Is It a Man’s Man’s Man’s World?

As I was walking through a store the other day, I found myself humming to the music playing in the background—one that I heard all the time on TV or the radio: It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World by James Brown.

I always viewed the song as empowering to women because although the lyrics say, “This is a man’s world,” it subsequently claims that “it would be nothing without a woman or a girl”. I remember a male finalist singing it on American Idol and the camera cutting to his wife, who was in tears of happiness and joy, as well as Christina Aguilera belting out the song on the Grammy’s and receiving a standing ovation. But honestly, is this song really honoring the female population?

“You see, man made the car
To take us over the road
Man made the train
To carry the heavy load
Man made the electrolight
To take us out of the dark
Man made the boat full of water
Like noah made the arc

This is a mans,mans,mans world
But it would be nothing, nothing
Without a women or a girl.”

Looking at the lyrics of the song from a new perspective after several readings and classes, I feel as though the song actually makes women inferior despite their “importance”. The lyrics imply that women are only the complementary item to men, who actually “made the car” and “made the train”. Women are simply there to support and assist the men, who are really the dominant figure that actually does anything to help the world. Although many women find this song uplifting, I actually think it just underscores Beauvoir’s point that we are “The Other”.

What is everyone else’s point of view on this? Are there any other songs that are similar?


5 thoughts on “Is It a Man’s Man’s Man’s World?

  1. Bridget Amoako

    I agree with you. To me, the song is basically saying that men made everything but they did it for women. Instead of being a song for female empowerment it’s actually one arguing that women are living off of what men have given them. You could go so far as comparing it to Beyonce’s “Run the World” because she says that our persuasions “build a nation.” In both songs it seems like women are said to contribute to progress only in the ways that they can convince men to make change.

  2. auchusi

    I definitely agree that woman is portrayed as “the other” in this song, due to her minimal appearance and the fact that she has no actual contributions to the “man’s world.” The song fails to mention why women are “so important,” it only makes the unsubstantiated claim that they are. However, the thought that struck me while reading the lyrics concerned the reason that the artist even mentioned women, since it doesn’t seem to me like the point of the song is to wholly uplift or praise the female population. In fact, I think that one of the more prominent reasons for Brown saying that a man would be “nothing without a woman or a girl” is because man is seen as weak or feminine if he is unable to secure a female (girlfriend, wife, lover etc.), so in my opinion, the point of this addition is to prove to others (men in particular) that he is in fact aware that he must have a woman by his side to continue representing himself as dominant and successful. Basically, I think that the importance given to women in this song is more to highlight their appearance in male’s lives as an accompanying trophy than to actually praise them as their own gender.

  3. mrhilldoesapgce

    My take has always been that the train, the car, the whatever is simply a thing and a thing that only has one purpose; it can do nothing outside its designed remit. They lack the one thing we all crave; love. To me, the woman has always represented love.

  4. blydia

    I agree with what each and everyone has commented on this blog post. To further build on the original post, I think the lyrics definitely negate the role of women in relation to man and to the world. Just as “man made the car,” woman made the windshield wipers. As such, you cannot have one without the other. They depend on each other. This is the connection that Brown fails to make. Although he does say man is “nothing without a woman or a girl”, he does not go on to justify this claim. Without any explanation to go with his claim, I think Brown further diminishes the female sex and in turn, makes reference to the “woman” as solely a compliment to the role of a man in this “man’s world”.

  5. yamilaw

    I agree with the fact that women are representing “love” in these lyrics (or if you want to push it to the next level, women are presented in this song just as the sexual companions of man). However, even if it was just representing love, it doesn’t strike me as a positive attribute necessarily. By juxtaposing the material accomplishments of man that are related to the advancement of society in general, with merely the need for men to be accompanied by women, it is degrading the female gender as a whole. Why can’t it be a “Woman’s Woman’s Woman’s World” without a man or a boy?

    I don’t think the author of the song was trying to sound misogynistic. I don’t think either that Christina Aguilera nor the American Idol’s singer’s wife gave the lyrics much thought other that how “romantic” the song can be. And that is what I find the most interesting: women’s reaction the song. Yes, we are used to men putting down women, but what about women embracing this belittling?


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