Janelle Monae is an influential R&B artist famous for aesthetically pleasing, and to some, controversial songs and music videos. She helps represent the woman who are oppressed both physically and mentally. Often tied in with the #MeTooMovement, Monae stands up for the woman of color from low poverty communities who suffer from sexual violence and harassment. One of Monae’s recent music videos from the song “PYNK” has received both great support and criticism from fans and critics alike.
In the music video for “PYNK”, Monae and her fellow dancers are dressed in large, inflated pants with a vaginal motif. In between the dancers with the vaginal pants are women without the pants just wearing a one-piece swimsuit, those women are to represent the transgender women. Later in the video the women are seen wearing underwear with the words “Sex Cells”, “I Grab Back”, and “Great Cosmic Mother”. While those are clap backs against sexist comments towards women, some find it all inappropriate and offensive. One of those people being a man by the name of Ben Shapiro. Shapiro is a conservatist infamous for his dislike and criticism towards women and their freedom of expression in all forms. He says sarcastically, “Real feminism is talking about the actual biology of the vagina… Real feminism is dressing up in costumes that mimic the labia.” Shapiro is clearly displeased by the ‘vulgar’ showcase Monae displays for all to see. Rather than understand and appreciate the meanings of the music video he bashes on her choice of appearance and what he believes to be the vulgarity of it.
Whether it is the lyrics, instrumentals, or the music video itself; I find it all appealing. It is pleasing to hear artists make songs with actual meaning behind the lyrics and purpose behind the music videos, contrary to what a lot of artists put out today. The lyrics behind the song represent more than just vulgarity, it represents the choice of body representation and sexuality. Most people tend to forget that women and people of color have just recently acquired the utmost basic rights deserving of them and that they are still being fought for. Women didn’t get the right to earn equal wage or sex discrimination protection in the work place until the 60’s. Between that time period and today. even more rights were ‘granted’ to women and people of color. The #MeTooMovement is what is helping women of all color to stand up and be heard. Monae’s ‘PYNK’ represents more than just vulgarity and music, it is the voice of those who are put down and shamed for who they are and who they choose to love.
Monae and the #MeTooMovement will progress regardless of what criticism it faces. From the sexists and racists to the extreme rightists who just want to push their agenda on people; they will be heard through her music and others willing. PYNK advocates self-love and equality to all women of all age and color. “We’re all just pink..”, Monae says in her song. We’re all the same inside and out; there is no reason for hate, judgement, and suppression.
Nicki Minaj has been a firm female role model in the hip hop scene for many years now. She has helped pave the way for many women fighting to become a rapper or hip-hop artists in main stream music today. With her recent music video for “Chun Li”, Minaj has been accused of appropriation from the Asian culture. It has been argued that when it comes to appropriation of culture, that African Americans or Black Americans are unable to be called racist or labeled as appropriating culture from other races.
So that we may understand the criticism behind Minaj’s “Chun Li” music video, let us further understand perspectives behind cultural appropriation. In an article written by author Hari Ziyad titled “Black People Cannot Be Guilty of Cultural Appropriation. Period.”, Ziyad argues that due to the violence and repression Black Americans have faced over the years they are automatically immune to being racist. The article itself covers NBA player Jeremy Lin’s choice of hairstyle and the fellow NBA star Kenyon Martin’s clap-back against it. Lin decided to style his hair in a dread-lock style, usually a hairstyle adorned by Black or African Americans. Ziyad doesn’t write this article arguing that what Lin did is appropriate or not, rather he wrote it to discuss ‘anti-Blackness’. Going back to Minaj’s “Chun Li” video, she dressed in a kimono from Asian culture, had other dancers all garbed in ‘ninja’ gear or other dresswear from Asian culture. Her own lyrics describe placing chop sticks in her bun “just to pop shit”. Those alone are enough to be considered enough to subject criticism for cultural appropriation. No one race or person can be exempted from such things; that is what created it from the start.
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