Does The Wombat's 'Your Body Is A Weapon' glorify stalking?

British Indie Rock band, The Wombats.

British Indie Rock band, The Wombats.

On the cusp of releasing their latest album, British indie rockers The Wombats’ latest single is getting a fair spin on Australian radio. It should be just another catchy tune from the lads who brought us ‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division’, but when I heard ‘Your Body Is A Weapon’, my heart sank.

The title of the track already had me bracing myself for the worst. And, sure enough – behind the bouncing pop hooks, plainly audible in the yelping vocals – there it was: the plaintive cry of the Nice Guy.

The song is classic Nice Guy-ism: I’m such a sensitive soul; this woman is threatening me with her beauty; why won’t anyone touch my winky, aaahh!The lyrics are a muddle of complaints about social alienation and women who are too hot to love “a creep like me”.

The song’s narrative voice (sung by front man Matthew Murphy) bemoans a feeling of hollowness in a shallow, extortionate world – and then immediately objectifies the woman he’s singing about. “I wonder what you’ll wear tonight/ The shiny black dress with the slit at the thigh.”

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This, in itself, is not new. An indie rock dude singing about being intimidated by pretty girls? “Stop the presses!” right? It wasn’t this tired old trope that caught my attention; I was bothered by the language that lyricist Murphy employed.

The final refrain of the song repeats many times: “Someone protect me from the one I love”. The male voice sings about an unrequited crush on the woman he may very well be stalking, and then calls for protection from her.

Interestingly, the song lyrics were changed during the recording of the album. Originally the song was inspired by a male paparazzo Murphy saw lurking outside an event, trying to get photos of a One Direction member.Murphy says he wondered about this man’s life – “maybe he’s fallen in love with a pop star at some point” – and wrote a song about a tabloid photographer’s relationship to his quarry. However, the consensus was that the song felt “a bit creepy, lyrically,” and so the band altered the song to its current version.

It sounds to me like Murphy ditched what was potentially an interesting exploration of the relationship between paparazzo and celebrity (and a male celebrity, which would have been a fresh angle). Instead, he reverted to the tired old trope of a desperate young man stalking a beautiful woman and consequently blaming her for his feelings. Which is apparently much less creepy.

Maybe it’s because I know that every week in Australia another woman is killed by a man who claimed to love her – the sentiment of this song just doesn’t wash.

‘Your Body Is A Weapon’ co-opts the language of domestic violence to garner sympathy for a stalker. I sometimes wonder if (white, privileged) men walk in an entirely different world to women – a world in which the threat of violence is so mythologised and removed from real life, that it becomes an easy analogue for any time they’re not getting what they want.

Even more disturbing is the song title, which identifies the woman’s body as the ‘weapon’ from which the male singer presumably needs protection. This weapon of hers is completely predicated on him gazing upon her, and she is not in control of where he gazes, so the agency still lies with the man.

In a sense, he’s holding this so-called weapon himself. If a song called ‘Your Body Is A Weapon’ were sung by a woman about a man, it would carry very different connotations. If a woman was singing “Someone protect me from the one I love,” I doubt we’d feel okay dancing to it.

This is a disturbing example of lyrics that subjugate women being popularly accepted. The Wombats felt that a song about a male stalker’s anger at a woman’s body would go down better than a song about tabloid culture. As a result, I turn on my radio and hear the phrase “Someone protect me from the one I love” blithely sung by an oblivious white dude. This song betrays a complete ignorance of the culture in which we live, when that dude can somehow paint himself as the victim.

One woman every week. Don’t forget. I can’t.

 

10 comments

  • Is it at all possible that you may be over-analysing the lyrics to this song?

    You can cherry-pick lyrics from any song and quote them out of context, and through the narrow lens of feminism, to paint every song ever written in a light that backs up your opinion.

    I think a piece of harmless garage pop isn't deserving of your critique as being a "plaintive cry", "a muddle of complaints about social alienation", "immediately objectifying", "creepy", "co-opting the language of domestic violence to garner sympathy for a stalker", and a "disturbing example of lyrics".

    Then you attempt to make a direct link between this song and the prevalence of domestic violence in Australia, as though the song is somehow responsible for it, or at least doesn't condemn it - as though the main purpose of art is to push an idealogical agenda, as opposed to entertain.

    Please find excuses for your delicate sensibilites to be horrified elsewhere.

    Commenter
    Dan
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    January 22, 2014, 9:04AM
    • I've seen "Every Breath You Take" on wedding song lists. Most people don't pay much attention to song lyrics, and songwriters sometimes write a song as a different character...sometimes someone whose ideas they don't fully endorse...

      Commenter
      Phil
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 22, 2014, 9:24AM
      • I know, there's nothing 'romantic' about that song at all. It's a stalker song.

        Commenter
        puffles
        Date and time
        January 22, 2014, 3:56PM
    • Wow,
      That's massive leap you've taken there.

      How you've gone from an unrequited love of a beautiful woman to crazy stalker I have no idea.

      Commenter
      Freddie Frog
      Date and time
      January 22, 2014, 9:50AM
      • Yes, "Nice-Guyism" is a tired old trope and it may be that some nice guy admirers are also creepy voyeurs and violent stalkers, but, just guessing here, not all of them. Hell, maybe not even most. That's probably why people feel OK dancing to songs like this (except nice guys - it's part of the trope that nice guys can't dance). And, to suggest the song's nice guy is portrayed as the victim is surely missing the point. He's just pathetic and the song stops short of blaming the woman for the effect she seems to have on him.

        Commenter
        Colin
        Date and time
        January 22, 2014, 9:55AM
        • As you mentioned, this song is getting a fair bit of air play at the moment. It's classic Wombats, really. Having listened to it a lot, and looked up the lyrics, I'm not sure that I see the link to stalking. Maybe I'm naive, but I don't want to assume that every white, heterosexual male is a potential dangerous stalker/sex offender.

          The lyrics are subjective. The domestic abuse and stalker imagery is the worst reading that can come of this song - a milder one would be a guy who has a crush on a girl he knows it's never going to happen with (for any reason), but feels powerless because he finds her so attractive. The comment about the male gaze is interesting, but realistically, the song is written from a male point of view. We as people look at and appraise each other - isn't that half the point of fashion?

          Sorry, but I remain unconvinced that this song is stalkerish... especially when compared to "classics" like Every Breath You Take by The Police.

          Commenter
          M
          Date and time
          January 22, 2014, 10:11AM
          • I kiiiiiiiind of see what you're getting at but I really can't say I agree at all. And I'm generally very aware and critical of these kinds of things!

            It literally just sounds like a song about a photographer dude that likes to admire from a distance it a normal-person way - a superficial crush that you would never pursue, not the kind.

            Haven't we all been there? No? Just me? ...Awkies.

            Commenter
            nemo
            Location
            sydney
            Date and time
            January 22, 2014, 10:12AM
            • While we're at it why don't we pull apart - Pumped up kicks - Because you know that promotes high school shootings, Also Brick by Ben Folds because that talks about how a guy feels when his GF is having an abortion, Every breath you take - Because Sting was definitely using this to tell us he was hunting and watching his wife at the time. Seriously, smarten up. If you want to talk about domestic violence, talk about it, discuss how we can look at preventing it, & supporting those affected by it rather than trying to convince your readers that this song is a glorification of stalking.

              Commenter
              MichelleS
              Date and time
              January 22, 2014, 12:23PM
              • "I sometimes wonder if (white, privileged) men walk in an entirely different world to women – a world in which the threat of violence is so mythologised and removed from real life, that it becomes an easy analogue for any time they’re not getting what they want."
                Not sure what you are trying to say here? Mythological violence? That's a pretty insensitive generalisation, especially in light of recent events in Kings Cross where young men have been killed and others put into comas. By all means put the boot into stalkers, but please don't generalise about "white, privileged" men being "removed from real life". We deal with 'real' violence on a regular basis.

                Commenter
                confused
                Date and time
                January 22, 2014, 1:06PM
                • If boy-wants-girl songs didn't exist a good 50% of playlists would disappear...
                  Pretty much the whole opera genre consists of the thwarted relationship trope.
                  Occitan toubadours? Yep, all creepy stalkers!
                  Courtly love? Yep, rape fantasy.
                  If you have an ideology-tinted view of the world you can pretty much interpret anything to your liking to prove your beliefs. A man desires a woman - why does feminism implicitly believe this is morally wrong?

                  Commenter
                  gabe
                  Location
                  fitz
                  Date and time
                  January 22, 2014, 4:35PM
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