the working-class feminist who dresses like a Barbie doll

‘I’m for all women, but I don’t need a label’: Dolly Parton – Ron Davis

Dolly Parton’s three passions are “God, music and sex.” As she writes in her 1994 memoir Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business: “I would like to say that I have listed them in order of importance to me, but their pecking order is subject to change without notice.”

Today, she emerges as an unlikely feminist heroine, who understands the intersection of class and the female experience more than most gender studies professors, who is loved for her authenticity while also calling attention to her false femininity. “Don’t be fooled by my false eyelashes, because I’m not as fake as I look,” said the self-proclaimed “Barbie of the forests.” Her fan base includes drag queens and hardcore Republicans, but somehow she brings them together, embodying a kind of inclusivity that every world leader could learn from.

I imagine it would be very difficult to say no to this petite 77-year-old woman adored by everyone. So it’s no surprise that Lizzo, Miley Cyrus, Elton John, Nikki Sixx, Steven Tyler, Joan Jett, Paul McCartney, Peter Frampton and Debbie Harry are just a few of the people featured on Parton’s new rock album, Rockstar.

Parton is clearly one of the sharpest brains in the business, and that’s before we get to her gorgeous songwriting. She understood the brand before we used the word. She fought tooth and nail and lived off scraps of food in hotel hallways to get away from the control of male managers and do things her way.

Her backstory of growing up in extreme poverty in the hills of East Tennessee never leaves her. Her mother married at 15 and she had 12 children. As they said at the time, she always had “one on top of her and one on her.” The family had nothing. Her mother and father beat her, as did her brother Coy Denver. But she was always strong-willed: in My Life and Other Unfinished Business, Parton dryly writes that “mountain boys” like her brother would have their chauvinism subdued after two or three divorces, at which point she would take revenge, describing her approach. as an “Appalachian feminist guerrilla movement.” This is about the only time Parton uses the word feminism, although she will be asked about it again and again throughout her career.

At age 12, during her baptism, Parton became aware of her feminine power. In his memoir, he describes his wet cotton dress sticking to his “headlights,” and the children say Hallelujah. At church she feels horny. Well, she figures God wouldn’t have given her these famous breasts if she didn’t want people to notice them. She loves her sex and when she starts singing about her, the audience falls in love with her, just as they fall in love with her. She writes: “That’s the great thing about a sense of humor and sexual desire, you can’t wait to share it with everyone else.”

She creates her own makeup using blackened matchstick tips on her eyebrows and eyelashes, and blackberry juice to tint her lips. She bleaches her hair and makes it bigger, while she wears increasingly tighter costumes. She is born the image of Dolly and is both an expression of femininity and class, as well as a kind of armor. “I look like a woman but I think like a man,” she writes.

The dazzle hides an incredible gift for songwriting; songs often about abandoned women, dying children and extreme poverty. Those who underestimate her because of her nuclear breasts get what they deserve from her. In New York, when a man who mistook her for a prostitute “started grabbing me in places I reserve for attackers of my own choosing,” she pulls out a gun and says, “you touch me one more time, you son of a b… “hy, I’m going to blow your balls off.” Don’t mess with Dolly.

In the late 1960s the Women’s Liberation movement emerged. Parton may not make public statements about it or identify with it, but she writes songs about the double standards surrounding sex for women. For example, her 1968 hit Just Because I’m a Woman was based on the disgust that her husband Carl Dean, always gnomic and invisible, had expressed at having had sexual relations before marriage, when she was 20 years old. . The song, which was banned by some radio stations in the southern states of the United States, included the lyrics: “Now I know I’m no angel/ If that’s what you thought you found/ I was just the victim of/ A man that disappoints me/No, my mistakes are no worse than yours/Just because I am a woman.”

In fact, several of her songs deal with the double standards faced by women: both Bargain Store and The Eagle Flies focused on the reality of life for working-class women. Bargain Store included the lyrics: “If you don’t mind the fact that all the merchandise is used/But with a little repair it could be as good as new/The bargain store is open, come in,” so it was duly banned. . Parton didn’t mind. “I wrote a lot of songs that people wouldn’t play on the radio, but I didn’t care… Everything I write is just what comes out of me and I refuse to be judged.”

The Eagle Flies demonstrated Parton’s duality; to be resilient and vulnerable at the same time: “She is a woman, she knows how to share or take it all/ Her heart is soft as feathers, yet she resists the stormy skies./ And she is a sparrow when she is broken/ But she is an eagle when she flies ”.

Then the sublime Jolene – an incredible speech from one woman to another, and one of the most perfect and unusual songs ever written – and, of course, 9 to 5, which Parton wrote by tapping her acrylic nails, writing a song that universalized womanhood. . experience.

However, every time Parton is asked about feminism, she avoids the question, always alert to the conservatism of her country’s followers. “I don’t think… I mean, I have to be if being a feminist means I’m all for women, yeah. But I don’t feel like I should march, hold up a sign, or label myself. I think the way I have conducted my life, my business and myself speaks for itself. I don’t consider it feminist. It’s not a label I have to put on myself. “I’m all for girls.”

He has often said that he does not like to express his opinions: “I respect my audience too much for that. “I respect myself too much for that.” He has Republican and Democratic friends and watched the Dixie Chicks ruin their career for speaking out against the Iraq War.

Every part of Parton’s life seems to be lived as a feminist, no matter what she admits in public. She will dress however she wants, she was one of the first to talk about cosmetic surgery (pinches and creases in “boobs, buttocks and waist, eyes and chin and vice versa”) and she negotiates her own business. From the beginning, she knew how to retain the rights to all of her songs (more than 3,000 of them) and she refused to give up more than half of the rights to I Will Always Love You to Elvis Presley. Whitney Houston’s cover continues to make her money to this day.

His personal life is superficially traditional but again he does it his way. Her eternal marriage to Carl Dean – who never appears with her in public because he doesn’t like “wingings,” and in fact no one has seen them together in decades – is maintained with her constantly praising him. Parton, who has never had children, even had her tubes tied without telling her.

In her book, she hints at affairs and addresses the rumor that she is in a lesbian relationship with Judy Ogle, her best friend since elementary school and who travels everywhere with her. “Forty years of friendship, Judy and I… one thing we’ve had to overcome is the constant rumor that Judy and I are lesbian lovers. It’s understandable. “Most people can’t understand that two women are so close and devoted to each other.” They sleep in the same bed and Parton doesn’t care who knows.

Here, then, is a woman whose talent and wealth have given her the ability to live an independent life, breaking boundaries wherever she goes.

For her, the word feminist connotes hatred of men, so she avoids it. Her younger sister scolded her for not speaking out when the MeToo movement emerged. Stella Parton, 69, said: “I’m ashamed of my sister for keeping her mouth shut. She may direct it when it’s about something else, but she talks about injustice, Dolly Parton. Talk loud. And she speaks. She defends women, and don’t just do it in a little song. Talk loud.”

Instead, Parton jokes about being a woman who would only leave the house without hair and makeup at gunpoint. She has even said that she sleeps with makeup in case there is an earthquake. She has walked this tightrope her entire life, implicitly confronting male behavior without alienating her followers. She never falls.

There really is no one like Dolly, however she describes herself. Whether she declares herself a feminist or not, Dolly understands the lives of working-class women better than anyone. Her ability to bring people together is the work of an instinctively accomplished political operator. Why doesn’t she run the world? In a way, she is. As she says, “I’m all for girls.” Long may she reign.

‘Rockstar is now available

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *