Yoko Ono: A Feminist Analysis (Addendum: Just Like Starting Over)

by Cara on January 7, 2009

in feminism, Gratuitous Beatles Blogging, misogyny, pop culture, race and racism, sexism

Introduction: Oh Yoko!
Part One: The Ballad of John and Yoko
Part Two: Don’t Let Me Down
Part Three: Woman

A few months ago, I finally joined Facebook. Knowing that Yoko Ono has stayed technologically up to speed, I wanted to see if she had a page (it’s here), and ended up perusing “groups” with her name under them. I shouldn’t have been surprised to find many more hate groups than love groups. But this one nearly took my breath away and made me feel like breaking down in tears: Yoko Ono Should Have Died Instead of John Lennon.

There are a lot of things that I can say to that level of hate and misogyny. But I will only say one: John Lennon would have hated you assholes much more than Fuck Face McGee who murdered him.

Oh, and that’s hardly the only group calling for Yoko’s death — yes, her death. It’s just the most popular and obscenely-titled (there are many other groups about simply hating Yoko).

I share this for simple reasons. Firstly, I’m selfish and didn’t want to be alone in this sadness and disgust. Secondly, it’s to revisit the introduction to this series. There, I argued that Yoko hatred is still alive and well, but also that while Yoko hatred is interesting to examine as a feminist issue, it probably shouldn’t be considered a particularly contemporary one. On the former point, I do believe that I have been proven quite right, while on the latter, I will admit that I was wrong. Over writing this series, I’ve begun to realize that slowly, and ultimately decided to preserve my original introductory analysis in the hopes that you might make that same journey as a reader.

Of course, we should take solace in the fact that Yoko has thousands of Facebook “fans” and this group has only 130 members.  But it’s existence — just like “Hillary Should Have Married O.J.” — is depressing regardless of actual popularity.

The kind of hate we see for Yoko, we still see today for other powerful women married to men of great influence.  Hillary Clinton gets the Yoko treatment when people claim that her marriage to Bill is all a sham intended to bolster her political career, and when Bill was derided for working with Hillary on policy issues.  Michelle Obama gets the Yoko treatment when people suggest that she has too much influence over Barack’s decisions, up to and including pushing those she doesn’t like out of the picture, and when Barack is criticized for having a wife with her own opinions.  Everything old is new again.

Though I think that Yoko is now more widely appreciated for her own art and intelligence, there’s still a lot of hate out there.  If you’re looking for Yoko merchandise, what you’re almost certain to find is anti-Yoko merchandise.  The most popular slogan seems to be “Still Pissed at Yoko” — because 40 years later, it apparently still makes sense to blame the problems between four men on a woman.  And when a Hillary Clinton reference just won’t do, Yoko is the go-to figure for ball-busting, castrating radical feminists everywhere.

But the most common accusation leveled against her modern actions has nothing to do with the Beatles but with Lennon’s legacy — and the idea that even in death, she’s still controlling and manipulating him solely for her own benefit:

Bill Harry, a friend of Lennon who ran the Mersey Beat newspaper in the 1960s and wrote the John Lennon Encyclopaedia, says Ono has an “iron grip” over what is released.

“Yoko controls everything,” he says. “John doesn’t belong to the world any more. He belongs completely to Yoko, who is able to filter anything that goes out.

“Everybody has to have her permission for anything – which is why we have the most abominable stuff coming out on John.”

You know, I can’t say that I agree with every decision that Yoko has made about how and when to use Lennon’s name, legacy and music. (Case in point.)  But if I did, I think that would be an eerie sign that she was being far too careful, and therefore willing to also let us miss out on a lot of good stuff. Do I cringe when Lennon’s music is licensed commercially in advertisements? Yes, and so thankfully it’s rare. But when I see people moaning about Lennon-themed merchandise like coffee mugs and watches, the action figure and the sunglasses, I just have to roll my eyes. If I regularly drank coffee, what mug do you think I’d be using? If I’d wear a Beatles watch in the event that I could actually afford one, I don’t see why I wouldn’t want a Lennon one. If John’s glasses didn’t look so horrible on my very-round face, OMFG you better believe that I’d want some signature Lennon glasses. The action figure was pretty cool — and I don’t see anyone crying over the John and Paul Yellow Submarine action figures sitting on my shelf over there (btw, anyone have a George or Ringo they want to send me?).

And when I see the Imagine Peace Tower, I am in awe. When Happiness is a Warm Gun was used so well in Bowling for Columbine, I wanted to applaud (though that song doesn’t belong to the Lennon estate, Michael Moore thanks Yoko Ono at the end of the film, indicating that he respectfully sought out her permission, I’m sure realizing how close to home the subject matter was to her). When I saw the John Lennon exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, I wanted to worship the ground she walked on.

And when I saw the blood-covered glasses that Lennon was wearing when he was shot, at that exhibit, when I look at the Season of Glass cover and this billboard using the same photograph, I support and deeply appreciate her. To those who take offense at the use of John’s glasses in this way, Yoko responded:

“John would have approved (of using his blood-covered glasses on the cover of Season Of Glass) and I will explain why. I wanted the whole world to be reminded of what happened. People are offended by the glasses and the blood? The glasses are a tiny part of what happened. If people can’t stomach the glasses, I’m sorry. There was a dead body. There was blood. His whole body was bloody . . . That’s the reality . . . He was killed. People are offended by the glasses and the blood? John had to stomach a lot more.”

The woman simply wants people to remember that her husband was murdered; that he wasn’t supposed to die. She commits a huge portion of her life to celebrating his legacy and willingly steps into the shadows as she does it. And yet, when she asks people to stop doing John a disservice by acting as though he just dropped dead one day, or as though he overdosed like so many other dead musicians, she’s treated as someone exploiting his death for his own publicity.

All of this has very little to do with Yoko’s actions. She donates large sums of money to charity and reaps little profit from the use of John’s songs. She celebrates his art and makes it available to the world. Twenty-eight years later, she’s still forced to talk about her late husband over her own, current accomplishments, and she does so without complaint. None of it is good enough to some people and never will be simply because she’s Yoko Ono. If she keeps her memories and treasure trove to herself, she’s hoarding a man who supposedly “belonged” to everybody (a contention I think John himself would have resented). When she shares, she’s being greedy and attention-hungry.

It’s really very simple: people are angry that a woman they hate is for the rest of her life in charge of what happens to a man they love.  And now that she literally does control his estate, many people seem to think it gives their accusations that she controlled his life extra credibility.  Women aren’t supposed to be in charge.  And widows certainly aren’t allowed to have fulfilling lives filled with creativity or walk around smiling and wearing white — they’re supposed to hide and weep forever in their black mourning clothes.  (Of course, when Yoko did go into hiding for some time after John’s murder, people still picked on her.)

And what of her own work?  In virtually every article I’ve ever read about one of her art shows or peace initiatives, she is either discussed in relation to her late husband, or defended with the proclamation that she is more than John Lennon’s widow.  How absurd that this point need be hammered home.  The woman is an absolutely brilliant artist! She is hilarious and insightful. She creates great works on both a visual and intellectual level, and often creates an almost surreal sense of serenity.  She’s not adverse to feminist statement and controversy either, pushing the idea that not only are our mothers beautiful, but so are our unsexualized vaginas and breasts.

So, who is Yoko Ono?  I’ve spent thousands and thousands of words arguing what she is not, and when trying to say what she is, words begin to fail.  Contrary to what some seem to think I believe, she’s not perfect.  No, like all of us, she has made many mistakes, and I’m sure will continue to make them.   She’s human, pure but hardly simple.

Yoko Ono is an artist — a conceptual artist, a performance artist, a visual artist.  She’s a filmmaker.  She’s a writer.  She’s a musician.  Yoko is a peace activist, a feminist, and someone who believes deeply in equality and social justice.

She’s a loving and incredibly devoted mother who nevertheless was determined to have her own life.  To disapproving stares that surely last from many today, she publicly declared that much as she loved Sean, she carried him for 9 months and now it was John’s turn.  She believes that love is a profoundly healing force and that while male oppression needs to be combated, men and women are not adversaries.  She is a widow who has carried on with her own life, but still loves and misses her dead husband terribly 28 years later.

Yoko Ono is a woman who has done many radical things and broken down many doors.  She was the first woman to ever be accepted into the philosophy program of prestigious Gakushuin University and then had to gall to walk away after two semesters.  As early as 1964, she sat before an audience of strangers and had them cut off her clothes (“Cut Piece”).  She has put her own reputation and credibility on the line for what she believes (all of her earlier peace events).  She wasn’t afraid of the Beatles and in fact influenced one of them enough to be accused of breaking up the band.  Yoko Ono is the kind of woman who would, in 1971, laugh at Dick Cavett like she pitied him when asked if he could light her cigarette.

Yoko never has been and I hope never will be a well-behaved woman.

But of course, as always, that may in itself be the problem.  People want her to be nothing more than an evil caricature.  She’s easier to pin down, understand, and revile that way.  Her wildly inaccurate image presents a way of understanding the world that backs up the misogynistic, racist status quo.

To admit that Yoko is brilliant and in fact not evil is indeed to admit something more about how we view the world, and how it is wrong.  It’s to accept something radical about the way in which our supposedly increasingly enlightened society still clings to absurd stereotypes about women and Asian people as hard truth.  It begs the question I began this series with, of why the myth prevails.

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{ 41 comments }

1 CableGirl January 6, 2009 at 9:45 am

Wonderful. Simply wonderful. I have thoroughly enjoyed this series from start to finish. I admit to a sense of sadness that you have come to the end.

2 Cara January 7, 2009 at 10:12 am

Note: CableGirl doesn’t have special powers, this post just went up accidentally for about 10 minutes yesterday and she happened to read it during that space of time :)

3 Renee January 7, 2009 at 11:29 am

This entire series has given me so much food for thought. I am humbled at your brilliance. Yoko will forever be the eternal other. People cannot see beyond her race and her gender. They have too much invested in maintaining patriarchy and the legendary image of the Beatles to actually look at them outside of their fame and consider them as men no different than anyone else. What I loved most about this entire series was that the separation between fame and the real world we all live in. Though I am sure you will hear this repeatedly thank you for the journey and the education.

4 frau sally benz January 7, 2009 at 11:40 am

people are angry that a woman they hate is for the rest of her life in charge of what happens to a man they love.

That basically sums it all up right there.

This series was great, I can’t say it enough! You really took an in-depth look at all of the layers and dimensions and tried to take all sides into account. No, the posts are not particularly Paul-friendly (haha), but they’re a real look at the other side of the coin.

5 lindsay January 7, 2009 at 1:02 pm

I’ve really enjoyed these, both as a Beatles fan and for the critique of a cultural icon. I’d be interested to see responses from the authors of the books you mention, just to see if they have any reasoning for backing up their sexism and racism.

Great work.

6 AshKW January 7, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Thank you for spending the time to bring all this to us.

7 Isabel January 7, 2009 at 2:46 pm

I’m so sad this is over!! ha. great series, Cara, seriously, enthralling from first word to last.

8 E.M. Russell January 7, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Favorite line: Because 40 years later, it apparently still makes sense to blame the problems between four men on a woman.

9 Christine January 7, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Splendid finish. I’m glad you addressed the legacy issue. I’d also point out that whenever Yoko writes, edits, or approves a tribute to John – a collection of essays or a musical or anything – she’s always sharply criticised for considering his solo career (and life with her) as the most important, or even important at all, instead of putting his time with the Beatles front and centre.

10 Cara January 7, 2009 at 3:38 pm

I’m so sad this is over!!

Trust me, no one is more sad than I am :)

Thanks all. And as a completely random side note, the song above was my and my husband’s first dance at our wedding. We got married after being apart for 6 months due to immigration bullshit (he arrived literally 3 days before the wedding) :)

11 Meowser January 7, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Yoko will get her due one day. Probably in 100 years, when everyone will talk about how “maligned” and what a “pioneer” she was. Unfortunately, I won’t be around for the horselaughs, and neither will she.

And no kidding that Lennon would have disputed that he “belonged to everyone.” He said as much during his “quiet” period of the late 1970s, when Dave Marsh wrote his open letter to Lennon in Rolling Stone begging him to come back, and Lennon wrote back to him saying, in essence, that he had done more than his share and that it was “everyone else’s turn now.” (This is the closest online reference I can find to this incident, unfortunately.)

Great stuff, Cara.

12 Xerophyte January 7, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Yes! Also, while I was reading your paragraph on John Lennon merchandise, I realized that I’m wearing a pair of John Lennon glasses — not as in a replica, but a brand called John Lennon that I got partly because it had his name! (And still I think I’m above being swayed by corporate branding….)

Anyhow, I remember once when my mom and I had to verbally take my dad down when he whined that Yoko broke up the Beatles. Seriously, what does society hold men accountable for? Somehow they’re not to blame if they commit rape, they’re not to blame if their partner gets pregnant, they’re not to blame if they cheat, blah blah blah. And how funny that the people who so completely lambast Yoko often have no idea about the other things she does, about her art and her charitable work. If you’re going to hate somebody so much that you actually want them to die, shouldn’t you at least know a little about them first? (I know, people with that mindset probably don’t really care about charity or art despite their purported devotion to John….)

13 Cindy January 7, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Thankyou for a wonderful read! Looking forward to your next series!

14 Genevieve January 8, 2009 at 2:36 pm

You know, like I said earlier, I always knew I liked Yoko Ono…even though I didn’t know much about her except: “loved John Lennon. Wasn’t well-liked.”

Now that I know more about her, thanks to you, I really want to know even more, if that makes sense…maybe that’ll be this year’s ‘project’: educate myself about Yoko Ono.

I’m kind of pissed at myself for not wanting to do this earlier–in 2007 there was an exhibit of Ono’s art at a local university, and going would’ve been no problem for me–my dad’s on the university’s board of trustees, though, so I did end up with an Imagine Peace poster, which is awesome.

15 Cara January 8, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Probably the Imagine Peace exhibit I saw this year, Genevieve. It’s been traveling around . . . and sorry, but it was great :) Not nearly as great as, say a giant retrospective like this one looked, but still great.

16 Jet January 8, 2009 at 10:13 pm

This was fascinating, and a great read. Thank you.

17 Pop Feminist January 8, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Again — thanks for this. We may have our points of contention, but with our primarily feminist foundation built upon Beatles lore and respect for Oko’s art and philosophy, I am reminded why I feel so especially close to you in this ever-shifting and metamorphosing feminist blogosphere.

Keep it up! I’m an avid reader!

18 healthyview January 9, 2009 at 12:41 am

Yoko’s influence on John Lennon was a wonderful blessing to us all. Yoko is Beautiful and continues to be so with unending dedication. Thanks for the post, I imagine John loves and cares greatly for his wife still and always will and will always appreciate your blog’s defense of such a true spitit of love and light, as Yoko is to the world. I imagine that for John to have been inspired by such a wonderful and loving woman is just too awesome for most people’s ideal vision of the Boy’s Band of song. Don’t you agree that some of his most beautiful music & lyrics came following his dedication and inspiring work with the Beatles? Long live both these wonderful human beings love and light, eternally and on earth, for Yoko’s presence… still.

19 Bianca Reagan January 9, 2009 at 10:03 am

Cara, if you’re sad that this is over, you could do another profile on another woman. I would read it.

20 Lemur January 9, 2009 at 11:58 am

This was an incredible series. It makes me wish I was still in college so I could do a project on it, lol.
I hope you do another series like this- you obviously have a gift for it, your passion for the Beatles notwithstanding.
Thank you.

21 Chuckles January 9, 2009 at 6:23 pm

It seems to me Yoko has transcended being a person and now is simply an idea to those haters you mention. She will forever be associated with being John’s downfall, though nothing could be further from the truth.

So as long as she is a symbol, a cliche, of a ball busting woman, her infamy will live on, fair or not. It is unfortunate, since she is not all that she is accused of.

22 Elayne Riggs January 10, 2009 at 9:11 am

Wow. Just wow.

And you’re only 24? Dear girl, you have a bright, bright future ahead of you.

Magnificent series. Some quibbles here and there, just stuff I would have phrased differently, but overall very well done.

Had I your energy, pose and wherewithal to write this kind of series, I might have noted that I think the later Beatles wives definitely changed how their husbands perceived women, but it wasn’t just Yoko and Linda and Olivia and Barbara, it was the times that were a’changing as well. I may not like how the Fabs behaved as lads, but neither can I really blame people for not being ahead of their time — and you should know that Britain is still somewhat behind the US in many ways regarding feminism. For instance, my husband’s family still addresses me (when sending letters) as “Mrs. Riggs” rather than using “Ms.” I think the remarkable thing was how far ahead of his time John BECAME as a result of being with Yoko.

My husband’s decided to listen to the complete day-by-day Let It Be audio this month, tracking almost 40 years to the exact day, and he’s shared with me that there were indeed times when Yoko was indeed accepted as the trained musician she was. However, she made a bit of an ass of herself here and there, as did they all (as you mentioned). Apparently yesterday’s tape (1/10/1969) had her singing along with Paul playing “Martha My Dear” (just tickling the ivories for fun as the song itself had been on a previous album). Yoko was at the mic singing “John, John, John” over and over in place of the original words, getting louder and louder, until finally John (elsewhere in the studio now doing his own thing, after he’d been playing along a bit with the other two) shouted back “HE’S BUSY!”

So, yeah, there was acknowledgement that she was a professional, and she did jam with the others at times. But it does seem as though the growing animosity was more due to a personality clash than anything else. EVERYTHING in the Let It Be sessions seemed to be personality clashes; the Yoko/Paul/John jam thing was during the time when George had taken off for parts unknown with the possibility hanging that he wouldn’t return (John even discussed bringing in Eric Clapton so the Beatles could continue). It was just weirdness, and a situation probably best understood only by those who were there; you can’t necessarily project personality clashes into a larger feminist framework all the time.

The only structural thing I would consider perhaps tightening in your essay series is when you start comparing how Yoko was treated by the media with how Linda was treated. Great observation about their similarities (to which I would of course add the “NYC cosmopolitan well-off socialite” angle, only because I’m a cosmopolitan NY’er myself), but you switch rather abruptly from “this is how the Beatles saw Yoko” to “this is how the world treated the two wives” rather abruptly, which has the unintended effect of putting the onus on the other Beatles for how the “outside” world saw Yoko as opposed to Linda. And I’m just not convinced the media’s take on Yoko vs. Linda re: physical appearance, behavior, etc. was something initiated by the other Beatles.

In any case, I want to re-emphasize that my quibbles are minor at best. I’ve been recommending your essays to everyone within earshot, and have added you to my blogroll on the strength of this series alone. I look forward to your future posts; keep up the great work!

23 Elayne Riggs January 10, 2009 at 9:12 am

(I hit “submit” too soon, “pose” typo should read “poise”)

24 Cara January 12, 2009 at 9:14 am

and you should know that Britain is still somewhat behind the US in many ways regarding feminism. For instance, my husband’s family still addresses me (when sending letters) as “Mrs. Riggs” rather than using “Ms.” I think the remarkable thing was how far ahead of his time John BECAME as a result of being with Yoko.

Ha. Um, I don’t live in Britain, nor have I lived everywhere in the U.S., but to the best of my knowledge in all but the most liberal circles, this is still par for the course. In fact, my own extended family insists on addressing letters to “Mrs. My Husband” even though I kept my last name.

but you switch rather abruptly from “this is how the Beatles saw Yoko” to “this is how the world treated the two wives” rather abruptly, which has the unintended effect of putting the onus on the other Beatles for how the “outside” world saw Yoko as opposed to Linda. And I’m just not convinced the media’s take on Yoko vs. Linda re: physical appearance, behavior, etc. was something initiated by the other Beatles.

Hmm. I feel like these are mostly entirely different posts. But I’ll take a look at it, thanks.

25 kelly g. January 12, 2009 at 10:00 am

“Yoko controls everything,” he says. “John doesn’t belong to the world any more. He belongs completely to Yoko, who is able to filter anything that goes out.

“Everybody has to have her permission for anything – which is why we have the most abominable stuff coming out on John.”

What a stupid, arrogant and *offensive* thing to say. John didn’t “belong” to anyone; no one owned him. When he was alive, *he* chose how others could use his work (or not). And when he died, that ability went to his estate.

If Harry has a problem with that, his gripe is with US copyright law, not Yoko Ono.

But, as Cara demonstrated, Harry’s issue is more about uppity women than anything else.

Awesome series, Cara!

26 kelly g. January 12, 2009 at 10:02 am

In fact, my own extended family insists on addressing letters to “Mrs. My Husband” even though I kept my last name.

Same here. The husband’s family does it, too.

27 madaha January 16, 2009 at 3:32 pm

I’m not Asian, so correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t white the traditional color of mourning in the East? I think it is for China, but not sure about Japan.

Maybe she IS in mourning colors.

28 Cara January 16, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Good question, Madaha. I’m not sure. But it’s also not unknown that Yoko has long had a love for the color white — evidenced in her regular choice to wear it long before John’s death, the white room that she and John had at the Dakota, and her “Play it By Trust” (all-white chess set) piece and other art that revolves around white themes :)

29 RachelB January 16, 2009 at 8:35 pm

I’m over here from Shakesville and wanted to thank you for this series.

30 exholt January 16, 2009 at 8:40 pm

“She was the first woman to ever be accepted into the philosophy program of prestigious Gakushuin University and then had to gall to walk away after two semesters. ”

Though Gakushuin University had a great deal of prestige before the end of WWII because admission was nearly exclusively open only to royal or socially prominent families with some aristocratic ties, that exclusivity and prestige ended after Japan’s wartime defeat.

Afterwards, the school became regarded as a second/third tier institution for wealthy kids who failed to gain admission to more prestigious schools like Tokyo U or Waseda. At least, that’s how dozens of Japanese undergrad and grad classmates have described how they perceived it over the last 2 decades. None of them would describe Gakushuin U after 1945 as “prestigious” among their peers back in Japan.

It wouldn’t surprise me if one factor in her leaving was that her academic interests changed and she didn’t feel she was being challenged enough at that institution.

31 Morgaine February 17, 2009 at 4:31 am

I just wanted to say that I loved this series. I never understood the Yoko hatred. I always thought she was a beautiful striking woman and that she made John Lennon happy. I didn’t know a lot of the things you brought up in this series, either. It was a fascinating read. Thank you!

BTW, did you know that you can report Facebook groups for defamation? I went and reported a few of the Yoko hating ones after reading this series.

32 Liz Henry February 18, 2009 at 12:50 am

I agree with you that Yoko is fucking awesome for her weird performance art!

33 Kaja February 20, 2009 at 10:00 pm

I came across this post rather late, it seems, but I wanted to thank you for writing such an insightful and brilliant takedown–and for introducing me to an amazing artist. Until I read this series, I’d been thinking of Yoko entirely in terms of her relationship to John/The Beatles (though not hating her), and you’ve pushed me to go and take a look at her own body of work. Thanks for the reminder to look beyond the relationship and see a powerful woman on her own terms.

34 Cara February 20, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Thanks, Kaja! After a really stressful week, that just made my night :)

35 Todd February 26, 2009 at 9:42 am

Maybe it wasn’t that she was a woman. Maybe, JUST MAYBE, people disliked her because she made random noises and called it art. Maybe they dislike her because she interjected herself into John’s work, where she wasn’t invited by the band. Why can’t we hold her accountable for her actions?

36 Cara February 26, 2009 at 9:48 am

Probably the same reason that you can’t hold John accountable for his, Todd.

If Yoko “interjected herself into John’s work,” as I already made clear in the series which I bet you didn’t read, it was because he invited her. If anyone is to blame for the fact that Yoko was there, and if you really do believe that Yoko’s presence broke up the band? It’s because of John.

But I know. It’s John Fucking Lennon! Can’t hold him accountable. Better blame Yoko.

37 Yasmin March 15, 2009 at 5:56 pm

I had no idea Yoko was such an interesting, fascinating person. I learned a lot. Thanks, Cara.

38 DaisyDeadhead March 25, 2009 at 1:46 pm
39 Christine November 8, 2009 at 11:28 am

I realize that I’ve come upon this nearly a year after you completed it, but I needed to post a comment nonetheless. This series was absolutely incredible. Although I’ve never carried the degree of hatred toward Yoko that you’ve described throughout this series (the Facebook page you mentioned is vulgar, hideous and disgusting), I admit that I often sit on the fence in my opinions about her. I’m not a first gen Beatles fan. I became a fan in 1979, and I am so grateful that I was able to be aware of John and love him (he’s been my favorite Beatle from almost the start, once I stopped being terrified of him, typical of a 13-year-old girl, I suppose, since he was the most…unsettling of the four) and know that he was a part of this world at the same time that I was.

I learned about Yoko after reading Cynthia’s first book, the first Beatles book I EVER read. I hadn’t even known of her existence until then, and I certainly had no knowledge of how vilified she had been for such a long while, and how the other Beatles reacted to her presence in their friend’s life. I reserved judgment, even at 13 unwilling to simply “take the public’s word” on her. Over the years I’ve admittedly been confused and angered by some of her actions and decisions, but at the same time, I respect her a great deal, even if I don’t always “like what she’s doing.” She is a complex, contradictory person, just as her husband was, and that’s one of the reasons why I adore him the way that I do. She’s flawed, imperfect, just as her husband was, and he has been revered for being so confessional about his flaws and imperfections.

I still believe that her two biggest transgressions are her treatment of Julian and how she often deliberately downplays the Beatles in John’s musical history, something that I simply don’t understand and likely never will. But we are all on the outside, and even though we hear a great deal via the media, there is no way that we will ever be privileged to the full story, just as no one who isn’t living my life would never be aware of the full story, the subtleties, no matter how much I might share with those close to me.

This is long overdue. And I think it’s essential reading for any fan of John’s. Even though I have always approached Yoko with an open mind, I learned things from this series that are making me stop and think, and making me re-examine my own perception of Yoko, a perception that has hardly been negative and derogatory.

Bravo, Cara. Thank you so much.

40 Jim Magary November 9, 2009 at 9:16 am

Great writing on Yoko. I’ve been defending her for years. People get angry with me when I try to tell them that by the time John died, Yoko’s music was actually cooler and more cutting edge than his. “Every Man has a Woman” is just brilliant.

41 Pooja Pillai March 31, 2010 at 8:37 am

This series has enlightened me so much! Thank you for writing this. I’ve never hated Yoko and always suspected she was being wrongly vilified, but I admit it was more feminist instinct, than any actual knowledge of Beatles history. Thanks for all the facts, the links (I admit I find Yoko’s art very unsettling and bewildering)and for the brilliant arguments. I could never have argued like this!

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