The Problem With Bro-Country Songs and Female Get Ups

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - Cross Iron Mills


Stampede has taken over our city yet again. It’s a hoot. I love that it brings people from all over the world to our city for one reason: to have a good time. I also love it because people put on some g-dang jeans. Other than the mountains, Calgary’s tourism scene is usually quiet. Stampede helps shake things up a bit. Yee Haw!

While our old and new friends are out and about Cow Town, country music is pumping in every coffee shop, restaurant, mall, and public washroom. It’s everywhere and it’s hard to escape. Do me a favour would you? As you are inundated, use that time to listen to the lyrics. Is there anything shocking to you?

Personally, I have an on again, off again relationship with country music. I loved it as a young kid, hated it as a teen, fell back in love in my early twenties, and have since lost interest a bit. My most recent falling out is due to that notion that I feel that the storytelling – nay, *good* storytelling – has been replaced by misogynistic tropes.

There have been countless arguments about the current state of country music. Especially the sub genre nicknamed “Bro-Country.” If unfamiliar, it is an easily replicated formulaic song lyrics, typically sang by a Caucasian cis-gender straight male, consisting of the following elements:

  • Country road (dirt is preferable)
  • Booze (in a disposable cup)
  • Truck (jacked up, you know)
  • Water nearby (river, lake, stream, etc)
  • Partying (under the stars through the night) 
  • Gal wearing any or all of: ball cap; tight clothing (choose from: cut off shorts, tank top, or sundress); and yet she’s likely not wearing shoes

It’s boring at best; harmfully reductive at its worst.

Aside from all sorts of misogynistic lyrics, "Bro-Country" hits me where it hurts the most: the clothing. There’s not a lot of choice in the outfits. As mentioned, it’s ball caps (beer or sports teams), tank tops (tight and white of course), cut off shorts (assuming the short-short variety), or a sundress (usually in white – again – or red). Do I have anything against any one of these pieces? No. Unless it’s a ball cap donning a racist team name or graphic. My problem is that it’s all it is. There’s no other options described. The clothing has little, if anything, to do with the song.

Playing devils advocate with myself, perhaps the gal is working a minimalist – aka: capsule wardrobe – angle? Perhaps those four items is all the gal needs. Good for her, keeping it simple. I won’t ask silly questions like what does she wear to work? Does she get something warmer, like a sweater or jacket, come the winter months? Are pants an option? We never hear about these garments in the songs.

Let’s focus on what we do hear within the songs. Going back to the actual lyrics, she is likely barefoot. I hope the fellow singing to her can commit to driving her around everywhere and drop her off at locations that have clean, debris free flooring. The female described is going to need some assistance.

Wouldn’t it be great if a gal’s clothing mentioned in a country song actually had something to do with the song’s story? 

Reba’s “Fancy” comes to mind. The red dress - that a dying mother gives to her teenage daughter - actually propels the heartbreaking, fraught story forward. With that dress she is able to create a new life; a life that her mother couldn’t give her. The dress that “fits me good” is not an afterthought. It is intentional.

How about the faded flannel gown in Garth Brooks “Thunder Rolls”? It’s a story about a vengeful wife, who is pacing the house in the middle of the night as her husband continues to step out on her. You can’t help but to imagine the desperation, anger, and vulnerability writhing within that nightgown. The garment adds humanity to the story.

Bros, let’s get real. If you’re going to have a gal in a country song why not make sure she is portrayed as a real person and not a mannequin? Maybe tell us why she would be wearing a certain item. You know, build a character. If actual storytelling is too hard, I hear mannequins come barefoot standard from the factory. She can wear that ball cap, no fussing or complaining, for as long as you like.