Female Love Rivals in "The Other Woman" and "Jolene" By: haya ghandour

"Music is an art form comprised of vocal and/or instrumental sounds combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion."

"The Other Woman"

"The Other Woman", written by jessie mae robinson and released in 1959 by American Jazz idol Nina Simone, was a controversial song because of the taboo topic it discussed - the 'classic' situation of a cheating man. Considering that Nina was a civil right activist and sang "The Other Woman" 5 years before the Jim Crow Laws were 'diminished', as well as the fact that she was a rising Jazz superstar, one can only imagine how much backlash she received.

Initial Assumptions

The song initially depicts a woman who exists in a seemingly perfect world whilst putting on a constant picture perfect performance of what a sexy attractive woman should be... unlike the narrator's. One of the assumptions made which reflects a societal norm is the idea that not all romantic or sexual relationships are equal.. some are more legitimate than others. "Old routine” implies narrator (wife) does not like being stuck in a routine either. But she is defined by routine and has no avenue for escape. in saying “will never have his love to keep” the wife is depicted to have a vicious, vengeful feeling, she seems to try to find one thing to criticize "The other woman on".

Alternatively, There may not be another woman. The wife could just be worrying about the ways she is inadequate as a woman and thus create a persona who is made up of her insecurities and flaws.

The song follows a cycle of jealousy in the narrator's head which will always come to same conclusion, I have something she never will. Assuming the affair is happening, the anger/song should be directed at the man rather than 'other woman', since he is knowingly hurting his wife whilst the other woman has no connection to or responsibility for his wife and family.

Society's take on the situation

A reason the wife has anger directed towards the woman could be because of what she embodies. The wife follows societies rules whereas the "other woman" does not. She is personification of domestic sphere. He can be a husband and a lover. The wife echo’s the predominant social narrative about adulterous women who breaks societal boundaries.

Men still currently break boundaries.. or do they? Currently, a double standard still exists but it is less of a social problem as male promiscuity is less frowned upon than women promiscuity. In the song, the husband is presented as neutral he is presented as neutral.

Now a days, people are not so fixated on this idea. Today, in the media, women are shown with same sexual desires as men. Something’s that have stayed the same are the emotional drives in the song. Sexual jealousy is still prominent 'offering escape that I can't offer'. Female rivalry for men's love is still around, along with women who are played up to be attractive with men not being played up. Part of the 'other woman's' allure is that she is not bound by the domestic setting. She seems to wake up without "pin curls" in her hair, they're already there. The man is attracted to this and the wife is jealous of it, even though it is impossible.

Women need to be attracted by men to feel self worth and be complete, this leads to female rivalry. A woman's worth is defined by sexual attention from men.


Attitudes towards promiscuous men are the same, the emotions behind the song are the same. Despite the song existing in a different context of a White Liberal society. Song can be considered "black song", the fact that Nina is a black woman complicates situation, is the other woman black too? If we assume singer is white and is adopting voice of white woman, also complicated things. Vast majority of listeners would have listened to this song and agreed with underlying assumptions that go into the story. such as, wife stays at home and man goes out and men have higher sex drives than women, that's how nature made them and they're less accountable. Despite her being a popular singer, she wouldnt be allowed to sit in the same section as her fans on the bus. Whereas, Lana Del Rey has a mixed audience who will be more critical and have more to say about message and assumptions made. will teenage girls (Lana's audience) even listen to the lyrics? will they argue with them? or will they just take them in?


"Jolene" is a song written and performed by country music artist Dolly Parton. Released on October 1973, it helped her gain a national and ultimately an international legacy.


The lyrics are not angry and/or jealous. the narrator is begging Jolene to let go of 'her man'. In this song, Jolene is an actual person rather than just "another woman".


Dolly explaining her powerlessness. “my happiness depends on you” “whatever you decide to do”. The other woman has power (she has seductive ability to lure men from their homes) she also has time to perfect femininity in her home. In "The Other Woman", the wife has legal/social claim to the man even though he way stray, in the end, she comes to the conclusion that she has the power.

In Jolene, there is no ambiguity, she is a goddess, no mention of the man ever stopping finding her attractive. She is the embodiment of a perfect woman. Jolene has a name, whereas the narrator does not, adding to the reinforcement of the power dynamics.

Racial dynamics and sexual dynamics make the song more open to criticism. this is a time when gender roles which were more prevalent in society were more traditional and sexist. this is also a time when in US segregation is still law, means relationship between singer and audience is strange because although they don't have equal rights in society, you are inferior as they are singing to you/ for you. perception of celebrities today are totally different, for instance Lana Del Rey. Problematic point of view.

Narrator(wife or GF) is directly addressing a woman who she knows. She’s talking to her by name, audience assumes a classic love triangle situation. The women are suspected to have history.


Both songs deal with the archetype of sexual infidelity. i.e. cheating husband, jitted woman, other 'perfect' woman.

Beauty is the key to power. Joleen gets more power because of her beauty, which is natural in comparison to "The Other Woman" who has to curl her hair and assert her femininity to be beautiful. For Joleen; there is no domestic setup, she is just a goddess that is loved and represents the perfect woman.

For a female, the narrator has paid a lot of attention to Jolene’s appearance, Jolene is idolized by her. She doesn’t try and assert her power and deliberately places herself in subservient position. She wants Joleen's attention, which is an interesting aspect of the song.

In not knowing what the other woman actually looks like and simply knowing her accessories, we learn that she is a cosmetic performance of beauty. In this case, the other woman. She is jealous that the "other woman" has time to create an artificial world of escape for the other husband since she is not tied down by domestic setup.


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