Only Women Bleed

Only Women Bleed

Just what was Alice Cooper talking about?

Every time I heard Alice Cooper’s 1975 song “Only Women Bleed” on the radio, I would get pissed off. I loved Cooper growing up in the 80s—my aunt had all of his records—but this song made me confused. As a young child, I knew that both boys and girls could bleed; as a teen, I wondered if this was some weird tribute to the menstrual cycle. After all, Cooper’s shock tactics were pretty much the core of his performance.

When I could finally listen to all of the lyrics, I began to understand that the song was about an abusive relationship. It mentions how a man slaps a woman once in a while as she feeds him, needs him, and begs him. I still don’t think I could actually call it a feminist song, or even a sympathetic one.I do believe that Cooper is trying to say that only women bleed in a certain way—perhaps by the heart—which is, of course, false, since many men are abused in relationships (both gay and straight ones; I’ve known both) and many men are raped as well, if that’s what he’s alluding to. I also don’t like many of the things the song seems to suggest.

Sure, men make our hair turn gray sometimes, and they certainly have the power in this patriarchy—but so many of the lyrics bother me. For example, the fact that the woman cries too often at night when her husband comes home—what wouldn’t be too often? And why is he her life’s mistake—as if his actions are her fault, somehow?

The line that he slaps you around once in a while sounds way too flippant to be an empathetic one to me (especially when, in a moment, the black eyes are not only once in a while but all of the time), and the line about being on your knees begging, “Please come/Watch me bleed…” What the hell is that supposed to mean? Using sex as a coping device, begging to stop, what? I just don’t fully understand it, and I don’t get a kindred feeling from it at all.

In my attempting to understand the song, I’ve run across many hostile comments from men about how feminist “misinterpret” the song “like they do everything else,” but I think they don’t understand why women don’t enjoy the song. As a ballad used to raise awareness about domestic violence, it just doesn’t feel that compassionate; it doesn’t resonate with women. Instead, there are parts that feel almost like victim-blaming—and definitely other parts that seem contradictory—and what woman, abused or not, enjoys that?