It wasn’t too long ago that there was a sleuth of female vocal artists presenting intriguing feminist takes on their music. Meghan Trainor was praised for her Pro-Body “All About the Bass” single, Nicki Minaj on her vocal opinions on the subversion of women, and of course Beyoncé, the Queen, on being damn Beyoncé. However, times are changing. Recently Trainor’s last single “Dear Future Husband” got a lot of hate for representing female stereotypes. The music video in particular caused a stir, depicting Trainor as a 50’s house wife scrubbing the kitchen floor among other things. However, it wasn’t till the obnoxious replaying of my local radio of Minaj’s new summer hit, “Hey Mama”, which is conveniently footed by David Guetta, got me really thinking: how feminist are these stars?
To start, Meghan Trainor’s “All about the Bass” is a flawed anthem for pro-body. To be fair, Trainor has said on countess times she has not associated herself with being a feminist, but has accepted that “Bass” was for the curvy girls. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s wonderful for a woman like Trainor to be comfortable not only to sing about her body, but to be in an industry where women are expected to be a certain look to the point they get sick. However, “Bass” is a hard one to claim as feminist. Yes, there are lyrics such as “Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom of the top”, but that gets clouded by her lyrics on skinny shamming. But, even if you believe Trainor that she meant that everyone should accept their body. Line like “Yeah it's pretty clear, I ain’t no size two. But I can shake it; shake it like I'm supposed to do”. Like what exactly are we (women) supposed to do, Meghan? Last time I checked just because I had a vagina I am not required to twerk for men’s enjoyment.
But what can we say about Meghan in the long run? Perhaps her lyrics are reflecting what works in the music industry, which seems to be run by men. When there are moments when she says in her “Dear Future Husband” song:
“So don't be thinking I'll be home and baking apple pies”
Which we are all like, “YEAH Meghan, you bust open that glass ceiling of gender roles!” she then goes to say:
“When I'm acting crazy”
and we are all like, “Woah Meghan, what the –! I thought we were breaking gender stereotypes, not promoting them.
Meghan's wishy-washy feminism makes me think that it is more her than the producers on what she is singing about.
Now Nicki Minaj has been called a lot of things in the media, but one of the top labels has been a feminist. Minaj’s hyper-sexual image might cause a stir, however women being able to express female sexuality has always been a feminist fight. Minaj has been noted for her constant stance that society holds women in a subservient space. When interviewed, Minaj was quoted as saying the following:
“When I am assertive, I’m a bitch. When a man is assertive, he’s a boss”.
However, how feminist can you be when you produce a song like “Hey Mama”? While the song is technically David Guetta’s, Minaj sings the lyrics as delicious as
“Yes I do the cooking. Yes I do the cleaning. Yes I keep the nana real sweet for your eating. Yes you be the boss yes I be respecting. Whatever that you tell me 'cause it's game you be spitting.”
C’mon Nicki, what about all those empowering statements you have spouted over the years, to this! The horror I have seeing the hypothetical group of ten year old girls in the mall singing this one. It’s almost even worse that Guetta is accredited to this one, like Minaj can’t even own her song, a man does.
However, how much can we blame our gal. Rap is notoriously a man's game, promoting some of the most sexist content in the music industry. While Minaj does use sexuality as her main focus in her music, she does talk about some very deep issues personally. Early on in her career she she was quick to talk about women in rap. Her verse in Kanye West's “Monster” and even the whole Roman personality, brought touches of feminism into her music. However, during her feuds with Lil Kim and rise in popularity, the singer released songs like “Stupid Hoe” and “Beez in the Trap” starting the beginning of demeaning women in her songs. In “Stupid Hoe” she ends with “I am the female Weezy” where she was announcing herself with pride only a few years earlier in her hit “Super Bass“. Perhaps this is a case where industry trumps artist. And we can all admit, she is much more than the girl that sings the hook.
Side Note: The video totally rips off Mad Max, which in turn is pretty feminist in the newest installment.
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Where Trainor and Minaj’s lyrics are more obvious on the scale from 1 to misogynist, Beyoncé I had to do a little more digging. I know, I know, it’s Beyoncé: Singer of Single Ladies, Who Runs the World, some of the best women anthems out there, but there is some sneaky things going on behind the curtain. Granted, this one may be up in the air. But, how feminist is twerking in front of feminism? There is both sides to the problem, one Beyoncé clearly is taking a stake in sexuality, but on the other side is delving in women being just sexy continue the idea that women are only worth their appearance? However, there is always something that rubbed me the wrong way in Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love” While Beyoncé sings about a sensuous love, her husband, Jay-Z raps these lines, “In '97 I bite, I'm Ike Turner, turn up. Baby know I don't play, now eat the cake, Anna Mae Said, “Eat the cake, Anna Mae!” which directly correlates with this scene, from the famous couple.
It seems like once her marriage to Jay Z occurred many of her feminists takes in music became shadowed by her new power couple status. Even her new tour was called the Mrs. Carter tour, somehow showed the world that the stand alone artist was now branded by her husband. Her roots of Destiny's Child, one of the most famous female groups to date, transcend to her current status of wife and mother, representing the roles of women.
Now clearly Beyoncé has spoken out about this. In “Flawless” she sings:
“I took my time to live my life, But don't think I'm just his little wife”
but, it is hard to take that line seriously when it is surrounded by “Bow down, bitches” repeated over and over.
When it comes to Beyoncé, it seems like she took advantage of the word feminist more than the actual meaning. Having the status and the money to do whatever the hell she wants on her record shows that perhaps just branding herself as feminist is another way to get tickets bought and music downloaded.
It’s hard to say who is feminist and who isn’t, I can only base my opinions of their music, which is altered and shifted by a league of producers. Is it even the duty of these female icons to empower women or should we let them be? What we do know is that these songs do affect the people, and women, that hear it.
Think I missed the mark, or want to add your own opinion? Comment below and make sure to follow @MissMillMag on Twitter for more articles for the millennial woman.