Saturday, October 10, 2009

Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse: Strong Enough

Sheryl Crow: Strong Enough


On the face of it, Sheryl Crow's 1993 triple-Grammy debut doesn't seem to speak explicitly to this week's theme. But as I alluded to at our week's beginning, the threat of domestic violence lurks constantly in the way society portrays gender relationships.

As evidence, I note that I have always wanted to hear a male voice cover Strong Enough, with no other changes to the lyrics save one: changing the repeated refrain "Are you strong enough to be my man?" to "Am I strong enough to be your man?"

It's a different song, to be sure, when the roles are reversed - a song of masculinity, sarcastic and sensitive all at once, with undertones of anger against so many women's acceptance of violence as strength. But as an exercise, it also reveals the violence Crow's original narrator owns throughout. That it requires re-thinking the song to see this reveals how easily we overlook or excuse violence as just part of the gender dynamic of modern culture. We are all, in the end, part of the problem.

Which is to say: although my own gender-transformed lyrics reveal an interesting sense of self-as-perpetrator, aware and unapologetic, just under the surface, until someone with a strong, sensitive baritone takes on my challenge to cover the song, Strong Enough already contains its particular violence. Specifically, it is one of those rare songs which positions the female as offender, thus showing that domestic violence is not, in the end, a "woman's issue", but a human one.

Here's the lyrics, as modified for a male delivery.

God, I feel like hell tonight
Tears of rage I cannot fight
I'd be the last to help you understand
Am I strong enough to be your man?

Nothing's true and nothing's right
So let me be alone tonight
Cause you can't change the way I am
Am I strong enough to be your man?

Lie to me
I promise I'll believe
Lie to me
But please don't leave

I have a face I cannot show
I make the rules up as I go
It's try and love me if you can
Am I strong enough to be your man?

When I've shown you that I just dont care
When I'm throwing punches in the air
When I'm broken down and I can't stand
Will I be strong enough to be your man?

Lie to me
I promise I'll believe
Lie to me
But please don't leave...

Millions of men both gay and straight become victims of domestic violence each year, though numbers are hard to collect, as men are notoriously shy of reporting. For help and more information, online resources for and about battered men are available at MenWeb.

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