The unquenchable fantasy for the unattainable woman: British Sociological Association

AS RENEE walked away from the Four Tops, she was really helping to codify a man's potentially disruptive, irrational self. It does not rhyme very well, but the woman in the song 'Walk Away, Renee' was basically a means to hold on to self-indulgent yearning, writes Jonathan Foster.

'Men, pop songs and remembrance of the unattainable woman' represent an important socio-cultural fantasy, according to a paper delivered yesterday at the British Sociological Association's annual conference in Preston, Lancashire. 'Remembrance of an unattainable woman is a recurring theme in pop and rock music,' Ian Atkin, from Bolton Institute of Higher Education, and Graham Bradley, from Brooklands Technical College in Surrey, said.

'Remembrance is the desire for desiring a loss - nostalgic pleasure derived from the memory of an unrealisable relationship,' they told the conference whose theme was 'Sexuality in Social Context'.

Suffering is indulged in countless male rock narratives, the male ego sometimes immersed in rejection, they said.

'And all this guilt will be on your head. I guess you'd call it suicide, but I'm too full to swallow my pride,' they quoted from 'Can't Stand Losing You' by the Police.

The understanding of 'male perceptions of love' gleaned from 40 years of rock and pop is scarcely sympathetic. They said the identity of the unattainable woman is recreated by the male as images of 'femaleness which women have had to tolerate throughout the history of civilisation'. Renee was loved, but she was also a source of male insecurity and jealousy.

But what if Renee was a lesbian? The chances are she would be a fan today of kd lang, the country and western singer.

Louise Allen from Lancaster University told the conference that country and western has become increasingly popular among lesbians, with prizes awarded to the best dressed cowgirls attending women-only nights at country music clubs. 'It is possible to see how the body of kd lang is constituted through its effects,' she said, citing letters written to her by the singer's fans.

Ms Allen said: 'kd lang holds an ambiguous position in relation to gender, because of the way she plays with cowboy culture and presents a dykey image, and also in relation to race, because of her native American identity and ability to pass as white.'

Ms Lang's body was desired by some lesbians because of its masculinity and American Indian characteristics, she said. But it was 'fandom' that defined those categories of race and gender.

'It is doubtful how far lesbian country and western and kd lang's public gender-bending can challenge or transgress hierarchical notions of race and gender reproduced in cowboy culture,' she said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit