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Carrie Underwood – “All American Girl”



“All-American Girl” is the stuff country radio hits are made of. Underwood delivers the bouncy melody of this catchy up-tempo with her typical technical proficiency and a perfect amount of the small-town sweetness that defines her image.

It all seems fine and dandy on the surface. We all love America, right? And we all love all-American girls, right?

People are going to listen to this song and think of it as nothing more than a cute, sweet, innocent little slice-of-life, wrapped up in a colorful bow of musical production and topped off with a Hershey’s-kiss of a vocal.

Call me a feminist (I am one). Call me a hippie (for shame!). Call me a liberal (guilty). But there is a major problem with the way this song defines and assigns gender identity.

Since the day they got married, he’d been prayin’ for a little baby boy
Someone he could take fishin’, throw the football and be his pride and joy
He could already see him holdin’ that trophy, takin’ his team to state
But when the nurse came in with a little pink blanket, all those big dreams changed

Wait, why exactly did the father’s big dreams change? Why exactly can’t he take his daughter fishing or throw a football with her?

Because in the literary universe of country music, gender roles are fixed and beauty is amplified by adherence to those roles.

Girls like girl things. Boys like boy things. That’s just the way it is.

But not in the real world. Here, girls like mud, and bugs, and trucks, and fishing and football and… actually girls like literally everything, because they are also human beings.

But this song doesn’t take place in the real world, of course. It takes place in Country Music World. And its point isn’t to reflect reality, but to reflect a particular value system that idealizes a specific type of femininity. (One which wouldn’t be at all problematic, were she given the autonomy to choose it on her own rather than having it thrust upon her the literal second she was born.)

Still, the song’s coercive assumptions about gender are not its most insidious characteristic.

That honor goes to the fact that, as per the usual, the daughter in this song is cast as Eve, or the Femme fatale; she’s the pretty female whose charms ultimately lead to the downfall of the ensnared suitor.

We find out, in the second verse, that 16 years later our girl was “falling for the senior football star.

Before long, the prized athlete is:

droppin’ passes, skippin’ classes just to spend more time with her
The coach said ‘hey son what’s your problem, tell me have you lost your mind’
Daddy said ‘you’ll lose your free ride to college, boy you better tell her goodbye’

She’s just a distraction to the motivated, talented male. It’s somehow her fault that his football skills have deteriorated.

They are literally blaming her for his sudden inability to catch sportballs. 

Oh and hey, I forgot, did she have any interests or activities that were worth mentioning? Did I miss those? Or was she just standing around feeding off his hopes and dreams?

Everyone associated with this should be ashamed.

Jim Malec is a journalist whose work has appeared in American Songwriter, Country Weekly, Denver Westword, Slant and others. He is the founder of American Noise and former Managing Editor of The 9513.

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