Breaking Down Paris Paloma’s Fiery Feminist Anthem, “Labour”
"It's not an act of love if you make her / you make me do too much labour"
Paris Paloma’s new song “Labour” blew up on TikTok weeks before the full track was released. The song is being used to bring attention to female historical figures and women’s history, much of which has been undervalued by mainstream history.
There have been a ton of truly incredible edits, some of which we included in a previous article. Now that the full song has finally been released, we’re going through each line to dissect all of the incredible lyrics and the double (and triple) meanings behind them.
Content warning: a lot of the language in “Labour” alludes to suicide, domestic abuse/neglect, and general dissections of sexism and patriarchy.
The song’s title—”Labour”—works on multiple levels, referencing the emotional, mental, and physical labor women have historically performed to maintain their marriages, as well as the myth of the non-working wife. In reality, the average woman in history has done some kind of work, whether it’s working in the fields alongside their husband and children or even more specialized work.
“Labour” could also be a reference to childbirth and child-rearing as undervalued forms of labor, with American working mothers still having a ridiculously short amount of leave, when they’re allowed any at all.
The first verse
The language of the first verse imagines leaving an abusive relationship as scaling a rope down an island cliff before diving into the waves below. The metaphor shows that ending a relationship is often the hardest or most dangerous part. It’s a leap of faith that does not guarantee making it to the other side.
The pre-chorus challenges the myths of homemakers not being laborers, with Paloma singing, “Who tends the orchards? / Who fixes up the gables? … Who fetches the water/ From the rocky mountain spring? / And walk back down again / To feel your words and their sharp sting?”
Women have always done hard labor in order to maintain a household, but may still get called lazy for “lounging around at home all day.”
The chorus of the song gets into the harsh reality of being in an abusive, neglectful, and/or unhappy marriage; Paloma wonders “[i]f our love died, would that be the worst thing?” compared to calluses cracking, capillaries bursting, and the silent treatment in the bedroom they share.
This could be a reference to how, when divorce is an easily available and acceptable option, female suicide rates go down. Sometimes, a relationship ending is the best thing that can happen.
The song also addresses the idea of men traditionally being fashioned as saviors and defenders of women, despite the fact that men tend to benefit more from marriage with greater health and financial security. “For somebody I thought was my saviour / You sure make me do a whole lot of labour.”
The second verse
The second verse of “Labour” gets into gaslighting and weaponized incompetence, as well as women being expected to always apologize and yield to the will of men—because they supposedly know better.
One commenter on the Genius lyrics page also drew a connection between the line “Busy lapping from a flowing cup” and the idea of “human’s [sic] taking from God’s chalice—perhaps in reference to the part religion has played in enforcing women’s domestic roles.”
The pre-chorus also gets into the perpetuation of the cycle of mothers and fathers teaching their daughters to serve their husbands rather than find partners. Most mothers can never truly raise their daughters outside of the patriarchy, but Paloma dreams of running away and undoing this mistake (i.e., her marriage) before she brings a child into the mess.
The bridge of the song is the section that went viral on TikTok and goes into all the different ways that women are expected to serve men “so that he never lifts a finger.”
This is another phrase that works on multiple levels, referring to women handling essential work like cooking, cleaning, and/or child-rearing, while also referring to the potential for verbal, emotional, mental, and/or physical abuse if women do not live up to their husband’s standards.
The bridge also refers to “picket fence dreams,” which again gets into the myth of the breadwinner and the homemaker popularized in the 1950s.
The repeat of the bridge underlays the main vocals with the voices of children, perhaps the daughters she risks “parentifying” or the children who will get caught in the crossfire of their parents’ abusive marriage.
In any case, “Labour” is the feminist ballad that carried me through Women’s History Month, and I’ll be listening to it on repeat long after the month ends.
What’s your favorite feminist anthem? Comment below!
(featured image: screenshot, YouTube)
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]