This is working for me, surprisingly, because, like Jim, the first track that I heard was "Kiss With a Fist". And it, it sounded like a lot of other things I heard before and then the feminist in my just, like, could not compute. I shout down when I heard that one!
- Jacquie Fuller, a newbie to Musicheads, letting her Feminist Flag fly regarding a song of Florence and the Machine's.
In related news, I may be moving to Minnesota. They do have the coolest people on their public radio stations.
Now, onto the song that raised Jaquie's feminist ire:
It is a violent song with a catchy, boppy beat. When Jacquie remarks, "She says it's metaphorical, but I don't quite get ... how. Seems pretty direct to me", I'm right there with her.
What's more, even if the song is metaphorical in nature, even if plates aren't being smashed over fictional characters' heads, the metaphor of violence for the mutually destructive forces playing part in the relationship explored through song is still intensely violent. Domestic violence doesn't just cover being physically beaten. It covers emotional violence as well. And if these two characters are feeling as though they're each being "kissed with a fist", then they are both guilty of abuse. A relationship that has mutually destructive people doesn't mean that it is a victimless relationship. Instead, it means there are two victims, and two perpetrators. Again, I turn to Jacquie in that "I can sort of run with the 'War of the Roses' absurdity of the song until we get to that chorus when she says, "A kiss with a fist is better than none", and there's something so direct about that that it hurts - in a bad way".
I'm going to posit that the reason that line hurts in a bad way is because many people have either been in or watched a friend be in a bad, destructive relationship where the prevailing wisdom was something along those lines - even if the fist was entirely metaphorical. It hurts because the thought that a relationship all about the drama, a relationship that is literally or metaphorically hurting its participants, is still better than the "nothing" of being single (and I use that in quotes simply because being single isn't nothing - far from it) isn't exactly an idea that exists at the edge of Crazytown. There are people who will (and do) prize a relationship over anything else, over their own well-being, over their partner's well-being, over their sense of self.
But it also hurts because that if that fist isn't metaphorical - if it is real and brutal and there - then a dark line about being in that relationship is better than not being in a relationship at all is all the darker. Because that darkness can be the thought that the persons involved in this type of relationship are already broken, that they don't deserve a better, mutually beneficial relationship.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month this year. Songs like this one, peppy-fun-and-bubbly-on-the-surface songs, should be called out as representing a particular kind of domestic violence no matter the interpretation at any point in the year. But it seems a bit more crucial, a bit more pressing, during this particular month. Because too often, we aren't aware.