Yoko Ono: A Feminist Analysis (Part One: The Ballad of John and Yoko)

by Cara on December 20, 2008

in feminism, Gratuitous Beatles Blogging, misogyny, pop culture, sexism

Introduction: Oh Yoko!

Ah, the Beatles. Perhaps the most brilliant musicians to ever live. Innovators. Loved by millions. Smart, charming, lovable goofballs. Endlessly fascinating personalities. And yet, not always the nicest guys. No, they were not only all capable of being assholes (though some more than others), they also tended to fall into that group we like to refer to as “men who swear that they’re progressive, except for when it comes to women.” And John Lennon was certainly no exception. In fact, I’d say that he and Paul McCartney were nose to nose in the race for worst offender. That is, until John met Yoko Ono.

Until then, all of the Beatles were often raging misogynists.  I discussed this briefly towards the end of my introduction of this series, in their treatment of their wives and girlfriends.  Women were sex objects and property.  Take a look at some of their catalog: No Reply, You Won’t See Me, You Like Me Too Much, and the most notorious of all, Run For Your Life.  Stalkerific!  And this is the stuff they felt appropriate to say publicly.  All four of the guys came back from Hamburg with the same STD, and their manager Brian Epstein had to hide it so that John’s new wife wouldn’t divorce him on those grounds.  Ringo openly cheated on then-girlfriend Maureen and told her that if she didn’t like it, he’d find another girlfriend who would.  John and George were both serial and prolific adulterers.  Paul also could not keep his pants on to save his life, and the biggest problem in his relationship with Jane Asher was his resentment towards her wanting to maintain her acting career rather than sit home and behave dutifully like a Good Beatle Wife.

Most shocking and inexcusable, and usually obscured in Lennon bios, John was abusive.  When talking about the song Getting Better, he confessed in All We Are Saying, his last major interview: “I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically — any woman.  I was a hitter.  I couldn’t express myself and I hit.  I fought men and I hit women . . . I am a violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence.  I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster.”

With the exception of his mother Julia and his Aunt Mimi who raised him, I’d be surprised to learn that John had ever really respected a woman in his life prior to meeting Yoko. And even then, he idolized his mother more than saw her as a person, and his aunt never really appreciated his work him, therefore earning some resentment. Yoko was different. According to Bob Spitz in his book The Beatles, when John met Yoko he was fascinated by her personality, her art and her wit — and was very confused by it. Yoko was perhaps the first woman outside of his family who he truly saw as a human being before seeing her as someone to potentially fuck. Having never experienced such a thing, it supposedly took him weeks to realize, to his surprise, that in addition to being intellectually captivated by Yoko, he was also sexually attracted to her.  The concept of feeling both at the same time was completely novel.

Why was Yoko different from every other woman in John’s life?  Was it the fact that he recognized Yoko has his soul mate, and saw her as someone remarkably similar to himself — and therefore an intellectual equal? Was it Yoko’s feminism and refusal to put up with the shit that he dumped on his wife Cynthia? Was it John’s unresolved feelings about his mother and wanting a strong, assertive woman in his life? Was he simply ready to finally grow up and be happy, and Yoko was just the right person at the right time? I don’t have the answer to that. But I do know that the Beatles were unhappy about it.

Supposedly, anyone who was not directly involved in recording was not allowed in the studio with the Beatles. But this was especially so for women.  Bob Spitz quotes Paul McCartney as describing the Beatles relationship in the studio like “four miners who go down the pit . . . [y]ou don’t need women down the pit, do you?” And then, in describing Yoko’s grand entrance to this forbidden land, Spitz writes this remarkable paragraph:

Yoko’s appearance in the studio functioned as a declaration of war. John knew the bombshell he’d drop by pulling such an aggressive stunt, and he seemed perfectly willing to light the fuse. The look on his face “dared the others” to say the wrong word. He almost longed for the opportunity to stage a showdown. Of course, at that very moment, someone should have stood up to him. Someone should have taken John aside and ordered him to get his act together. Someone should have demanded that Yoko leave the studio immediately. Someone should have laid down the law. Incredibly, however, no one did a thing. The other Beatles pretended that nothing unusual had occurred. Inside, they seethed and cut one another tense glances, furious at the intrusion but reluctant to confront John.

Wow. Well look at that. I guess that if Bob Spitz had been in that studio, the Beatles would still be together!  What with his psychic, amazing, telling everyone what to do abilities, I imagine that he would have somehow broken up John and Yoko, thereby preventing John’s moving to the U.S. and being eventually murdered.  And he would have warned George about the unknown dangers of cigarettes, convincing him to quit and preventing his cancer!  Lord hopes he would have convinced Paul McCartney to not get that mullet, and to find a plastic surgeon that wouldn’t make him look so scary.  Then the Beatles would still be touring like the Rolling Stones, and John and Cynthia would have some nice little home in the South of France, while Yoko sits old, disheveled, poor and lonely with her 40 cats, regretting all of those abortions and her troublesome feminist ways.

Or maybe, just maybe, Spitz is just like the rest of us and can’t see into the future. Maybe he doesn’t have the right to tell other people what to do, and is actually a raging misogynist asshole who needs to shut his mouth.  I know that it’s one of the two.

First of all, it’s outrageously irresponsible to editorialize like that, and to do so as though the opinion is universal and needs no defending. That’s right, John needed to get his act together — not because he was a junkie at the time, but because he had the audacity to bring his girlfriend into the studio!

But the problem is, of course, that the Beatles actually agreed with him. 1  It’s hard to fault Spitz for claiming that Yoko never should have been there when he watched the same Directors Cut of the Beatles Anthology that I did (only available on bootleg).  The stuff that’s in there really did make my jaw fall open.  Most say that Yoko asked for the cuts, though I’d like to believe that the Beatles themselves made the decision after seeing the tape and realizing they looked like grade A assholes.

George Harrison kicks things off by bitterly commenting that “she just moved in,” to the studio.  Later in the segment, George says that his problem wasn’t with her simple presence, but that there was “a definite vibe” coming from her.  And then, he says that Yoko “saw the Beatles as something between her and John,” complete with mimic of sticking a wedge in something.  (More on this in the next post.) She didn’t like the Beatles, he whined.  He also notes that “everyone was getting cheesed” — and then said Ringo left the group, directly implying that it was because of Yoko, even though it wasn’t.

But my beloved George Martin (The Beatles’ producer) — I’m so disappointed in you, George — agrees with George Harrison.  He seems to corroborate the “vibe” theory, saying that the Beatles “were no longer the happy go lucky foursome, or fivesome if you include me.”  Then, he heavily implies that Yoko was psychically sabotaging the Beatles recording sessions.  He said that this “other person” there was affecting them with “their” thoughts — “even if they weren’t spoken” — and that these thoughts were “impinging on what we were doing.”  Whoa. Yoko’s one impressive bitch.

Paul McCartney, unsurprisingly, supplies the best fodder.  He starts off by briefly mocking Yoko’s accent, claiming she would say things like “I do not know Beatles!”  He then says that Yoko was great for John, “but, the problem for us” was that she “encroached on out framework.”  “This was our career” he notes earnestly, before saying “– and then there was this girl.”  The incredulity with which he says the word is important and rather telling, especially in conjunction with the emphasis of “career.”  Then, in the most outrageous quote from the entire segment, he talked about how embarrassing Yoko’s presence was, saying that it was “like she was holding court in a way.”  The Beatles, he said were “like her courtiers.”  Allow me to translate: he’s saying that Yoko was entitled and demanding.

Lastly, (road manager, close friend, and long-time Apple CEO) Neil Aspinall — someone else I love and am very disappointed in — noted very carefully and seriously the problem with Yoko’s presence.  He talked about how it had been part of his job for years to keep outsiders out of the studio, saying with great emphasis, “because the studio is not a playground,” it’s a “work environment.”  He says that the point was to make sure that no one was there — and again, this was with great emphasis — “who wasn’t part of making the music.”

Now, tell me, how many of these complaints and insults can you see being directed at men?  How often to people get that unshakable “vibe” from men?  How many men are accused of making everyone uncomfortable with their moods and simple presence?  How many men, simply because they were there, would be accused of being overbearing and treating others like his servants?  Do tell me, because all of this screams of sexist stereotypes straight out of ancient literature and modern sitcoms to me.  And perhaps most importantly, how many men would be described as out of place somewhere seemingly entirely because it was a work environment?  How many men — regardless of who they were — would be instantly dismissed as someone who wasn’t a part of making music, particularly in a band that would recruit virtually anyone to do hand claps and funny noises?  Neil’s tone was as though he was talking about someone more like himself, who couldn’t play a musical note to save his life.  We’re talking about Yoko Ono.

The problem with Neil’s comment is the same as the one with Spitz’s impressive demand for Yoko to leave the studio. It does precisely what pissed John off the most about the treatment that Yoko got — there was an immediate assumption that she had no right whatsoever to be there. John felt very differently, not because she was his girlfriend, but because she was a musician.

In fact, contrary to Spitz’s insistence that the Beatles were very particular about who the let in the studio, they had guests in and out all of the time.  Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall practically lived there, but no one made a fuss when Eric Clapton showed up, or was bothered by Billy Preston’s presence, or felt encroached upon when Mick Jagger and other famous musicians would come by to just hang out.  Further, interestingly enough, despite proclamations that women just weren’t allowed in the studio, clips that show throughout the same Anthology episode cited above and the one before it catch glimpses of young pretty women hanging out at various places in the studio, watching Paul perform with big wide eyes.  They would occasionally hold parties or “happenings” while they were recording — see All You Need is Love, Baby You’re a Rich Man, Yellow Submarine, and A Day in the Life.

John saw Yoko as a similar musical talent who he wanted to work with and who he thought could do the Beatles some good. Of course, whether or not this was a reasonable belief is another story. Though a big fan of Yoko as a person, a thinker and an artist, I do not enjoy her music. I also don’t pretend that I am a great arbitrator in taste — and Pop Feminist has a good feminist defense of her music.  But in the end, it’s really not the point. The Beatles didn’t reject Yoko because they thought she was a crap musician — the thought of Yoko as a legitimate musician never actually seemed to cross their minds — but because she was a woman, and because the role of a Beatles woman was at home waiting for you all dolled up, not sitting by your side.

John asserted more than once, and entirely correctly, that they never would have treated any other musician like that. He said that he brought Yoko in and expected that she would be treated with the same respect that their other musical buddies got, and would play with the band just like they did. Instead, the Beatles didn’t even have the decency to say that they didn’t like Yoko’s music, to argue with her when they disagreed, or to discuss the situation with John. They just ignored her. And I’d say that gave John and Yoko both the right to be pissed the fuck off.

Paul and George especially seemed to openly seethe at her presence.  Paul would glare and, at least one time, scream to John about it at the top of his lungs — not confront Yoko directly when he had a problem with her, mind you.  George would cast dirty looks, roll his eyes (check out some of the Let it Be footage) and make sarcastic remarks.  Ringo, who always seemed closest to John after he and Paul began to drift apart and remained that way through to the end of John’s life, seemed most accepting of Yoko.  John and Yoko stayed at an apartment belonging to Ringo.  When they made Two Virgins, Paul and George were furious, but Ringo showed mild concern and then laughed it off.  Since the band’s breakup, he has always been the most reluctant to speak ill of her — I’m not sure if he ever really has.  When John was murdered, Ringo was there for Yoko; he and his wife Barbara flew immediately to New York to see and help care for her and Sean.  But there’s also little evidence that he stood up for her, tried to make her feel welcome when John brought her to the studio, or even contradicted the accusations by Paul and George once the Beatles broke up and they saw fit to publicly gripe about her.

Now, I’m not saying that Yoko was never an asshole to the Beatles. I’m sure that she was. I’m saying that she was hardly the only or the worst asshole in the room. They were all acting like assholes — but as the history gets told, Yoko’s the one who bears the blame. The truly amazing thing is that in order to actually believe this, you have to totally erase the fact that John wanted her there. She wasn’t showing up in her own car, throwing hissy fits or tracking them down at secret locations. No, sadly for her detractors this misogynistic stereotype didn’t fit Yoko at all.  When Yoko showed up at a meeting that everyone seemed to think that she had no right to attend — even when it was to discuss major decisions that would, as John’s wife, affect her own financial future — it was because John brought her. She didn’t infiltrate, she was invited.

Indeed, it makes little to no sense that people would blame Yoko over John. (Though personally, I blame Paul for the breakup more than the rest.) John was the one bringing her along, and he was also the king of passive aggressiveness. Though I do think his originally-stated intentions were genuine, make no mistake that as he saw how the band was treating Yoko, he knew exactly what he was doing. When Yoko had the miscarriage that nearly killed her and John had not only a bed brought into the studio for her, but a microphone positioned above the bed so that she could relay her criticisms to the band in the recording booth, it’s plain to see that he was being deliberately provocative.

It doesn’t make sense to blame Yoko instead of John, that is, if you look at this with a totally ungendered lenses. Once you factor in that Yoko was a woman — a feminist, opinionated woman who wasn’t blond or Caucasian or making herself up as eye-candy — things start to become clear. Bitches fuck shit up. It’s true that blaming someone other than your heroes, or other than your friends, is easier than going to the source. Indeed, if Yoko wasn’t there, it’s slightly possible that someone else like Allen Klein might have entered scapegoat city. But no, I think the blame would have gone — unfairly — entirely on John’s shoulders in Yoko’s hypothetical absence. The man is now a legend, so we often forget the mass public perception of him in the late 60s as an erratic, slightly unhinged hippie attention-seeker.  John was the loudest, the most outlandish, and the easiest to blame. So thank god Yoko was there, eh? Otherwise, the Beatles might have had to look at themselves and look at their friend.

No one within the band wanted to do that.  No one wanted to deal with John’s drug addiction.  No one wanted to deal with George’s increasing unhappiness and resentfulness.  No one wanted to deal with Paul’s over-inflated ego and narcissistic power trip.  No one wanted to consider that maybe part of the reason why John wanted Yoko there was because he couldn’t stand to be around his band mates.  No one wanted to look at how Ringo was unfairly losing his place and relevance within the group.  No one wanted to look at how they were writing songs entirely separately, recording them without any or some of the others, and finding it all but impossible to maintain a cohesive sound.  No one wanted to talk about the fact that Brian was dead, or the absolute catastrophe that was Magical Mystery Tour.  It was probably best to not bring up George fucking Ringo’s wife.  Certainly, no one wanted to talk about John and Paul’s vanity project Apple flushing money down the toilet, or how they had no real manager, and how Neil Aspinall, for all of his other virtues and the fact that he later got the hang of it, didn’t have the slightest clue what he was doing at the helm of this multimillion dollar joke of a corporation.  Definitely, no one wanted to talk about how Dick James had stolen their songs.  No one wanted to talk about how they were all just going in separate directions, and perhaps their time had simply come to end things.

But Yoko was something they could gripe about.  Yoko was there.  The public didn’t like her.  She was perfect.

Women. On second thought, it seems like they may be good for more than giving the band blow jobs and making them sandwiches, after all.

Oh, you may say, I’m being too hard on them. The Beatles had a right to be upset! Yoko was a bad person! And they were just looking out for their friend! Etc. Those myths, up next.

Part Two: Don’t Let Me Down
Part Three: Woman
Addendum: Just Like Starting Over

  1. It bears noting that in All We Are Saying, Yoko denies the Beatles being mean to her and claims that she got along with all of them well.  As you’ll see, the rest of this post belies that telling, as does video evidence, John’s statements, and statements by the other Beatles.  Yoko is a smart woman, smart enough, I think, to know when to quit and not stir the pot.  It’s my theory that she let them have that one because she knew she was never going to get it anyway.
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{ 44 comments }

1 frau sally benz December 20, 2008 at 10:14 am

Awesome post!

I have to say that I give a lot of blame to John. It’s always bothered me that he did not actually try to have Yoko taken seriously. For all of Spitz’ misogyny and ridiculous commentary, John did know what he was doing. From what I’ve read about them during this time, John was increasingly frustrated and it’s clear to everyone that he, more than the others, was tired of being only a Beatle, of Paul trying to take over the band, etc. He wanted out and would have looked for anything to rock the boat.

That said, I do believe that he legitimately wanted to bring Yoko into the studio to hear her critiques and make her a part of the process, but, as you mention, he knew what he was doing once that was not going well. I suppose I just wish that he would have tried harder to have her accepted rather than selfishly trying to be antagonistic.

This is not to say that the actual blame for Yoko’s role as the scape-goat was entirely his fault. I don’t know as much about everyone else’s role, and I suppose my blaming John stems from never going through my own Yoko-hating phase and being confused about why he wouldn’t stop it.

Anyway, great post and I can’t wait to read more.

2 Cara December 20, 2008 at 10:38 am

I think that John did try to some extent to have Yoko taken seriously and to defend her. I do, however, agree that that he didn’t ever seem to take the most rational approach of calmly sitting them down of saying “here’s the deal, now stop being assholes.” According to Ringo, Ringo asked “what’s the deal?” and John calmly explained it to him and Ringo accepted it at that point, but he didn’t seem to ever act proactively with Paul or George. I do tend to cut him some slack because he was so out of his mind on drugs at that point, he was new to this whole egalitarian relationship thing, I imagine he was pretty hurt by Paul and George’s behavior, he was probably worn out from so regularly defending her to the media, and also slightly because I fully admit that I’m somewhat biased in John’s favor :)

On the other hand, I think that Yoko was fully capable of taking care of and defending herself if she wanted to. Who knows, in some of their Feminist 101 discussions, she might have talked to him about paternalism, etc. and he was doing his best to make sure that he was taking heed and not doing the whole “you’ve insulted my woman’s honor!” thing that he would have usually done. Even if the results might have been him going overboard.

Next post is Saturday . . . I think it might be my favorite in the series. Either that or the one after it.

3 AG December 20, 2008 at 2:03 pm

Wow, this was an excellent post. Thank you for your insights and considerations of an ambiguous moment in history. I used to be quite anti-Yoko, towing the line of “Yoko destroyed the Beatles.” As my feminism matured, I realized it couldn’t possibly be that simple. Your analysis nicely looks at the shades of grey in this story.

I also wonder if the Beatles felt threatened by Yoko’s avant garde approach to art. Perhaps she represented the changing musical landscape of the time that was rendering the music of the Beatles obselete. Additionally, the social world the Beatles had concocted was disintegrating due to the other systems that touched them (romantic and professional relationships, technology, personal growth, etc). Yoko was an easy scapegoat into which to drive all blames.

4 Paul December 20, 2008 at 9:05 pm

Good post

I’m surprised you didn’t go into more detail about how the press and public view of Yoko was coloured quite a bit by the still healing wounds of the Second World War – and many Beatles fans at the time would have had uncles or fathers that had been prisoners of the Japanese and would have heard a lot of anti Japanese talk from them

5 Annie December 20, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Wow, what a great post. This is all stuff that never occurred to me before, but y’know, you’re spot on now that I think about it. Thanks!

6 Cara December 20, 2008 at 9:52 pm

Next post, Paul! Next post! (Well, the part about WWII briefly, the stuff about press and public a lot, and the stuff about race in a general sense in both the next post and the one after it.)

7 whatsername December 20, 2008 at 11:54 pm

You know this is all really interesting to me. I’m only really a passing Beatles fan and don’t know a ton about them or Yoko Ono (outside of the general griping about her I’ve heard). But what makes this all intriguing to me is that I recognize the scenario really well. It happened to me. In junior high I was good friends with a group of guys, and then right before high school started I began dating one of them. Even looking back on it I’m not sure when it happened but they became HIS friends and I was HIS girlfriend. I could tell sometimes they didn’t want me there but I’ll be damned if I can even still figure out wtf happened, I was ALWAYS there on invitation and anyway would have been there before he and I had started dating too.

What is it about women who have a meaningful and sexual relationship with a friend that entirely messes up the male’s homosocial environment?

8 Isabel December 21, 2008 at 1:14 am

Wow, I’m not even much of a Beatles fan (sorry, I know) but this post was FREAKIN RIVETING. crazy hippies + feminism + love story + juicy, juicy music gossip = win. Looking forward to the rest of the series, for sure.

9 Pop Feminist December 21, 2008 at 8:21 am

Fab Cara!

10 depresso December 21, 2008 at 8:34 am

You might have already read this, but just in case you haven’t;

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2008/dec/21/yoko-ono-art-lennon

I haven’t read beyond the headline yet, but saw it and thought of you, as they say!

11 Katherine December 21, 2008 at 5:41 pm

This was completely enthralling. Keep up the good work!

12 kelly g. December 21, 2008 at 11:09 pm

Yoko was perhaps the first woman outside of his family who he truly saw as a human being before seeing her as someone to potentially fuck.

That sentence makes me so, so sad.

And also, Bob Spitz: what a douche.

Great post, Cara, I can’t wait for the next installment!

13 Mireille December 21, 2008 at 11:30 pm

I just read the latest John Lennon biography a month or two ago, and in this recounting you can see that John really didn’t want to stay with the Beatles. I think the idea that he used her passive-aggressively to sort of stoke discord in the group is on the mark. I think he genuinely loved her, but if he had been more mature would not have used her in that manner. People tend to forget Yoko had a career and a name for herself that she gave up by being with John. And John was an ass for much of his life, though it seems so unfortunate that he was killed just when it seemed he was getting his shit in order. Anyway, this is a great post and I look forward to the rest!

14 exholt December 22, 2008 at 9:57 am

One other factor for Yoko Ono being Feminist and independent-minded was her childhood circumstances. Her family was wealthy, well-connected, and had possible aristocratic connections considering she was allowed to attend the Gakushuin Peers school, an institution which before WWII was only open to scions of Japanese royal, aristocratic and wealthy families.

In the aftermath of WWII, her once wealthy background was shattered as the war reduced her family to poverty in the immediate postwar period which according to Yoko Ono’s wiki article was where she first developed her independent-minded personality.

This was further underscored when she went to Sarah Lawrence College and ignored her family’s disapproval of her hanging around artists and other people they considered “beneath her/her family”.

Though her wiki article covers this, I first heard about her background from a poli-sci researcher who studied in Japan who said she came from a socially prominent family and strained her relations with them when she chose to ignore their disapproval of her increasing tendency to associate with artists and bohemians….many of whom they considered “riffraff”.

15 Julian December 22, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Thanks for this Cara. I found it to be a very thoughtful piece and looked forward to the rest! My nickname “blabbermouth’ is likely to apply to what follows! But you know this is one of those topics that you and I could discuss eight days a week.

As a Yoko Ono, John Lennon, *and* Beatles fan, I grew up “getting it” that Yoko was being scapegoated, and it’s socially “politically correct” in white male supremacy to blame anyone who is more “otherly” person than the whiteboys with whom the white, white West more readily identified as being “like us”. Yoko, racially, creatively, and intellectually wasn’t “like us”, or most of us white Westerners in many ways, even while she was well-established in the Western avant garde arts scene.

The note above about about what white Westerners thought of “the Japanese” at that particular time is an important point for me to consider: anti-Japanese racism was particularly virulent during and after WWII. This can be seen in so much of Western media/entertainment of that time.

At this moment, I feel this way:

John effectively (if not also intentionally) used Yoko, and also loved her and wanted perhaps addictively consistent companionship with her. As I look back on the intensely homosocial quality of boy-bands of the era (um, and certainly since then!), it seems pretty obvious to me that John welcoming her into that studio was welcoming her to be abused, and perhaps scapegoated. We forget: John could ALSO have made the decision to leave the lads, and be with Yoko; the history could have been that: he met her, he left the Beatles. Of course Yoko would still be blamed, but John did something quite particular in placing her in eye of the fab four’s own personal/professional/legal storm. I’ve heard him speak about how deeply hurt he was about what the press said about Yoko (as was she!), but not what his fellow Beatles said about her. What do we call it when a man uses a woman to provoke a strong reaction in other men?? “Profeminist” isn’t the term I’m thinking of!

And only Yoko can speak to her level of willingness and wish to be in that storm. Given her much more international and varied experiences with male artists she’d had pre-John, she may have been less accustomed to men being quite so flagrantly homosocially sexist–right in front of her, to her face. (Pure speculation on my part.)

One small P.S. on “Run For Your Life”–which, along with maybe “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” seems the most overtly violent Beatles track towards women: as many Beatle fans know, John hated the song, detested it, and admits to blatantly stealing the some of the lyrics from an Elvis Presley number, “Baby, Let’s Play House”:

Now listen to me, baby
Try to understand.
I’d rather see you dead, little girl,
Than to be with another man.

Elvis changed the lyrics a bit in this 1956 performance, now on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QI97stLQLdw (the revelant lyric is about one minute, thirty seconds in). This in no ways excuses John: he did, after all, record and release it! But his misogyny would be compounded if, upon reflection, he said: “Oh, I’ve always love the sentiment of that song. It’s one of my favorites for sure!” For a bit more, see: http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=98 (We can note the disgusting level of misogyny on this site, where it offers *this* song as a ringtone!) One of the commenters there has this to add, about what may be John’s revisionist look back at some of the songs he did as a Beatle, pre-Yoko: As for Lennon hating this song: that was later, in retrospect. Songs like this one, as well as “You Can’t Do That” and even “Slow Down”, he found rather repugnant when viewed from the perspective of his relationship with Yoko – he had, by then, begun to endorse radically different views on male/female interactions. He mentioned this specifically in an interview I read, and it MAY have been the Playboy one.
- MJ, Uhrichsville, OH”

What I have always found impressive about John, as “an early profeminist” (and it’s *not* that he did an interview with Playboy magazine!) was something that is sorely lacking in male profeminism generally: the reckoning with one’s past, seeing it for what it was, naming it as abuse and violence and utter inhumanity towards human beings *and*, most importantly, ENDING the sexist behavior. About “Getting Better”, John says (an unabridged version of the quote you use, Cara:

“It is a diary form of writing. All that ‘I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved’ was me. I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically– any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn’t express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace, you see. It is the most violent people who go for love and peace…I am a violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence. I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster.”

John, more than most men I’ve known of or have known, took responsibility for what he did, in part by understanding his past behavior to be what it was: the indefensible misogynist mistreatment of women. He never took the “I’m just a peaceful guy promoting peace” route that many sexist and racist asshole whiteboys of that time, and since, have taken, passing them/our selves off as somehow “different” kinds of men: softer, gentler. Not all of us have hit women, but all men I know, including myself, have mistreated women in sexist ways. John was a brute and a batterer and he said so. Cynthia was well-socialised, to “put up with it”. Yoko had operated in such different circles than had Cynthia: it seems pretty clear (from her memoir on her and John’s relationship) she’d not been exposed to feminist critique of asshole-husband behavior. With or without feminism, Cynthia was in a REALLY difficult situation, in part because she knew how she behaved would impact Julian significantly–she didn’t want to make Julian the inappropriate peer with whom she expressed her rage and pain about John. One might argue she was “less feminist” than Yoko, but I think she had and has integrity, finding her way through a marriage both incredibly unusual, and terribly common to many Western white married women of that time.

I also have to wonder: how would Paul, George, and Ringo (and Neil, and George Martin) reacted or responded to John’s rather intimate holiday with Brian Epstein: did they know how close that came to being “consummated”? What if John had shown up, in studio, in love with Brian, before Brian’s life-ending battle with depression and loneliness did him in?

16 Melanie December 22, 2008 at 2:12 pm

I am really glad you decided to take up this topic in your post. I just wrote a research paper for a graduate seminar last year on the topic, taking a feminist approach to Yoko Ono’s work (in a comparison with Carolee Schneeman). While I was writing this paper I got into all kinds of fights with my parents. They were alive through the Beatles and the Beatles continue to be their heroes. And of course, with this for them, comes a deeply rooted hatred of Yoko Ono. One thing in particular that really bothers me about the unfair cultural hatred of Ono is that no one seems to acknowledge that she too was a musician. She was classically trained, attended one of the world’s best universities for music, and had strong affiliations with John Cage (of course _he_ is given heroic status too). In other words, she was damned qualified to give advice to the Beatles. And as you mentioned, the male visitors to the Beatles’ recording studios, who I am sure gave all kinds of advice, were never vilified to anything to the extent as Ono. What probably should be seen as merely a conflict of interests between avant-garde artist-musicians and pop music, has been transformed in the cultural imagination into a narrative of the inexperienced ball-busting woman getting in the way. Total bull. Anyways, I love Yoko Ono and I especially appreciate what she did for John’s ideas about women and his burgeoning feminism.

17 CableGirl December 22, 2008 at 7:13 pm

Fan-freaking-tastic. As a life long Beatles fan, it’s good to hear a decidedly un-anti-Yoko discussion. More more more more more.

18 carrie December 26, 2008 at 8:46 am

i think the beatles were no different than many other rock stars of their time and beyond when it came to misogyny.

these men were so used to young women flocking to them that they begin to think of them as objects.

19 ostrova December 26, 2008 at 1:34 pm

Thoughtful. But I disagree on much.

First of all, I don’t think band rehearsal/studio time is a place for boyfriends OR girlfriends. Fellow musicians dropping by the studio, well, that seems to be something else. Rock critics are still talking about who did uncredited back-up where after decades. Yoko’s contributions weren’t musical for the most part. She went to the bathroom with her boyfriend, compared her movies to “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!”, and lay in her hospital bed. Granted, John was using her to express anger. Neither of them had the sense to deal with it in other ways.

After John’s death, Yoko turned some of his relatives out of a house he had given them to live in for as long as they had wanted. She told Julian, her step-son, that either he or his mother (Cynthia, the 1st Mrs. John Lennon) could come to NYC, but not both of them. She repeatedly gave John’s possessions to museums before asking Julian.

She has asked why “green” cars can’t be as comfortable as the Bentley she won’t give up.

I’ve read her book, “Grapefruit”, and some of it makes me laugh. Is dropping frozen peas around Manhattan “art”, if you do it with the correct intent? Oh, that was when she was in college. She called it her Pea Piece.

I don’t get her as an artist, and I’m not sure I get her as a feminist. Did she change John’s mind, really? I think she dominated him, and he liked it. He called her “Mommy”. She also broke up with him and assigned him a girlfriend for the duration: their assistant, May Pang. Did he treat all women differently? I don’t know. While I absolutely agree that the whole band was awful to their wives and girlfriends—IN THE 60s—look at the difference in their later relationships. I doubt very much that had anything to do with Yoko Ono.

20 Cara December 26, 2008 at 1:51 pm

Oh yay, my first anti-Yoko troll!!! God, it took a while.

First of all, I don’t think band rehearsal/studio time is a place for boyfriends OR girlfriends. Fellow musicians dropping by the studio, well, that seems to be something else. Rock critics are still talking about who did uncredited back-up where after decades. Yoko’s contributions weren’t musical for the most part. She went to the bathroom with her boyfriend, compared her movies to “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!”, and lay in her hospital bed. Granted, John was using her to express anger. Neither of them had the sense to deal with it in other ways.

This is just plain false. Yoko did in fact contribute musically — probably just as often as Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans, if not more. Further, she was a classically trained musician. The fact that you don’t like her music — or her art — doesn’t mean it just plain doesn’t exist/count. So you tell me why it was okay for ALL MALE musicians to drop by the studio, and not for musician Yoko Ono. The answer seems to be that you think she and John enjoyed spending too much time together.

After John’s death, Yoko turned some of his relatives out of a house he had given them to live in for as long as they had wanted. She told Julian, her step-son, that either he or his mother (Cynthia, the 1st Mrs. John Lennon) could come to NYC, but not both of them. She repeatedly gave John’s possessions to museums before asking Julian.

I’ve heard the first rumor, but never seen evidence. Actually, I’m fairly certain that Cynthia, of all people, contradicts it in her book. So cite your sources. Secondly, if you’re right about the donations, while you may think that she should have consulted Julian, the fact is that she didn’t have to. She has control of the estate, as it should be unless specified otherwise in John’s will. And I would be shocked to learn that John, or anyone that rich and famous, did not have a will.

I’ve read her book, “Grapefruit”, and some of it makes me laugh. Is dropping frozen peas around Manhattan “art”, if you do it with the correct intent? Oh, that was when she was in college. She called it her Pea Piece.

I’m glad that it makes you laugh. A lot of it is supposed to be funny. And it is.

I don’t get her as an artist, and I’m not sure I get her as a feminist.

Is your admitted lack of understanding the reason that you seem to have a lot of scorn for her?

She has asked why “green” cars can’t be as comfortable as the Bentley she won’t give up.

Assuming that’s true, I imagine that you’re upset because she can easily afford a “green” car. But . . . John Lennon also said “Imagine no possessions” and still lived in the Dakota, went on lavish vacations, and lived well above his means. I don’t see you throwing a fit about that, even though there’s plenty to criticize.

He called her “Mommy”.

Not true. He called her “Mother.” And while I personally do think it’s a little weird, and don’t deny its special weirdness seeing his actual Mommy issues, it’s also not particularly uncommon, especially among British people.

She also broke up with him and assigned him a girlfriend for the duration: their assistant, May Pang.

Yup, I write about this in the next installment (tomorrow). Short story: he deserved to get his ass dumped; and if he didn’t want to be with May Pang, no one was making him.

21 Chuckles December 26, 2008 at 8:17 pm

Firstly, the previous comment you got was not from a troll, I have known her (on-line, not in person) for nearly a decade…she is a fellow female artist who has long been a Beatle fan. So she does have knowledge about both the group and creative arts.

Secondly, I liked the article myself and think your grasp of the behind the scene shenanigans is excellent, you are not basing your ideas on the typical myths about the band and/or Yoko. I congratulate you for having the facts at hand.

However, I find your ultimate conclusion to be a bit overly strident and too forgiving of Yoko. While I do not disagree she was wrongly castigated for many of the lies that were attributed to her, I do not think the Beatles were misogynistic. Chauvanistic, without a doubt (and yeah, I am a male).

Perhaps there is some truth to that if she weren’t a woman she would not have gotten as much grief, though I think she simply had a polarizing personality and was one of those people who pissed others off and spent a lifetime not caring, whether it was justified or not.

What I mean in that I don’t think they were particularly misogynistic is that they didn’t simply treat women badly, they pretty much treated everyone around them badly, male or female. They were young, on top of the world and full of themselves, and as John said they had to step on a lot of people to get to the top (such as Brian Epstein, Pete Best, Stu Sutcliffe, poor Neil, Mal and many unnamed compadres!). So I never felt they singled women out for their chauvanistic and unthinking treatment, it was equal opportunity abuse.

And my other point would be that Yoko did not do what she did because she was a feminist. She did what she did because she had the personality of a rather spoiled rich banker’s daughter. And it rightly annoyed a lot of people. She oozed entitlement, that is off-putting for sure.

It’s hard enough being creative and good at what you do without interference from anyone. And John really always was the one to blame, he used her to confront the group, even though he loved her.

Unless you can back up your claim that ALL male musicians were given a pass while females were not, I suggest you are also inserting a bit of opinion in the place of empirical evidence within your otherwise excellent writing.

So again, I enjoyed what you wrote and have passed the link on to another Beatle forum I frequent, not that it will generate flames for you here, since Yoko is so poorly thought of and I am usually defending her to the rest of the group so my link to your article has been roundly ignored and will likely remain so. But I think a few people will at least read it.

Finally I have met Yoko briefly (I interviewed her) and she was quite nice and generous to me. I, like much of the universe it seems, do not ‘get’ most of her art nor appreciate it. That is obviously on me, not on her. Some things I do get a kick out of…the humor, or some of her music (such as on Double Fantasy, for instance).

Bottom line: the first post of yours is a great start, I really enjoyed reading it and I’m looking forward to the rest of your thesis… but please do not assume that if someone disagrees with a part of it that they do not understand the dynamics of the group or that they may dislike Yoko for any other reason than Yoko can be a dislikable person, as can we all at times.

22 Cara December 26, 2008 at 9:05 pm

Firstly, the previous comment you got was not from a troll, I have known her (on-line, not in person) for nearly a decade…she is a fellow female artist who has long been a Beatle fan. So she does have knowledge about both the group and creative arts.

While you may in fact be correct that she was commenting in good faith, none of that makes someone not a troll.

While I do not disagree she was wrongly castigated for many of the lies that were attributed to her, I do not think the Beatles were misogynistic. Chauvanistic, without a doubt (and yeah, I am a male).

Right. Huge difference. Further, hitting your wife is totally not misogynistic. Oh wait, except it is. As is telling her she can’t talk to other men. As is telling her she has no right to know anything about business decisions that affect her. Etc.

She oozed entitlement, that is off-putting for sure.

The Beatles were some of the most spoiled and entitled people to ever live. For real. They were whiny babies who expected everyone — anyone — around them to say “how high” when they said “jump.” Much as I love them. So even if that were true about Yoko, they’d have no room to talk.

Unless you can back up your claim that ALL male musicians were given a pass while females were not, I suggest you are also inserting a bit of opinion in the place of empirical evidence within your otherwise excellent writing.

I’ve yet to hear of a male musician that was given the Yoko treatment. So unless you’ve got some names and citations for me, the argument — made by both me and John Lennon (oh what a wonderful sentence) — stands.

23 Chuckles December 26, 2008 at 9:38 pm

I was overbroad in declaring them all simply chauvanistic, and I agree John was misogynistic in his approach to women… his upbringing and constant loss certainly fulfills many Psych 101 interpretations about his acting out. No excuse, certainly.

And I did indeed state they were full of themselves, of course they were ridiculously pampered and out of touch with real life. Especially by the time Yoko showed up. But the old ‘he did it first’ argument doesn’t work for children or adults.

As to cites I have no need to. You made a broad statement that you cannot back up and I have no desire to do it for you. The fact is John Lennon said a LOT of things, and depending on how he felt any given day they might be true or not.

I still look forward to the rest of your posts on this subject, but I will not comment further.

I do not know you nor the site and I would usually lurk for a long time to get a lay of the land but this is just kind of a hit and run.

I am not here to stir up trouble nor to annoy anyone, in fact my main reason for repsonding was to compliment your writing since I do not disagree with most of your approach.

You do appear to be a tad oversensitive to criticism though(disagreement is not trolling no matter what you decide to say about it or not). But then I am more than a tad oversensitive to it so I cannot cast any stones.

Hey, it’s your site and you can say whatever you like, and if I had a blog I would do the same, so it’s all fair play.

24 Cara December 26, 2008 at 10:13 pm

While you may in fact be correct that she was commenting in good faith, none of that makes someone not a troll.

Allow me to clarify this statement. Commenting in good faith means you’re not a troll. Chuckles’ defenses which I had quoted above that statement does not in fact make someone not a troll. I do however agree with his later statement that disagreement is not necessarily trolling.

As to cites I have no need to. You made a broad statement that you cannot back up and I have no desire to do it for you.

I did back it up with the names of several musicians. I named Eric Clapton, Billy Preston and Mick Jagger. To that list, we could add all of the other Rolling Stones, for example. I’m not sure what more you would like.

The fact is John Lennon said a LOT of things, and depending on how he felt any given day they might be true or not.

This much is certainly true. It is also, though, the reason that I wouldn’t quote John unless he had made the same assertion on numerous instances and with a high degree of insistence.

25 ostrova December 26, 2008 at 11:28 pm

Excuse us for having opinions! If that makes Chuckles and me a couple of trolls here, well, I’ll just say that we met online in a Beatles fan group and we both know Beatles insiders. We’d tell you, but hey, you think we’re trolls.

One very big point that Chuckles made, that you poo-poo’ed, Cara, is that Yoko grew up as a rich banker’s daughter and went to Sarah Lawrence College.By anyone’s reckoning,that’s upper-middle-class or higher. NONE of the Beatles grew up like that. John Lennon had a somewhat better childhood than the others because he lived with his uncle and aunt who had a dairy, but after his uncle died his Aunt Mimi had to take in boarders. The McCartneys lived in a council house (lower-class and just adequate), George’s father drove a bus and had to feed 5 children, and Ringo lived in The Dingle, which was a really crap part of town.

I know that Yoko was a classically trained musician. What does this have to do with anything? She was not invited to sit in with the Beatles in that capacity. You can hear her briefly singing (not very well, and I can discuss the musical values if need be) on “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill”. If John Lennon had been dating a man who sang off-key and his boyfriend had sung badly, I wouldn’t've liked that EITHER.

My point about the things Yoko gave away are about the spirit rather than the letter of the law.

The difference between “Mommy” and “Mother” seems to be splitting hairs. And I am very familiar with British culture, and I have never heard of this tradition you claim is so common (married men who refer to their wives as “Mother”). Is there any evidence that John called Cynthia “Mother”? Do you know of any other famous Englishmen who refer to their wives this way? Just asking.

So, ummm, why is Yoko a feminist? I don’t think it follows that “Because The Beatles and the Stones were male chauvenist pigs, Yoko is a feminist, and if Chuckles and Ostrova don’t agree they are trolls.”

26 Cara December 27, 2008 at 9:30 am

Excuse us for having opinions! If that makes Chuckles and me a couple of trolls here, well, I’ll just say that we met online in a Beatles fan group and we both know Beatles insiders. We’d tell you, but hey, you think we’re trolls.

Oh noes! I just blew my one and only chance to meet Sir Paul McCartney! If only I’d been nicer . . .

Yeah, you’re not coming off like a troll at all. And actually, I never called Chuckles a troll.

I know that Yoko was a classically trained musician. What does this have to do with anything? She was not invited to sit in with the Beatles in that capacity.

That was precisely my point, actually. Congratulations.

The difference between “Mommy” and “Mother” seems to be splitting hairs. And I am very familiar with British culture, and I have never heard of this tradition you claim is so common (married men who refer to their wives as “Mother”). Is there any evidence that John called Cynthia “Mother”? Do you know of any other famous Englishmen who refer to their wives this way? Just asking.

I’ve simply heard it many times among older people. You know, maybe I’m wrong and you got me! Because I tried looking up a reference through google and couldn’t find one. Then again, I had a hell of a time trying to find a reference for John calling Yoko “mother,” too and only found one quick reference on an astrology site. Oops. All I’ve got for you at the moment? Is that the mother in She’s Leaving Home — a Paul song — refers to her husband as “Daddy.” But you know what, I’ll let you have that one. John Lennon had some severe Freudian issues and it was pretty weird. I never denied that.

My question is what it has to do with Yoko.

One very big point that Chuckles made, that you poo-poo’ed, Cara, is that Yoko grew up as a rich banker’s daughter and went to Sarah Lawrence College.By anyone’s reckoning,that’s upper-middle-class or higher. NONE of the Beatles grew up like that.

I know perfectly well how the Beatles grew up. See, I mention it above. And clearly, the fact that three of the four Beatles admittedly grew up very poor means that Yoko who grew up rich — except for that whole bit where her family lost everything during the war and she and her siblings literally had to beg for food to survive, and when her family disassociated themselves from her because they didn’t like how she was living her life and therefore she wasn’t rich anymore — means that she as a Japanese woman clearly had the most privilege sitting in a room with four filthy rich white men who just so happened to be the most famous people in the world.

So, ummm, why is Yoko a feminist? I don’t think it follows that “Because The Beatles and the Stones were male chauvenist pigs, Yoko is a feminist, and if Chuckles and Ostrova don’t agree they are trolls.”

Ummm, no, you’re right, it doesn’t. Actually, Ms. Knows Beatles Insiders, Yoko is a feminist because she identifies as a feminist and has since at least the 60s? Because most of her work has been called feminist? Since she has spent a good deal of her time trying to challenge gender roles and better the condition of women, and acknowledge the ways that we live in a patriarchal society. You’d think my first point, though, we be a dead give away. Yoko is a feminist because she proudly identifies as one.

27 ostrova December 27, 2008 at 9:44 am

Yoko can call herself anything she wants, but it doesn’t make it the truth. She umm, does what now for feminism? And if you checked up on what the Beatles actually pocketed, cause you did your research, yeah yeah yeah?—Northern Songs was a bad contract. Filthy rich, they weren’t. Sir Paul didn’t have any income for awhile. See what Linda said about supporting him—literally. If you’re into accuraccy, which you don’t appear to be. Did Chuckles and I say we’d introduce you to anyone named McCartney, Smartass? And if Yoko had it so rough, how’d she end up classically trained and attending Sarah Lawrence? Sounds more and more like a Heather Mills story to me.

You’re still missing the point Chuckles made. The Beatles didn’t grow up rich. Yoko did.

And my point is, you revert to kindergarden anytime someone messes with your pet theories.

Cry baby cry.

28 Cara December 27, 2008 at 9:51 am

Did Chuckles and I say we’d introduce you to anyone named McCartney, Smartass?

No, the point was that you pulled some “well I know people” card as though I give a shit. Pay attention.

Northern Songs was a bad contract. Filthy rich, they weren’t.

Yeah, they had it rough. Actually, they weren’t nearly as rich as they should have been, but they were doing just fine. Just fine enough to flush it all down the toilet with Apple. You don’t literally hand that much money out the door — and when I say literally, I actually do unlike most people mean literally — when you’re doing bad yourself. If Paul was doing bad himself, it’s due to his own bad business deals, not Brian’s.

And if Yoko had it so rough, how’d she end up classically trained and attending Sarah Lawrence?

I guess the same way that the Beatles ended up in mansions when they had it so rough, according to you.

You’re still missing my point. I don’t give shit that the Beatles didn’t grow up rich. I care that they were rich, and that Yoko was still female and non-white. Which clearly you don’t care about. Maybe you’re one of those “it’s not race, it’s class!” and “sexism is over!” people. I don’t know. And I don’t really care. I just know that I have better things to do today than deal with you throwing out Beatles titles as insults as though it’s clever.

29 ostrova December 27, 2008 at 5:22 pm

Oh, I see. If Chuckles and I challenge your assumptions, then, ummm, you’ll mock us cause of—that thing that has nothing to do with the sugject at hand is distracting!!! Yay, Cara!!!!

Seen enough. Enjoy your little cyber-anthill.

30 exholt December 28, 2008 at 12:59 am

“One very big point that Chuckles made, that you poo-poo’ed, Cara, is that Yoko…went to Sarah Lawrence College.”

FYI, though colleges such as Sarah Lawrence tend to attract a mostly upper-middle class or wealthier student body, attending such types of colleges does not necessarily constitute evidence of a given student’s socio-economic status alone.

I knew plenty of working-class undergrads who attended Sarah Lawrence and similar liberal arts colleges thanks to Federal financial aid and college scholarships. Not only that, I also speak as someone who attended a top-25 private liberal arts college thanks to a near-full tuition scholarship which made it cheaper to attend than state.

31 wiggles December 28, 2008 at 6:00 pm

‘He called her “Mother.” And while I personally do think it’s a little weird, and don’t deny its special weirdness seeing his actual Mommy issues, it’s also not particularly uncommon, especially among British people.’

I’ve heard men of a few cultural backgrounds (black, white, and Hispanic U.S., namely) call their wives “mother” or “mom.” And women who call their husbands “dad.” They do it when they have kids, so the kids don’t end up referring to their parents as “Barbara” and “Stanley” or whatever.
Cara would be in a better position than I to know whether John started calling Yoko “mother” before or after Sean’s birth. Before Sean’s birth, it would be quite weird. After Sean’s birth, it would be silly for sure, but not unheard of.

32 Cara December 28, 2008 at 6:57 pm

Hmm, I’m not sure Wiggles. I think he called her mother before Sean. I’m pretty positive. But they did each already have a child of their own from previous relationships when they met.

33 Matty P January 1, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Honestly, I don’t know a lot about the Beatles’ history or Yoko Ono specifically. Still, I don’t have a problem with her.

HOWEVER – putting aside the misogynist language of the Beatles, the inconsistencies of who was let into the studio, etc. as a musician I completely understand the desire to control the studio situation and not allow external input.

No matter how talented that person was, if someone started inserting his or her critiques into the recording process, I’d justifiably be pissed and weirded out. That kind of thing takes discussion and agreement from the band. Essentially they’d be signing on to have two producers, which doesn’t make sense even if they had agreed to it ahead of time.

This is all independent of Yoko Ono herself, and more about the recording/artistic process — and I don’t think these desire to limit artistic input to the band and producer is at all unique to the Beatles.

Thanks for a thought-provoking article!

34 Cara January 1, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Essentially they’d be signing on to have two producers, which doesn’t make sense even if they had agreed to it ahead of time.

Heh. Well I’d hardly call what Yoko did in the studio (with the Beatles) production. Mostly, she was moral support for John. Sometimes she was an extra set of ears tossing in suggestions. Occasionally, when they’d let her, she made a musical contribution. I wouldn’t exactly call that “production.” If she was participating on that kind of level, I’d agree with you. But I’ve seen no evidence at all that she was.

35 clean and sober January 2, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Hmmmm and these are the guys you LOVE Cara?!! You call yourself porgressive yet you glorify males that were less than spectacular in how they treated women and seem to not have any problems with it. And please don’t give me that ‘rock star lifestyle’ or ‘it was the times’ or ‘men are human’ there’s a difference between being ‘human’ and being a lolife prick who beats women. THAT should not be tolerated no matter WHO is doing it and as for the ‘old lady with 40 cats’ that’s verrrrry archaic and stereotypical so what if I have a bunch of cats[hypothetically speaking]?! Maybe I love cats and want to give them a good home some of your statements seem contradictory Cara.

36 Betty Boondoggle January 2, 2009 at 5:06 pm

Got that Cara? It’s all YOUR fault!!!1!11!

37 Cara January 2, 2009 at 5:20 pm

You call yourself porgressive yet you glorify males that were less than spectacular in how they treated women and seem to not have any problems with it. And please don’t give me that ‘rock star lifestyle’ or ‘it was the times’ or ‘men are human’ there’s a difference between being ‘human’ and being a lolife prick who beats women. THAT should not be tolerated no matter WHO is doing it

Where did I tolerate it? I was, in fact, very, very heavily criticizing. If I tolerated it, I would have just left all of it out of this post, like most people talking about the Beatles do. Unless you’re just saying “because the Beatles were assholes, you can’t like their music or their far more charming qualities.” In which case, I strongly disagree.

and as for the ‘old lady with 40 cats’ that’s verrrrry archaic and stereotypical so what if I have a bunch of cats[hypothetically speaking]?! Maybe I love cats and want to give them a good home some of your statements seem contradictory Cara.

Um, maybe that’s because the parts that I really believe aren’t the sarcastic parts, and the part about the old cat lady was a joke about how Bob Spitz portrayed Yoko Ono as some psychotic, ridiculously stereotypical “feminazi.” Maybe I in fact love cats too, and wasn’t in that same sentence criticizing Yoko’s abortions but in fact yet again pointing out how Bob Spitz was ridiculous, accusatory and unfair about them. But I like how in the same sentence that I sarcastically talk about Yoko regretting all of her abortions, you jump on the sarcastic comment about the cats.

Thanks Betty, I needed that.

38 gavin Martin January 3, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Lennon Yoko Mother chronology?
Isnt Yoko the Mother Superior jumping the gun in Happiness Is A warm Gun?

39 Cara January 3, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Ah indeed she is the Mother Superior jumping the gun. Who knows whether the nickname came first, he started calling her Mother after a joke based on that, or the two are somehow unrelated, though.

40 cgaja January 4, 2009 at 5:41 pm

You seem to have skewed several historical facts about the Beatles, jOHn,Paul and Yoko. You blame Paul for breaking up the Beatles, but not Yoko at all or JOhn. Seems you are as biased and intellectually dishonest as you claim Spitz to be. On one hand you say John wanted out long ago, but somehow because Paul takes over the reins from a man who was not interested in the band or physically or mentally able to keep it together it’s his fault. Your illogical conclusions skew your thesis. John wants out so he brings Yoko into the studio to spew her valueless and untalented opinions to the greatest musicians in the world. She played piano, not very well. Her first husband was a very renowned concert pianist but she from all accounts was medicre at best. She had no concept or interest in rock or pop music and only took an interest once she met John. To blame anyone besides John and Yoko for the break is unbelievable. Paul just cared more about keeping the band together than the others. Ringo was marginalized because he was the least talented. As John said Ringo wasn’t event he best drummer in the Beatles. Yoko was in it for the money, and went after Paul first and only went after John when she saw how messed up he was. She came to London with her second husband with the idea of making contact with the Beatles. When she grabbed the drug addicted John she made a deal with Tony that he would divorce her for a piece of the pie. She is no innocent and to pretend so either indicates that you are either biased and uninformed or dishonest.

Dot’s abortion was a tragedy because Dot wanted the baby because she loved Paul. Yoko’s miscarriages weren’t so tragic because she was on heroin and caused the miscarriages herself, besides she already had 30 or more abortions previously and that’s why she couldn’t carry a child to term. Yoko was in a mental institution for many years and tried to commit suicide several times. Besides Yoko didn’t want the child because of any great love for John, she wanted his baby because he would then marry her or be committed to child support.

Yoko and John were assholes much more so than the others. Bringing a bed into the studio? Please that’s not reasonable or rational thats abusive and who could expect artists/musicians to be creative with that going on. You are very one sided. You also discount the times these men were living in. This is 50 years ago. Do you have no concept how much our culture has changed, or for that matter how different NYC is from Liverpool. To really bring any kind of intellectual value to your thesis you have to demonstrate the times and the cultural mores of the times and places the individuals were living. You ask for understanding of Yoko, but give none to the Beatles and especially Paul. You blame him for wanting what every 20 something male (let alone a rock-star) would have wanted from their women in 1960′s England. A wife to stay at home have his children and to pursue his career with his band-mates. Not have an obnoxious untalented woman tell him how to write his or produce his records.

41 Cara January 4, 2009 at 5:46 pm

I have nothing to say to the comment above. But I just find it, it’s wild inaccuracies, “sexism was okay then cause everyone was doing it” conclusions, and the huge bias in its thesis while berating me for my (actually slight and admitted) bias, to be endlessly amusing.

42 Daniella Perez January 5, 2009 at 8:25 am

Hmmm. I have to disagree on this one. I thought we were talking about the public perception of Yoko. As far as I know, the Beatles NEVER blamed Yoko for the break-up of the band. And nowadays, most of the fans don’t blame her either. Only the general public who doesn’t know nothing of the Beatles’ history do.

And of course they didn’t like her on the studio. Like it or not, the studio was a working place. There were guests now and then in the recordings. Males and females. Yoko herself was a guest during the recording of the “Fool on the Hill”. There were parties there. And Neil and Mal were there employees, they were there to serve them, that’s why they were there.

Their complains was more because she was there all the time. Would you like the girlfriends or boyfriends of your workmates to be in your working place every day during all the working hours? If John wanted her opinion on his music, he could have asked her at home. I think that if Mick Jagger was in the studio all the day, every day, because he was the new best friend of John Lennon they wouldn’t have like it either. I think their complains were legitimate. But why they didn’t do it more during that time? I don’t know. It must because of John, not Yoko. They were afraid of John.

Don’t take me wrong. I don’t blame Yoko for that. John was the one who dragged her to the studio and that must by why Paul complained to him, not her. Actually, Paul was, most of the times, very diplomatic with Yoko. Sometimes even coming in her defense more than one time during the recording of “Let it Be” (See the book: Get Back: The Unauthorized Chronicle of the Beatles’ “Let It Be” Disaster by Doug Sulpy). George Harrison, I agree, was very nasty to her.

By the way, George’s affair with Ringo’s wife was way after the break-up of th band. That didn’t happen during that time.

43 Cara January 5, 2009 at 9:26 am

I thought we were talking about the public perception of Yoko. As far as I know, the Beatles NEVER blamed Yoko for the break-up of the band.

As far as I know, i never claimed that they did do that. i said that they treated her like shit, and their treating her like shit, especially publicly, has sure as hell helped to fuel those notions.

If John wanted her opinion on his music, he could have asked her at home. I think that if Mick Jagger was in the studio all the day, every day, because he was the new best friend of John Lennon they wouldn’t have like it either. I think their complains were legitimate.

The problem is that they weren’t even adult enough to complain. They just treated her like shit.

44 Yolanda C. February 18, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Cara, I don’t know how I missed this excellent series about Yoko Ono. I’m halfway done—about to read the last three posts. Thank you SO much for this.

This is exactly what I dream for in writing—a political perspective, a feminist perspective—about the art and entertainment that people love so much. And you couldn’t find a better example of venerated men who piggybacked on women’s labor than The Beatles. Your series is the perfect antidote to heterosexist/racist historical mythmaking about “great men.” We need need need more grassroots analysis like this.

Damn, what that sista had to go through with those fools! And she’s still here kicking ass. Happy birthday Yoko!

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