In the first week of September we got together to listen to feminist songs. Beforehand, we asked our members to contribute to a playlist online, and we had well over 50 submissions. You can find the entire playlist on Youtube or follow it on Spotify.
Listening to the music and watching the music videos led to some very interesting discussions. We want to share some of the highlights with you!
The song Oasis by Amanda Palmer gave impressive insights on how singing about personal trauma in a humorous way can be empowering (CW: rape, abortion). Brujas, by Princess Nokia, is another empowering song that we highly enjoyed. Princess Nokia reclaims the word Bruja, or witch, showing the power in the witch figure and the diaspora religions that were brought to the Americas through the horrible history of slave trade.
We got into a very interesting discussion after watching Straight Outta Vagina by Pussy Riot. The video has high production value and the feel of an almost mainstream commercial video. That made us think: does music lose (some of) its feminist value when it’s more commercial? Should feminist music always be radical? Is the message still really feminist if the artist is heavily profiting from the capitalist system? In the past years Beyoncé has strongly profiled herself as feminist. Should we applaud her for reaching so many people with this imago, or does it become a hallow phrase at some point?
Looking to the videos of artists really adds to the message a song sends. We watched (and sang along with) No Scrubs by TLC, and got to talking about their outfits. Some brought in that the band was hyper-sexualized – and probably forced to wear these clothes by their management. Others talked about how dressing a certain way can also be empowering. Assuming that TLC had no say in their outfit choices could be seen as denying them their agency. Their attire has a kind of armor feel to it, and what is the meaning of the well-placed red lights?
And what about a song like Anaconda by Nicki Minaj? Is it anti-feminist and should we never let our children watch it? Or is the claim of ownership over her own body and sexuality highly feminist? (read more about that here!) One of the participants exclaimed how empowering it had been for her to see big booty being glorified, where she had so often been shamed for her body. Songs about sexuality, demanding pleasure and finally speaking freely could very well be seen as revolutionary, but are there limits to this? In our playlist there are more songs about sexuality, like How Many Licks and Not Fair.
In the end we also talked about how we had spent a night putting all these songs under a microscope, critiquing songs on all aspects where there might be something lacking. Now let’s also spend time on these song while celebrating, enjoying, dancing, and loving them for their feminist values.
This article, written by Antoinette, is a review of the first discussion night of FCA of year 2017-2018: Feminism and Music, discussion night #1, that took place on the 5th of September in Atria.