An Open Letter Of Advice To Say Anything's Max Bemis
    • THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 05, 2015

    • Posted by: Rafaella Gunz

    When I saw feminist scholar bell hooks give a talk at The New School last month, one of the things she said was how men become most in touch with feminism when they father daughters. This certainly seems to be true in the case of Max Bemis, frontman of the pop-punk band Say Anything.

    If you look at the 2004 album ...Is A Real Boy, you can see how 19/20-year-old Bemis was angsty, and well, kind of a f***boy. The song "Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too" is particularly telling of this:

    I had no interest in the things she said.
    On the phone every day,
    I'll permanently hit the hay.

    I called her on the phone and she touched herself.
    She touched herself. She touched herself.
    I called her on the phone and she touched herself.
    I laughed myself to sleep.

    The theme continues in 2007's In Defense of the Genre with "That is Why" as a perfect example, with body shaming, slut shaming, and nods to how women are replaceable commodities:

    You lack the curves that prove a proper lady
    A slender slave with sluttish, sleepy eyes
    Though once I was emoting
    And Bono lyric quoting
    I have found another, be my guest and die

    In 2009's self-titled album, Max first writes about his now-wife Sherri. But even in "Crush'd," his love song to her, there are still some misogynistic themes:

    When we spoke, no joke
    I started shedding slutty girls
    Like snake skin, my collection
    Acquired through shallow misdirection

    Again, those lyrics have elements of slut shaming and thinking of women as acquired objects.

    In February 2013, Sherri gave birth to their first daughter, Lucy. And in 2014's Hebrews, we see Max take on the role of the protective father in the song "Boyd," named after his father-in-law:

    Don't put your hands on her
    Don't read your poetry
    Because it's worthless and it's didactic to me
    Shave off your handlebar, stitch you to the car
    I'll sell your organs off for tuition

    So you better get her home by 11:30
    Yeah you better get her home by 11:30

    While it's perfectly normal for a parent to want to protect their child from harm, the image of a shotgun-wielding father this song brought to mind could still be viewed as sexist, as it implies that a woman's body belongs to her father and denies her bodily autonomy.

    In February 2015, Sherri gave birth to Coraline, the couple's second daughter. And I gotta say, as a fan, I've loved watching both these little girls grow up via Sherri's daily Instagram posts. I always wondered how fathering two daughters changed Bemis' perception, and I got my answer on Twitter the other night:

    max bemis say anything

    The feminist and Say Anything fan in me was incredibly happy to see this. Here's Max Bemis, with a history of writing misogynistic lyrics, taking to Twitter to ask his feminist fans how to be a better male ally.

    I personally can't wait to see what comes next for Max and Say Anything, because he's clearly come a long way from "I kill, kill, kill little girls," considering he's now raising two of them and thinking more deeply about feminism. I hope to see less songs pinning women as sluts, or collectibles for men, and more songs about our plight to be recognized as full, well-rounded human beings. In the song "Hebrews," Max did nod in our direction with the line, "wish I were a woman for their struggle is noble," though this line doesn't exactly bode well in the long run as he's coming from a place of cis male privilege. But I do look forward to the next step in his journey as a self-proclaimed male feminist because though he has a lot to learn, he's heading in the right direction.

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