, architecture, drama and dance, fine art, literature and the writing arts, and more, the journal is also of interest to those considering the influence of European creativity and European creative artefacts worldwide.
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