No Man’s Woman

Trying to think up an appropriate song for International Women’s Day, that would also be easy to write about, was not as easy as I thought it would be. This song is probably not quite right for it, but it’s the 10th now anyway and it is a song I found easy to write about.

I have incredibly mixed feelings about Sinéad O’Connor’s No Man’s Woman. It’s not the most famous of her songs, or my favourite of her songs, but it’s the one I have the strongest but most contradictory feelings on.

I love the first half of the song. Uplifting, catchy, powerful, a little cheesy pop rock singing the merits of moving away from seeking fulfillment via a relationship with a bloke. A song about not putting up with abuse, settling, compromise and being defined by someone else. And fuck all your friends for thinking you’re lonely as opposed to alone for doing your own thing.

The times I am most likely to want to leave my relationship are the times when I am most treated (by family, societal expectations, friends or my partner) as part of a pair, the part that should give for the other, to wait around for approval. It’s a reassuring song to know it is okay not to want that, a type of reassurance that’s desperately hard to find sometimes.

And then halfway through, the climax of the song starts singing about the importance of god and his forgiveness. And what I can relate to breaks down and I’m staring into an alien world. I’m not strongly atheist, but seeking comfort through religion is not something I can understand or empathise with particularly well. It was like finding out my grandmother had her church praying for me after I crashed my motorcycle. For the record, I never had the heart to find out if it was for me to heal or if it was for me to stop riding motorcycles. I just don’t know how to react to this and it’s frustrating.

The video clip is the same thing as well. Despite the cheesiness, I love the subverted implications in the scenes of crashed cars, isolated beaches, railway tracks – it’s all about self escaping, not being rescued. The wedding scene at the beginning is particularly powerful, clearly showing her fleeing from the marriage for her own reasons, on her own terms. The nod from the severe mother figure only approving until she leaves her partner is a nice touch to that piece. I did also like in the final scenes that the spirit/fishermen only left her the guitar, left her the method of becoming herself again.

But on the other hand, as my partner pointed out, for a music video about not wanting men, it has an awful lot of men in it. For a song about freeing yourself from unwanted and unfair burdens relating to men, it is still all about them.


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