Friday, March 13, 2015

I Wish I'd Written This

And I wish that you'll all hop over here and listen to it before you read it (even if you've heard it often before). If you're as old as me and lived in Australia in 1972, this might be the first version you fondly recall, as it is mine.


Yes, we've just had International Women's Day and that's why I thought of it again, though for me it never dies.

OK, here are the lyrics, and I sure would love to have written them. On the other hand, I'm glad she was the one who did, and sang them with such power too.



I Am Woman

By Helen Reddy



I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an' pretend
'cause I've heard it all before
And I've been down there on the floor
No one's ever gonna keep me down again

Chorus
Oh yes I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman

You can bend but never break me
'cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
'cause you've deepened the conviction in my soul

Chorus
Oh yes I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman

I am woman watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin' arms across the land
But I'm still an embryo
With a long long way to go
Until I make my brother understand

Chorus
Oh yes I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to I can face anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman

Oh, I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong

(Fade)

I am woman

I am invincible
I am strong
I am woman

There are other, later versions of it on YouTube. One attracted this comment:

what kind of a retard goes around singing this?
Has this bitch given anything to humanity (other than sucking dick i.e).
Imagine a man going  "I am Man.. hear me roar.. I am strong.. I am invincible.. blah blah" 

To which I decided to reply:

At the time it was written, women were even more put down and discriminated against than they are now, and there was a much more widespread belief in society that that was how things were ordained to be. (I know; I was there.) It was hard to fight against it. This was a brave song for its time and she was brave to write and sing it. It helped many of us.

Of course that's only part of the story. There are places in the world where women are even now put down and discriminated against as badly, or worse, than they were in the Western world in the seventies. And even though many of our brothers do understand, there's still a long, long way to go. In Australia we still don't have equal pay for equal work; and just under half a million Australian women reported that they had experienced physical or sexual violence or sexual assault in the past 12 months.

Perhaps we are not so strong or invincible? I think of the young Indian woman who died after savage rape on a Delhi bus. But then I think of Malala, who still speaks out for the education of women even after the attempt to murder her for it. There are also the many who are strong and enduring in traditional ways: giving birth, working to feed and raise their children, teaching their children, looking after elderly parents....

I see Helen Reddy's song as an assertion of what can be rather than claiming it is already achieved — and an acknowledgment that it must start from the inside. I see it also as something to be achieved collectively; a reminder that we do need to stand together in sisterhood ... and indeed in brotherhood, as many men already do.

Song lyrics are poetry too, often very good poetry (think of Cohen and Dylan). These are powerful words, stated with originality and clarity, and very nicely rhymed to boot.  

The Wikipedia link on Reddy's name leads as usual to the Wikipedia article about her and her fascinating career between Australia and the USA. We Aussies still like to think she's ours, but she has joint citizenship and at present is living back in America, where she has spent much of her adult life.

The story of the song itself can be found in Wikipedia too, and is an interesting read. (Well, I think so.) Click the link on the title.

She has written a memoir, The Woman I Am, which is available on Amazon, and Google supplies us with several quite recent (2013) interviews. She's a complex woman who has met many challenges, including a rare illness which has plagued her a long time. Despite the rude and stupid comment on YouTube, she has contributed much in both her public and private life.



Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).

16 comments:

  1. Thank you for this expose on the plight of women then and now. I think you raised a very good point on how men are more a brotherhood than women a sisterhood.. Women are too destructive divisive and competetive with each other. Although I must say that highly intelligent women are not usually like this. Until we adopt some of the attitudes of male allegiance to each other I do not see the way forward. Great piece....a very enjoyable read!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed. I wasn't actually meaning to make that point, as it has not been my experience or observation, though I have heard others express the same opinion. I am inclined to think all traits may be found across all genders. By 'brotherhood' I was referring more to the fact that there are men do stand in solidarity with women, e.g. the many men who were horrified at the attacks on 'Jyoti' and Malala.

      Delete
  2. Oh my goodness. Helen Reddy was my heroine back then and this was my anthem, as it was for so many of us. I remember stalking around the house,m belting this out, and the look on my husband's face. Safe to say we werent together much longer. I love this entire post. Love your reply to the uninformed comment on youtube. Thanks, Rosemary. This might just be my fave I Wish I'd Written This. I'm glad she not only wrote it but sang it, and helped empower a generation.

    Our main tv station aired India's Daughter recently, about that horrible rape........the most stunning part was the rapist's blaming of the victim, as always happens, it seems, wherever one is on the globe. Yes, we have a long way to go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As expected, my YouTube reply attracted another abusive, misogynistic response from the same person. Which I shall ignore. I didn't write mine for the person I was replying to so much as other readers who might not know the history.

      Delete
    2. Sherry I am seeing you walking around the house 'belting this out' :-)

      Delete
  3. In some ways this seems a lifetime ago--and in others, not so much--I wonder how much we have advanced really--I still get angry--or maybe, I am angry still--in either case--we have a long way to go still--This still seems a relevant piece to me!

    ReplyDelete
  4. "I am woman" What a rebellious song, as you say. Women had to learn to say that, just as we had to learn to say NO with authority. We had to value our identities in order to work together. Some critcized this song as exclusive to white rather than inclusive of all ethnicities and colors, but I never meant it that way. And then there was Nancy SInatra with "These Boots are made for walking" and other songs celebrating women like Carole King's "You make me feel like a natural woman." WHo knew it was ok to celebrate and feel empowered by being a woman? Roar! You probably did.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh Rosemary - thanks so much for this reminder of our anthem! I remember there were a few empowering songs along the way (Carole King's "Natural Woman" and Patsy Gallant's "I Will Survive") but Reddy lead off with "I Am Woman" ...

    I agree to a certain extent with others who say we need to become stronger in our efforts to become a true sisterhood. So often women seem ready to disparage other women (nowhere is this more evident than the divisiveness between working women and stay-at-home moms...neither position is more important than the other but some women still seem bent on proving there's a discrepancy and that whomever is doing what is right, and the other, by inference or implicitly, wrong).

    And we need more men who are feminists too - the more men who "get it" the better - we need both parents to be raising strong females and males that understand it's a good thing to be sensitive and kind and know that equality is a given...

    Oh my, I'm off on a rant. International Women's Day, I guess.

    Sorry, again - thanks for this...it's golden.

    I leave you with this quote from the recently departed Terry Pratcett (may he RIP) -
    "If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story." – from The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nothing to apologise for in what you say, Sharon!

      Delete
  6. I think the comment left on youtube just means that it is still needed... so many men who does not stand up for women.. In the best of worlds I would like men to stand up for women and maybe when times come women to stand up for men..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me three, Bjorn. Too much women bashing and men bashing. How about just bashing those who bash ; ) Thanks for this Rosemary

      Delete
  7. A wonderful posting to honor International Women's Day, Rosemary! I enjoyed stepping back in time to revisit the song and I'm hoping that we're still heading in the right direction, albeit slowly. It always feels as if progress of this type moves too slowly. Here's hoping the 'bashers' come to learn & appreciate the importance of social equity -- for everyone.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I enjoyed this post so much. it took me back to those days of bra burning, consciousnss raising groups. and deep. serious discussions with my husband about needed changes in the balance of our relationship. This song expressed the awakening so many women were undergoing at that time. Thank you so much for bringing back this important time in history and in my personal life.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Rosemary, I think this is one of my favorite posts of yours too. And I also remember this song so very well! In many regards it is still very relevant. I enjoyed reading the history of Helen Reddy too. I had not known much about her, and now I do!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks Rosemary! I know this song, and I am glad I had a listen again. I am listening with a different ear, and it resonates so aptly.

    ReplyDelete