John Mayer's "Daughters"--brilliant or sexist?

I hate most pop music – hate, hate, hate it. Generally I find the production over-done, the lyrics insipid, and the imagery repetitive. (If I hear ONE MORE PERSON rhyming “love,” “dove,” “above,” and “of,” I may be in lockup the next day.) I especially hate the average song by, say, Britney Spears, in which you can invert any two lines of a rhyming couplet without anyone noticing.

But occasionally I come across somebody I like. Specifically, surfing Yahoo! music, I came across John Mayer’s “Daughters”; you can hear it and see the video here and read the lyrics here.

Upon first hearing I utterly loved it. It’s the rare pop song that shows genuine thought going into its lyrics; the singer actually has pipes provided him by nature rather than electronics. The speaker is bemoaning the fact that a girl he loves is damaged in ways he probably can’t help her with because the harm was done by her father long before he met her.

But this sequence bothers me:

Boys, you can break
You’ll find out how much they can take
Boys will be strong
And boys soldier on
But boys would be gone without the warmth from
A womans good, good heart

Is that an irredeemably sexist sentiment, Dopers?

I don’t find it sexist at all…it’s saying that men would be nothing without the women they love in their lives…which I think is a rather touching sentiment, don’t you?

I don’t think it is meant to imply anything about gender roles…just the feelings of love between the genders. At least, that’s how I interpret it.

The song is brilliant because it’s totally true- almost every female friend I’ve had has carried the scars of bad parenting (more often bad fathering) & occasionally has taken it out on me.

You’re going to have to explain why you find this to be so sexist, Fabulous Creature, because I’m really at a loss here.

I liked the song the first couple of times I heard it, too. My father was emotionally abusive, which is one reason I thought I was as worthless, useless, and ugly as I did when I was young. The song got to bothering me, too, because of the chorus:

The song sounds to me a bit like the only reason men should be good to their daughters is because their daughters will or at least expected to marry and have kids. I grew up in a town and in a time where women weren’t expected to have careers, but settle down, preferably right out of high school or college, and become mothers.* Unfortunately, between my father and a rather unpleasant social situations, by the time I graduated from high school, I considered myself unmarriageable. Shouldn’t my father have been good to me, not because I might become someone’s lover or mother, but simply because I exist in my own right? I don’t want to be defined or loved or respected only in terms of my relationship to someone else. I want to be defined, loved, or respected in terms of who I, alone am. I am my father’s daughter, and I’m usually proud of that. I’ve never been a mother, though, and for most of my adult life, I haven’t been somebody’s lover. Indeed, for a long time, I couldn’t mentally conceive of being somebody’s lover because of how badly damaged I was. Shouldn’t my father have been good to me even so?

On the other hand, I freely admit, I may be reacting to something which isn’t there.


*That town doesn’t seem to have changed much; a few years ago, I went and heard six young women who were about to graduate from my former high school read essays about their heroes. Five of them mentioned marriage; none of them mentioned a career. If I’d listen to six young men read such essays, I wonder how many of them would have mentioned marriage and how many would have mentioned a career.

People - he’s not talking about these things to the exclusion of everything else. He’s talking about the ramifications of maltreatment on not only the person, but on their future family as well. That’s the entire point he’s trying to make. He doesn’t mean that girls are only there to become mothers, but that if they DO become mothers, the actions of the parents in the girl’s childhood will have a pronounced effect on how they will deal with parenting. “Daughters will love like you do” is just reinforcing that your children will pass on the treatment you gave them to their children.

The song isn’t about a ‘woman’s place in the home,’ it’s about loving your children the way they ought to be loved, and how that love will translate to many aspects of their life. A daughter who is raised in love will be able to properly give and receive love to and from her future husband and children. It’s an exploration of the feelings and treatment passed on between generations, and doesn’t speak to careers on any level, so there’s no reason to put that into the song…it’s just not addressed, because that’s not what the song is about.

Generally: The entire song is: “what you do to your daughter she will perpetuate throughout her life, so you’d better treat her well.”

Great post, Jman!

I’ve been a member here for nearly four years now. If someone were to ask me the main thing I’ve learned on the SDMB, I’d have to say my lesson was:
No matter what is said, written in song, verse, post or tale, there is someone, somewhere, who will find something offensive about it.

I don’t think there is anything sexist about the lyrics of that song, but then what do I know?

But isn’t he also saying right there that it doesn’t matter so much how you treat your boys because they’re just going to soldier on and you’ll “find out how much they can take”? Then right under that he says, “On behalf of every man, Looking out for every girl, You are the god and the weight of her world.” Okay, God! Whatever you say.

The song seems to say that you should be good to your daughters, since you are like a god to them. Sons, you can do what you want to them because they will get all their love from a woman and will be fine provided that woman doesn’t have a bunch of baggage from her dad that causes her to be a jerk.

This is like a Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus song. It’s not as if he’s refusing to hire a woman to fix his car or remove his tonsils, but I’m pretty sure you could find a John Mayer ex-girlfriend out there saying, “Yeah okay, John, you have no baggage and I’m the only one with issues from his dad that caused us to break up.” I’m sure there’s someone out there rolling her eyes on that one.

If songs paint a picture in your brain, this one paints a picture in mine of an obnoxious armchair psychologist of an ex boyfriend who thinks that guys don’t carry emotional baggage into relationships, or that if they do, it doesn’t count because guys are so simple and pure and are really just reacting to their girlfriend’s insanity when relationships problems come up. Sometimes songs are very specific and they only click for people in a specific situation. If I were a guy who didn’t think he had any baggage, and I had an emotionally open girlfriend who admitted that she was often a bitch because of things that had nothing to do with me, I would probably like this song. But it’s definitely a he-said/she-said song and I don’t like it. I expect there to be a whole other verse about Fathers, don’t cheat on your sons mothers, your son gets his ideas about how to treat women from you, and don’t be emotionally uncommunicative, because if you do, your son will blame his girlfriend for everything he does and all his baggage too. Not that catchy, but still.

It took me four months to figure out that the song wasn’t performed by the Dave Matthews Band.

Rick, the difference is that John Mayer is actually good. :stuck_out_tongue:

I think Rick is right. They both are equally good as one another, and do sound somewhat alike.

I haven’t heard the song in question, so this is just a bit of Devil’s Advocacy: If what you say is true, then isn’t that pretty clearly sexist against men? If I were to say that women are nothing unless they have a boyfriend / husband / significant other, I suspect I’d be declared sexist by many on this board.

Plus, the lyrics given in the OP about breaking boys is a bit alarming, to be sure.

But “boys you can break” because they’re strong.

How is this not sexist?

People are always on the lookout for something by which to be offended. Sad.

Acknowledging that the lyrics strike me as sexist does not mean that I am offended.

Personally, I interpret the ‘boys you can break’ section to mean that most men will not outwardly show the emotion that comes from hard times…they will appear to shoulder the load and go on, but then the final line in that phrase shows that the reality of it is the opposite: the boys need love too (this references women as providing that love) in order to really move on. So, if you’ve got a maladjusted woman beside that ‘soldiering on’ boy, he won’t really make it - regardless of how it appears on the outside. It’s another example of how an abused girl wiill have repercussions to the outside. Just because he doesn’t talk about the effects of mistreated boys directly, but rather as another reason for treating daughters right doesn’t mean he approves of treating boys like dirt - it’s just not the subject of the song.

At least, that’s how I see it. I don’t know if that’s Mayer’s intentions, but from my point of view, Mayer is not perpetuating sexism in any way.

For the record, I’m not offended by the song; I just don’t care for it because it comes across to me as defining women only in terms of their relationship to someone else. Fathers should be good to their daughters because they’ll become someone’s lover or mother, not because their daughters are human beings in their own right. I want to like the song. There’s a lot of truth in it. The thing is, though, I want to be treated well because of who I am, not because of what I might do to some fellow who asks me out.

Does that make sense?

Siege, that is exactly my instinctive reaction to the song. I haven’t thought deeply about the song (because I hate it), but on the surface anyway, it just rubs me wrong.

I’m hardly on the look-out for something to take offense at. If I didn’t make it clear in my OP, I LOVE this song. But the lines I quoted bother me (not enough for me to take it off my favorites in Yahoo! music) because they seem to imply that women are, by virtue of lacking a Y chromosome, more emotionally fragile than men … and also that harm done to boys doesn’t matter because all they need is a woman to help them out, which seems to paint women are valuable only for their role in men’s lives.

yeah, but he’s singing it as a guy who basically has had to deal with the hurts caused by bad parents and recognizing that it just carries on through the generations. Your & his view aren’t exclusive to each other.

Sorry- I have lived this freaking song!