The world’s resident activist extraordinaire-cum-rock star, Bono, is worried. And this time, it has nothing to do with righting the wrongs of the world, or the launch of a new celebrity-fronted humanitarian campaign. It’s about the men, man. The men and their displaced rage.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, the polarising superstar let it be known that as far as he’s concerned, the so-called “girly” landscape of music is thwarting opportunities for men to express themselves.
In response to whether or not he can see a revolution on the cards for Rock & Roll, the U2 frontman said: “I think music has gotten very girly. And there are some good things about that, but hip-hop is the only place for young male anger at the moment – and that's not good.”
Even now, as I read the words back to myself, it’s unclear what Bono – last year’s Woman of the Year according to Glamour, lest we forget – meant by his comments, and I suspect he’d be hard-pressed to make sense of it, too.
Read it one way, and one could surmise that Bono’s beef is with a general feminine sound (whatever the hell that is) and its capacity to prevent ‘real’, gritty angst from flourishing in the music industry; you know, like back when real bands like U2 put out hardcore hits like With Or Without You, or that album on iTunes that nobody asked for.
In essence, Bono seems to be under the illusion that rage is entirely alien to women. Which is funny because most of the year has pretty much felt like a big, fat, rage-inducing torture chamber for a lot of us.
Read it another way, and, nope, it pretty much still comes across as the sexist, heteronormative musings of man who thinks that expressions of femininity are inherently inadequate when it comes to giving “young male anger” room to breathe.
And there was more: “When I was 16, I had a lot of anger in me.” He said. “You need to find a place for it and for guitars, whether it is with a drum machine – I don't care. The moment something becomes preserved, it is fucking over. You might as well put it in formaldehyde. In the end, what is rock & roll? Rage is at the heart of it.”
So, in essence, Bono seems to be under the illusion that rage is entirely alien to women. Which is funny because most of the year has pretty much felt like a big, fat, rage-inducing torture chamber for a lot of us. And expressions of that rage, in film, in art, in music, and in activism in particular, have been pretty phenomenal, even if and especially because they don’t fit into the traditional mold of man anger; a trait that, through domestic violence, for example, leads to the deaths of two women each week.
Love him or loathe him (listen, people still buy actual tickets to see U2 in concert like, a lot) and it’s probably the latter, there’s actually something quite sad about the fact that Bono, whose poverty prevention organisation ONE literally has a campaign that recognises how much poverty exacerbates gender inequality, didn’t use his platform to highlight the fact that tapping into more unconventional ways of emoting, may even be helpful for men. And if so-called girly music can help in any way to break them free of the constraints of traditional gender roles, then I’m here for it.