Anyone who’s heard this year’s Israeli entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, Toy knows that Netta Barzilai, the 25-year old singer/looper/DJ is a female force of nature to be reckoned with. She belts out her song Toy with supreme confidence.
It makes you believe this is a woman who’s experienced more than a few challenging relationships with men. Her scars remain, yet they won’t bring her down, they make her stronger. In fact, she may just cluck like a chicken to mock his poor behavior.
Netta’s strength and confidence along with her unique look and larger than life persona make her very appealing. She projects a strong subliminal message “I don’t take crap from nobody”.
Lots of women can learn a thing or two from her. How many of us care far too much about what everyone, especially the men we date, think about us – so much so that we contort ourselves into something we aren’t.
Toy has several messages for society. Among them is that no matter your size or shape, a healthy dose of confidence is super attractive. Netta’s confidence personifies a combination of internal strength and beauty.
She trills and clucks as she mocks her “chicken” ex-boyfriend, declaring to all that no longer will she be his plaything. Variously described as toy and buba (Hebrew for doll). Listening to this song, so clearly focused on female empowerment, one could wonder why women bother with men if they can be such a source of pain. Of course, the triumph of hope over experience usually prevails. Along with our basic instincts and desire for closeness with the opposite sex.
Unlike the best-known example of this genre of female empowerment songs, Gloria Gayner’s I Will Survive, Toy goes a step further and makes a point of putting the focus on the pathetic boyfriend for being scared away. Of course we don’t know the implied story behind the lyrics but there are hints of real frustration and pain (for example, the amazing looped lyrics at the start – Rreee!, Ouch!, Hey!, Hmph, La!).
Netta takes none of the responsibility for her boyfriend’s toying with her emotions and lays into him big time. We’re not sure what he did but we’re left to assume he deserved it …!
By way of contrast, in Gaynor’s 1978 classic – the highlight of many a women-only karaoke night – she starts off berating herself for not having done more to protect herself as she recalls her initial reaction that she couldn’t imagine living without him. “First I was afraid I was petrified, thinking how I could ever live without you by my side.”
While Gaynor places little blame on his behavior, she implies that he emotionally hurt her. “It took all the strength I had not to fall apart. Kept trying hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart.”
As she reflects on how badly she was treated, she gains strength from knowing how much better she is without him. But her repeated declaration “I Will Survive” feels like she has to fight back the urge to allow her ex back into her life. No doubt 40 years ago, women still tended to feel they needed to live under the protection of a man. A real sign as to how times have changed.
Fast forwarding to the contemporary anthem, Netta’s message is consistently strong all the way through. She doesn’t have any regrets about her actions or behavior in the relationship.
Toy is an especially apt Eurovision song contest entry for this year as the #MeToo campaign has inspired many women the world over to rethink how they allow men to interact with them and what they’re willing to put up with.
Good luck Netta!
Pre 1950s, women received messages from family, society and the media that they have to lower themselves in order to be attractive and acceptable to men. Since then, the feminist movement has been fighting an uphill battle trying to reverse this trend as it dis-empowered women and left them weak and vulnerable.
Femininity is no longer one size fits all. Many strong yet feminine women know that when they stand strong, they don’t need to tell men not to toy with their emotions – the message is transmitted loud and clear by their very presence.
Men are now more receptive to this message which helps this subconscious transmission. Self-respecting women notice red flags fairly quickly, yet feelings and attraction occasionally get in the way of listening to those warning bells.
While female empowerment makes women feel strong and sexy, some men remain bewildered as to how to interact with women in a way that is jovial and playful yet still taking the situation seriously. He questions how he can fit into her life and whether she is prepared to be vulnerable and let him in.
Respect for women and relationship equality has come a long way, yet relationships have never been more challenging. They require more work than ever to define and maintain a meaningful connection, yet at the same time balancing work and the need for “me time”.
Toy is a fun, female empowerment song. It’s a reminder to us all that women are a force to be reckoned with and we won’t be messed around. Yet, it’s important that this doesn’t lead to a situation where couples are in a constant duel with each other, trying to show who’s stronger.
As a marriage and couples therapist I’ve seen many relationships destroyed by one-upmanship. The trick is to strike a balance between playfulness and responsibility. This is especially challenging when couples are often made of two intelligent and passionate people with strong opinions and deeply felt emotions.
As much as this song is fun and catchy but with a strong underlying message, I hope for the day when there won’t be a need to sing these songs from the rafters in order to get the message across.