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“Oasis” and Sexual Violence

June 3, 2009

Ashley over at Pussy Goes Grrr wrote last week about a song by Amanda Palmer called “Oasis”. Here it is (potential trigger warning):

When I got my abortion
I brought along my boyfriend
We got there an hour
Before the appointment

And outside the building
Were all these annoying
Fundamentalist Christians
We tried to ignore them

I’ve had better days but I don’t care
Oasis got my letter in the mail

I’ve been strangely fascinated by this song since I saw it on Ashley’s post. It’s such cognitive dissonance: an upbeat, catchy song about rape and abortion. This is what Amanda had to say about it in an article on The Huffington Post:

Can I simply state: When you cannot joke about the darkness of life, that’s when the darkness takes over.

The song is not a lecture… it’s a reflection, a character sketch. As I was walking over to the BBC the other day and my rep mentioned that they might not let me play “Oasis” on the air, I suggested that I might be allowed to play it if I just slowed it down and played it in a minor key. Think about it: if they heard the same lyrics against the backdrop of a very sad and lilting piano, maybe with some tear-jerking strings thrown in for good measure, would they take issue?

This song is about denial; it’s about a girl who can’t find it in herself to take her situation seriously. That girl exists everywhere. You probably know her. You’ve probably met her. You might be her.

Humor saves us. Humor is one of the strongest weapons that human beings have against suffering, death and fear.

I’m not sure how I feel about this song. On one hand, it’s really refreshing to hear about rape and abortion in a straightforward way that avoids qualifications and shame. It’s a catchy, very tongue-in-cheek song, and Amanda seems to know what she’s doing, mixing tragedy and humor. On the other hand, I can see how it could be very offensive or painful to listen to and how it could be construed as disrespectful to survivors. I wonder what other people think about this. Does humor have a place in our conversations about sexual violence?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jill permalink
    June 3, 2009 10:44 AM

    One the one hand, I think we should defer to any survivor regarding how she wants to frame her experience. If this is Palmer’s experience, and this is the expression that best helps her contextualize it and deal with it, I don’t think it’s terribly problematic.

    On the other hand, if she wrote this song because the subject matter is trendy and dramatic, and she likes pushing the envelope with the juxtaposition of subject and peppy music, I think that’s exploitative. It seems from the interview that Palmer has been a bit more thoughtful than that, but I’m still a little wary of a someone who has not survived these experiences using such a story to make a point, be it artistic or political.

  2. Lisa permalink
    June 3, 2009 11:46 AM

    At first I was pretty shocked by this song, but after reading what Palmer had to say about it, I’m feeling better about it, but I’m still not totally alright with it. I’m glad that Palmer has undertaken this project thoughtfully, and not flippantly. However, my worry is that her trying to laugh even in dark situations will be interpreted as simply making light of rape and abortion. I also worry that this song will encourage other, less reflective artists to make jokes about rape which is frankly not okay with me. I agree with what Palmer said about the song (I think), but I worry that it will be misinterpreted and possibly send the message that rape and abortion are laughing matters.

  3. Ashley permalink
    June 3, 2009 10:16 PM

    Thanks so much for including the song/video in your blog. I’m glad that my post could contribute in any way, and this post made me think more about the subjects at hand and I ended up writing another blog about it.

    Thanks again!

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  1. Early AFP fix; Oasis pt. 2 « Pussy Goes Grrr

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