Feminism – for want of a better term – has been a liberating force for women and for men. What started with challenging received notions about femininity and women’s roles, has blossomed into a framework for human liberation. First, rape jokes were questioned, then, prison rape jokes. First, female circumcision was opposed, then, male circumcision. (Patriarchy cuts both ways.) Obviously, the pushback to feminism has been enormous and fierce, but the ideas continue to spread. Awareness of gender stereotyping, body-shaming, gender fluidity and consent now inform our thinking and behavior.
One cliche that’s been stubbornly resistant to a feminist rethink is the small penis joke. On the political left, a small dick is the hilarious putdown that explains macho behavior like driving sports cars, collecting guns, and authoritarianism. On the right, a small dick is the cause of male sensitivity and the dreaded liberalism. More than just a joke, this casual body shaming is used figuratively and literally as a key to understanding a man’s psychology.
A large part of what’s called toxic masculinity is exercised in the enforcement of destructive attitudes among men. Trying to live up to unrealistic body images is a form of repression, but that feminist insight hasn’t made much of a dent in our thinking. The belief that the size of a man’s penis should determine his manliness and his worth is an unspoken cultural assumption, whether one subscribes to it or not. It’s a destructive ideology, largely reinforced through jokes.
But how much can feminist thinking actually change something so seemingly biological? That remains a topic for another day and another song. “Small Penis,” the song at hand, takes equality and justice as worthy aspirations.
The four-volume music project I’m working on is called Anthems & Antithets. An antithet, in my parlance, is a song that takes a cliche and turns it on its head. Volume 3, Antipathy & Ideology, focuses on the political. It occurred to me that while small penis jokes aren’t very funny, a song bragging about having a small penis could be both funny and political. An antithet was born. A new kind of small penis joke.
For the music, rhythm and blues struck me as having the right mixture of plaint and celebration. I didn’t have the patience for a 12-bar blues form, so I made it a 9-bar blues. It’s a little shorter than average but it gets the job done.