No one had a bigger voice or a more tragic catch to their voice than Tammy Wynette - and in that open-throated heartbreak, the collective psyches and traumas of the post-feminist non-feminist woman rose and fell. "Stand By Your Man," from a sociologist's perspective, is certainly the song and, in turn, the album that galvanized Wynette's place as the anti-Steinem; a fact that's both important and misleading.
Wynette was never about subservience or being done wrong. She was about compassion and understanding people's failings. For Wynette, a line like "if you love him, you'll forgive him/After all, he's just a manS" was about recognizing that the loving thing to do was embrace the humanity and in turn, offer the same opportunity for pardon and redemption she'd like.
But for those us - nearly three decades later - who listen closely, there's a little veneer of damnation, too. When she bites off that "After all, he's just a manS," there's more than a little dismissal. It's as if she's pointing out that man is the lesser vessel - though no doubt Virginia Wynette Pugh would violently disagree. That the fate of the former hairdresser from Alabama would be tied up in one song, even a song she co-wrote, is to miss the point. Her interpersonal perspective was closer to the bone of living and breathing realitySand if the First Lady, married many times before finding her prince in George Richey, could suffer, rise and thrive through all of it, then so could the rest of the post-feminism women who weren't ready to give up their values and burn their bras.
Women rallied around Tammy. They believed because her songs were so open and her voice so raw and powerful. Honesty is the best policy - and taken as a work "Stand By Your Man" delivers even more than a potent battlecry that's become more a legend than even a standard.