Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thoughts on "Permissive Twit"

Who else remembers Gilbert O'Sullivan? His song "Alone Again (Naturally)" hit number one in 1972.

Being 13 at the time, I became obsessed with him, and later owned not just his first hit album, Back to Front, but also an earlier one, (Gilbert O'Sullivan) Himself.

This was a guy who wasn't ready for the big time. The albums, especially the older one, are great examples of scraping the bottom of the barrel to have enough material. Despite a few good songs, and even a second marginal hit ("Clair"), there's a lot more wrong than right there.

The worst example is called "Permissive Twit," which appears to be about his pregnant sister. I don't want to fall into the fallacy of thinking every song is based on the writer's personal experience or represents his literal point of view -- he may be making fun of the beliefs that the song presents as plain reality.

But if so, it's so ham-handed, it comes off as reinforcing the belief system that places all blame for pregnancy on women, assuming it's okay for men to have sex without consequences, joking about her having an abortion (or not) as if it's the family's decision and not hers, and generally only being concerned about the pregnancy because it has made the family the subject of gossip.

And that's not even mentioning the use of the word "twit."

Oh heaven help our Linda
She's really done it now.
What's more it's all so obvious.
I mean her stomach's sticking out.

If father tells me mother,
She's bound to have a fit,
Followed by a neat convulsion
Thanks to our permissive twit.

She thinks his name was Ronald,
Or was it Sid or Len?
The only thing that's certain
Is that it wasn't Bill or Ben.

Our parish priest, God bless him,
The very reverend Father Pitt,
Will no doubt be preaching sermons
To our dear Permissive Twit

By now the word
Will no doubt have been heard
By almost every bleeding nosy
parker in our alley

All except, that is,
Our own great aunt Liz
Who I hear's been deaf since the day
Our Grace recorded Sally, Sally, Sally.

Unless we raise the money,
She'll have to let it out.
What I mean is she will have to
Have it the right way, wrong way, about.

In other words let nature
Take its course and do its bit
For the sake of those concerned with
Own dear permissive twit.
I guess I should think of it as anthropological evidence of attitudes and beliefs in 1970. But I keep feeling sorry for his sister, whether she existed or not.

1 comment:

Gina said...

I think your intuition about it being an example of the sexist and misogynistic attitudes towards women pre-feminism is right on. Back in 1970, no one would have blinked twice at those lyrics, but nodded solemnly, oh yes, the poor girl, the poor family, whatever will they do?

During my years in high school, I knew of several girls who got pregnant. Several were sent away to have the babies. Others walked around proud of what they'd done. But parents were in an uproar. The girls endured a lot of ostracism from other kids and adults. Some were forced to marry the boys.

I recently observed something I found astonishing, i.e. people born after 1968 tend not to understand the '60's and the 70's very well. I think it's like kids born in 1990 just assume that cell phones and personal computers always existed. One guy I talked with could not believe how anti-woman the men were in America in the 1900's. I laughed. Here was a guy who'd never lived in an America where women were still thought of as second class citizens. He was used to seeing women in sports, the office, everywhere men were. So it goes....