One of the first women of country to really “tell it like it is” was singer Loretta Lynn. She was never shy about her life.
Her song “The Pill” — released in 1975, 15 years after the birth control pill was introduced— was no exception. Take a listen:
That’s right, a major pop star singing about birth control way ahead of her time! Whoa.
It’s sometimes hard to find songs these days that have any depth beyond their catchy beat. But in 1975, Loretta Lynn nailed it.
She wasn’t just trying to grab headlines — Loretta had four kids by the time she turned 20. So if you feel some truth in her delivery of this song about a rural farm wife who’s grateful for finally having some control over her own body, you wouldn’t be remiss.
“The Pill” outlines some of the reasons women getting control over their bodies is awesome. Here are seven.
And all in one catchy tune, to boot.
1. Ownership over the financial consequences of childbirth and child-rearing.
It’s crazy to imagine a time just over 50 years ago, when the pill didn’t exist. How did married couples do it?!
Well, in the case of Loretta’s in-song character, she got pregnant a lot:
But all I’ve seen of this old world
Is a bed and a doctor bill
Preach! If life is a constant roll of the reproductive dice — one that results in the major financial and emotional investment that is raising a new human being — you probably won’t be able to see much more than “a bed and a doctor bill.”
But not anymore:
There’s a gonna be some changes made
Right here on nursery hill
You’ve set this chicken your last time
‘Cause now I’ve got the pill
It’s no coincidence that the lyrics compare a woman without birth control to a chicken laying eggs. But there’s humanity and power in having a choice.
2. More diverse clothing choices.
Speaking of choice…
This old maternity dress I’ve got
Is goin’ in the garbage
Miniskirts, hot pants and a few little fancy frills
Yeah I’m makin’ up for all those years
Since I’ve got the pill
Get it, girl!
Miniskirts are the perfect way to make up for the never-ending maternity-wear struggle. Even though there are better maternity choices now than there were in the ’70s, maternity wear shouldn’t have to be all-the-time-wear.
3. A body that doesn’t get overused.
This incubator is overused
Because you’ve kept it filled
It’s a little bit edgy to compare yourself to a roosting chicken, but when you think about it, this lyric is intentionally jarring. Women are people, so why should they be made to feel like chickens, subject to the reproductive decisions of others?
As Mary Beth Powers of Save the Children told CNN, 1 in 7 women giving birth in developing nations will experience complications, which is even more dangerous when they are far from advanced medical care.
4. The chance to see the world.
You wined me and dined me
When I was your girl
Promised if I’d be your wife
You’d show me the world
This one’s a double-edged sword.
Essentially, the character is saying: “We got married and we were gonna conquer the world together. And now we can!” Which is awesome.
But it also shows just how far we still have to go on a lot of issues, as Loretta references a time when a woman needed the financial support of her husband to see the world.
5. A new reason for men to be happy, too.
When it comes to reproduction, men play a pretty important role. So there’s plenty of reason for them to be happy about safer, um, marital relations.
The feelin’ good comes easy now
Since I’ve got the pill
It’s gettin’ dark it’s roostin’ time
Tonight’s too good to be real
Oh but daddy don’t you worry none
‘Cause mama’s got the pill
See? The “feeling good” comes easy now! All genders can breathe sighs of relief.
6. Being more than just “mothers-in-waiting.”
If you’re constantly on deck to have and care for kids, that can become your sole way of being seen by society. It’s true!
All these years I’ve stayed at home
While you had all your fun
And every year that’s gone by
Another baby’s come
I’m tired of all your crowin’
How you and your hens play
While holdin’ a couple in my arms
Another’s on the way
When women gained control over their bodies, they also gained control over how society views them.
7. No more being the default caregivers.
This chicken’s done tore up her nest
And I’m ready to make a deal
And ya can’t afford to turn it down
‘Cause you know I’ve got the pill
For so many generations, women’s work was taken for granted. But it has value. And with control comes power.
I’m not certain just what deal the character is making here, but the point is, with control over her body, she’s also in control of her future. It could be a future of caregiving, and that would be great. It might also include an education — or maybe even a fabulous country music career, à la Loretta Lynn.
To many, Loretta’s acknowledgement of birth control was scandalous. But it was also very successful.
“The Pill” was such a scandal in country radio that it was banned from some stations, stalling its performance in country radio at a time when a Loretta Lynn single was almost a guaranteed #1.
But the song was such a sensation in the music world overall that this sly, tongue-in-cheek song about birth control was Loretta Lynn’s highest-charting single in pop music, hitting #70 on the Hot 100.
In a world that’s fraught with conflict around choice, let’s celebrate how far we’ve come and how much more control ladies in America have gained in just a few generations.