But somewhere in between Julie Andrews and Beyoncé, there were several other similarly-themed songs. In 1986, Bonnie Tyler (famous for her single "Total Eclipse of the Heart") released the song "If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)" which had a little bit of a different bent. She acknowledges the male privilege of control in relationships, but wants to know if the male in question can relinquish it so they are on the same level.
How’s it feel to be a woman / How’s it feel to be a man / Are we really that different / Tell me where we stand / I look at you, you look away / Why do you say we’re night and day / I’d like to try another way / Oh baby for just one day
In 1992, Cowboy Junkies released a similarly titled track: "If You Were the Woman and I Was the Man."
If I was the heart and you were the head / would you think me very foolish / if one day I decided to shed / these walls that surround me / just to see where these feelings led / if I was the heart and you were the head.
It seems the idea has evolved from men being flippant to men being downright disrespectful. But they share the common bond of feeling less-than in relationships with men.
Cabaret singer Andrea Menard recorded "If I Were a Man" for the Queer As Folk soundtrack in 2007. The more playful track is less concerned with privilege as how it affects women, but more about how fun it would be to have that power.
If I were a man / I’d speak with authority / I would be so eloquent My stacked vocabulary and my witty repartee / Would win respect from all my peers, but never give me away / If I were a man / I’d be a cowboy / I’d terrify you with my gun / I’d be the cop in cops and robbers / I’d be a demolition man / If I blew up all my friends I’d be king of the land / If I were a man, if I were a man I’d like to meet somebody like me
So, to recap: Men have all the fun. Men do not care about how women feel. And while this is a big stereotype about males in general, you rarely hear songs sang by men about what they would do or how they would act if they traded in their sneakers for heels and proverbially walked in our shoes.
In the last decade, there have been several other variations on this theme: FeFe Dobson‘s "If I Was a Guy," Pussycat Dolls’ "If I Were a Man" and Ciara‘s "Like a Boy." This last track came along with a video that had the singer donning a white tank top, tattoos, and dancing in a very masculine manner. It was a hit with queer women, likely much more so than it was with men. In this case, as with Beyoncé’s, the music video brought out the innate queerness that underlies such a song. Butch or more masculine and sometimes androgynous women are thought to be emulating boys; so when pop stars are doing so in relationship to their song, it’s inevitable this performance will align itself with our ideas of drag and gender-play.