Why Does Any Man Do Anything: The Heteronormative Status Quo and Trent Harmon’s “There’s a Girl”

In which gender norms are unrelentingly upheld, eyes are rolled and Chinese food is, abnormally, disliked.

theres_a_girl

To my dear reader,

“Heteronormative” is a term referring the belief that people fall into distinct and complementary genders (man and woman) meant for one another romantically and sexually. It is perpetuated, unintentionally and intentionally, through many aspects of culture, damaging people of all genders and sexual orientations in ways they often don’t even notice. Yet despite its destructive presence in my life, it’s a term that I hesitate to use because, shockingly… most people in the world are heterosexual.

I realize that some fellow queer folk would crucify me for saying such things. But that shit’s real. Most people in the world fall into those categories nicely, and it makes sense that most of our culture and media should reflect that. Most people in the world have two eyeballs and no feathers; culture and media reflects that accordingly. That aside, heteronormativity pervades almost all culture, and pop music’s heteronormativity was unpleasantly brought to my attention as I drove to work, through Trent Harmon’s song “There’s a Girl.”

Over the course of the song, Harmon muses over the reasons why men do… well… anything, and concludes that the ultimate reason is girls, singing “Why does any man do anything in the whole damn world/’Cause there’s a girl.” Upon first hearing this, I had a strong combination of urges – to roll my eyes, to laugh at the audacity of the statement, and to reach through the radio and smack Harmon upside the head. I did only the first two of those things, but it did get me thinking; why was I so irked?

I wasn’t irked by the pretense of a man expressing sexual or romantic feelings towards a woman. I was irked by Harmon’s assumption that every man that has ever done anything has only done so for the sake of a potential romantic or sexual relation with a woman. Nice try, Trent Harmon, but I wasn’t driving to work for a girl. I was driving for my true love – my sweet, sweet paycheck.

“There’s a Girl” betrays a certain mindset that fuels heteronormativity, alongside a great many other biases against people of different ethnicities, genders, religions, and socio-economic statuses. It betrays a mindset that says “I have an opinion and it makes sense that others would naturally share it.” The song says that, because Harmon has done wild things for girls’ attention, other men must clearly share that experience. Unfortunately, this mindset is built upon the assumption that your opinions and experiences are somehow representative of everyone else’s, which is a way of saying “I’m the most important person in the world and everyone and everything should look like I want them to because I am, basically, three years old.”

Consider this: I don’t like Chinese food. I have never had the desire for it, and when I eat it, I never feel satisfied. That doesn’t mean that I want to outlaw it or prevent others from eating it; it just means that I won’t eat it myself.

Consider this as well: I would be very hard pressed to try polygamy. The idea of a boyfriend of mine also being someone else’s boyfriend is… not my jam. But if other consenting adults want to be polygamous, why should I stop them?

There’s nothing wrong with being heterosexual. There’s nothing wrong with singing songs about heterosexual love or desire. Most people are straight – it makes sense that most art would reflect it accordingly. It’s saying that what you think and do is good at the exclusion of other thoughts and actions that becomes dangerous and prejudiced. It’s writing songs that imply “the status quo works for me, so therefore it must work for everyone else” that becomes exclusionary and heteronormative.

Don’t put words in my mouth, Trent Harmon. I’m not here for the women. I’m here for the sweet, sweet paycheck.

Also, for the dick.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

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