Mocking Women Isn’t Funny

Open Letters

Dear All-Male Groups,

I get it. When On the Rocks covered Lady Gaga it was funny. Not only was the sound great, and the video professionally produced, but the very concept of these college-aged men singing “Bad Romance” and dancing (well) in Gaga fashion was really amusing.

But you know what? With each iteration of this performance, or one similar to it, by groups imitating that On the Rocks style, it got less funny. I’m talking about guys going Gaga, guys singing “Single Ladies,” guys singing Ke$ha. Over the past seven years, we’ve seen it all.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t feel there’s anything inherently wrong with crossing gender lines in a cappella. An all-male group soulfully covering Sarah McLachlan or making an Imogen Heap song their own can be fresh and surprising, not to mention that it can open unique opportunities for a group. But as soon as the comedy takes centerstage via over-the-top choreography, put-on falsettos, or stereotypically effeminate body language played to comedic effect, it’s no longer fun. As a critic, that’s the point at which I stop taking a group seriously as a cappella performers, and recognize that they are, instead, prioritizing playing the crowd for laughs.

There’s a place for comedic a cappella. Heck, I’ll even go so far as to say that if you know your audience and the theatrics aren’t distracting you from making good music, there may be a place for this style of performance at a campus show. But when you enter a competition, release a video into the world, or otherwise try to assert yourself as an a cappella group that a broader audience should pay attention to, you have to recognize that mocking women is not original, nor is it funny. More often than not, it’s hackneyed and kind of offensive.

Think different. Try harder. I believe in you. Now go make the most of your potential.

Sincerely,

Mike