In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Magic Genitals (Part 1: Erykah Badu)

(or: She’ll Make You Change Gods!)

I am, to the untrained eye, a hippie-dippy, no-relaxer-wearing, Whole Foods shopping afro pixie faerie princess. I research traditional African spiritual practices, keep florida water and incense on hand, I bathe with Dr. Bronner’s soaps, I eat vegetables some folks have never heard of (kale, daikon radishes, red leaf lettuce), and I don’t shop at Wal-Mart unless it’s a matter of a medical issue (it never is). By some standards, I am simply progressive and/ or bourgeois. By the standards of some other folks, I am Most Likely to Work A Root On You or Most Likely to Make You Watch a Documentary on Orgasmic Birth Despite Neither of Us Expecting a Baby (Or both. At the same time. So I can have a baby with you.) I suppose that drinking coconut milk kefir & wearing/ stringing strands of waistbeads make me more different than some folks can fuck with. Fine. Whatever. But, it wasn’t until I was about 25 or 26 that I’d heard this from a paramour: “You gonna try to Badu me? Make me worship my ancestors or somethin’?” **record scratch** “Badu” him?


I wasn’t foreign to the idea that Ms. Erica Abi Wright supposedly turns her men out and makes them do “crazy shit.” André Benjamin supposedly started wearing wigs and furry pants after he broke up with her because she’d changed him*. Common’s crocheted pants**, vegetarianism, and the entire Electric Circus album were allegedly her fault. And the jokes bouncing around on sites like and about The DOC (daughter Puma’s father) and Jay Electronica (a freakshow anomaly in his own right, and daughter Mars’ father) needing to run for their lives were plentiful. It never really made sense to me to assume that one cis woman’s relationship with any one cis man could be the sole reason he changed himself. Because that’s what people do when they enter into deep, committed, loving relationships, right? They change some shit around, they grow a little bit, and they learn some shit. At least, that’s what I always thought was supposed to happen.

I want to explore the idea of magic muffs as related to the chatter I’ve heard about Erykah, very little of which is based on the words/ ideas of people who actually know her. She’s is a great example of the myth of pussy persuasion, but it goes deeper, wider, and waaaaay farther than anything having to do with rappity rap dudes and the company they keep. I picked Erykah as the primary example of this meme because, quite honestly, I’m tired of the #1 search term leading people to my WordPress blog being ‘Erykah Badu’s Pussy’. (No, really.) I know what probably led people to search that term, but I’m certain that what they found wasn’t to their liking.

I’m going to try to give a little background on the idea of pussy sorcery, vajayjay voodoo, hooha hoodoo, coochie conjuring, voodoo vadge, peach persuasion, or muffin magic. Source of such an idea: folkloric accounts (and sometimes community gossip) regarding a cisgender heterosexual woman “working a root” on her (or anybody’s) cisgender heterosexual man to get him to comply with her wishes. To leave his wife, to stay with her, to give her money, to buy her things, etc., this woman has to do some seriously wild stuff. Incant a love spell, put blood in his spaghetti sauce, maybe put a hex on the woman he’s with at the time. Usually, these ideas are discussed specifically within the context of getting and “keeping” a man. There is even the more subtle (but possibly more widespread) thought that a woman who is extra wonderful in bed is trying to trap a dude. That’s the most basic pussy sorcery, isn’t it? She’s amazing in bed, so she must be tryna undo me!***

Sometimes, the speculation is: “She’s gonna make me go vegetarian/ buy organic/ stop sayin’ ‘nigga’/ quit eating pork/ stop watching porn/ act white/ do yoga.” Why are those bad things? Does that mean the dude can’t change by himself, without outside influences? Does that mean that relationships aren’t supposed to change anything about you, ever? Please, don’t say, “DGF, you’re being silly!” because I’ve heard grumblings from men before about this very concept. I’m not making this shit up, not in the least. There is a song about Erykah Badu’s crotch supposedly being a catalyst for change. I am a bit confused as to why it would be okay to decide that changing is a bad thing, but, okay. Maybe it’s that good old patriarchal notion that whatever the man in the hetero relationship wants to do is always acceptable, no matter what. Actually, I’m fairly certain that that’s what it is.

Regarding Erykah Badu’s public image and the public images of those men she’s been romantically involved with, I have to remember that the public persona of any man who raps (whether it’s an image he fully controls, or not) is almost always linked to a hypermasculinity specific to the way our culture views men of color, and black men especially. That they are these rocks of animalistic sexuality, that they are somehow the inventors (or at least the best executors) of misogyny, and so on and so forth. Where is there room for love in this construct of the black man as unlovable? (Don’t worry, I’m not actually waiting for an answer.) Also, I have to ask the same question of the construct of black women — cunning, manipulative Sapphires. Or, we’re Jezebels who’ll spread at will, or Mammies who are incapable of any meaningful interpersonal interaction that does not come from caring for other people. These constructs all frame black people as unlovable. And that’s the crux, as I stated before, of the idea of this supposed sex sorcery.
Erykah Badu does not actually reflect any one of these constructs. Nor did she, upon debut in the industry, have an identity in line with any of the then-popular black women entertainers (see: Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans, Brandy, Sade, Aaliyah or Monica). Erykah’s image was pro-black, possibly identifiable as pan-African, and most certainly swathed in notions of mysticism and an “earthiness” synonymous with the Southern United States. She was the throwback to the seventies hippie flower child who lit sticks of incense on stage and drank tea while performing. This rendered her different-with-a-capital-D. Erykah Badu attended a four-year college (not typically discussed when analyzing the lives of black entertainers). This possibly makes her part of the black bourgeoisie. So there is a class issue at play, especially if a large part of her potential listening public is not college educated. Again, different-with-a-capital-D. The idea is that she is not anything like this monolithic identity of blackness, and especially not black cis womanhood. And that’s a problem.

Erykah Badu has seemingly spent time with and slept with whomever she wanted. She has three (3!! Oh my God, how dare she?!!?!?!??!) children with three different men — never mind the fact that these kids are approximately 14, 7, and 2 years old, which suggests that the relationships producing each child were not happening simultaneously. I think that this is why I’ve observed such vitriol regarding her relationships and her choice to have three children with three different men. Never mind the fact that her kids are (approximately) 14, 7, and 2 years old, meaning that the Maury Povich Show “baby daddy drama” that seems to nowadays be synonymous with black single cis women parenting probably is not part of Badu’s family life. She’s said on record before that she has great relationships with her children’s fathers. How shocking, right? Someone who is not doing the nuclear family thing appears to be satisfied with it, and their entire cache of personal business has not been spilled into every media channel possible! Never mind the fact that she is grown, and from what I gather, in control of her crotch — just like the men she’s been in relationships with. No glittery gravel pit glamouring here.

The mysticism (via no apparent affiliation with Western religions of any kind) has been a constant theme in Erykah’s music and personal image, in my opinion, further removes her from widely accepted constructs of black women’s identities. She doesn’t seem to want or need King Jesus like Vickie Winans, and she most certainly has not been to Oprah’s Legends brunch situation in a big ol’ church hat like Patti Labelle. I’d reference a widely popular non-Christian black woman entertainer here, but quite honestly there isn’t one. Again, Erykah is different-with-a-capital-D. In a society where we are taught that same is safe, being different means you are dangerous on some level or another.

Taking into consideration the fact that Badu is from Dallas, Texas — the Southern United States — I think it’s safe to say that she is more likely connected to the fabled and oft-maligned old ways of American black folk than a lot of us Eastern Seaboard big city dwellers. This reifies the idea that she is at the very least witchy – our ancestors dealt with earth more, they were reliant on land in a way that many urbanites simply are not. Following this somewhat jumbled logic means that even when she’s fucking someone, the witchy woman is supposedly conjuring something — she’s imposing on her partner’s will in some way through sorcery. I find this rather unlikely, as most people I know are too busy enjoying the sex they’re having to think about too much else. But what do I know? I seriously doubt that this woman was having sex with the intent of turning these men into her minions or whatever. But what do I know?
Maybe I’m talking in circles now. Maybe I’m just tired of trying to wrap my mind around the bullshit notion that it can be someone’s ‘fault’ that someone else they dated and HAD CONSENSUAL SEX WITH is “different” as a result of that relationship. Maybe I can’t come up with many linear ideas on this subject because there is so much overlapping and intersectionality going on that if I had an infographic to accompany this post it would look like a spirograph picture. Or something. I just can’t anymore.

I just know that the next time someone asks me of my intentions simply by fucking (and maybe cooking for) them, I’m likely to reference “Fall In Love (Your Funeral)” by Miss Badu herself: “… we gon’ take this shit from the top/ you’ve got to change jobs/ and change gods,” just to see their reaction.

* In the song “A Life in the Day of Benjamin André,” 3 Stacks says himself that he was drawn to her because her headwrap reminded him of the turbans he wore to cover his locks. He was already dressing like Geoffrey Holder’s character from Annie at this point; I doubt that the ensembles from the “Rosa Parks” video were a far stretch.
** Pants that, per the bonus DVD that came with Com’s Be album, Erykah asked about. As in, “Are you certain that you wanna wear crocheted pants, Lonnie?” Watch the interview. I’m not searching for any video of it. Further, a feature on this same DVD with Com’s then-stylist, on the same DVD, suggests that he never was really any good at dressing himself. At least, once he started thrifting and wearing less baggy clothes — totally in line with the change of life that many of us experience as we enter our mid-to-late thirties.
*** I think this is what comedian Katt Williams may have been trying to say in “The Pimp Chronicles” when he said that any cis woman, as long as she has a vagina, rules the fucking world. If only it were actually that simple, or even true.

Who run the world? Men, actually.

Whenever I slip into Starbucks for a little iced Joe these days, there she is: Beyonce.

For the moment, I won’t get into the outfit she sports on the cover of her latest work, nor the disturbing fact that it seems every album Beyonce puts out is adorned with an ever-lighter version of her genuinely lovely self.

No, I want to talk about her music, but there’s still one more caveat: As a 46 year old suburban mother who likes loud rock n’ roll, I am not nor have I ever been Beyonce’s target audience.

Yet when an artist sells majillion and twelve copies of everything she produces over the course of more than a decade; is chosen to serenade a freshly elected President and his first lady; shills for non-musical products that range from make-up to electronics; and is celebrated and/or dissected in every media outlet known to humanity — I’m kind of in her audience, whether I’m the target or not.

Beyonce’s got a hella voice, that much is for sure and for certain, and I understand she’s got a hella business sense, a fact which I can certainly respect and enjoy in a young woman. I appreciate that she holds on to her curves in an era of rail-thin female performers, and lord knows she puts out music to which the toe simply begs to tap. Beyonce is a force with which to be reckoned.

But for all her business sense, for all her cross-market branding, for all her grab-your-sexuality-and-own-it bravado — I don’t think she’s ever represented anything particularly new. On the contrary: At her most interesting, Beyonce is the best of all that has gone before her and/or current pop culture, and her lyrics are either run-of-the-mill ordinary — or down right reactionary.

Take for instance “Single Ladies” — now there’s a song with a hook that can go for miles and miles. And fun to dance to? You betcha. But what’s it about? It’s about how if a man likes you — or, indeed, your body? He should damn well marry you:

Cause if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it
If you liked it then you should’ve put a ring on it
Don’t be mad once you see that he want it
If you liked it then you should’ve put a ring on it

Seriously? Beyonce, what you’re saying here is: “You shouldn’t have tried to keep the cow for free once you’d had the milk.” I kind of thought we’d gotten past that.

Then there’s the most recent single, “The Best Thing I Never Had.”

There was a time
I thought, that you did everything right
No lies, no wrong
Boy I, must’ve been outta my mind
So when I think of the time that I almost loved you
You showed your ass and I saw the real you

Honestly? All these years, all that work with the best and the brightest, and you’re still singing what every single female pop artist has sung throughout the history of popular music? And throwing in the word “ass” for, I don’t know, street cred? Just: Why? Why be Beyonce, of all people, and sing words that a million other people have sung before?

But the song that really got me thinking about Beyonce’s essentially reactionary nature as an artist was “Run the World (Girls),” a song which purports to be about girl power, but is in fact absolutely nothing but a rehash of centuries of “the power behind the throne” thinking.

The music is martial, pounding, a mix of styles that includes accents from all around the world, the official video a kind of a Mad-Max-meets-Victoria’s-Secret aesthetic — and bottom line, before you even get past the title, a nearly-30 year old adult is referring to the world’s women as “girls.”

Who run the world? Girls! [x4]
Who run this motha? Girls! [x4]
Who run the world? Girls! [x4]

… I’m just playing, come here baby
Hope you still like me, If you hate me
My persuasion can build a nation
Endless power, with our love we can devour
You’ll do anything for me

First of all, as any businesswoman who has made her fortune in the entertainment business knows: Women (or, if you insist, “girls”) most certainly do not run the world. To the extent that a woman’s “persuasion can build a nation,” and/or that “endless power, with our love we can devour/ You’ll do anything for me” — you’re not talking about running things. You’re talking about slotting yourself expressly into a male-dominated structure and at the very most, subverting it by using that structure for your own purposes.

That’s not running things. That’s making the best of a bad lot. That’s being — if you happen to be one of the few women anywhere near the throne — the power behind the throne, and singing the praises of being stuck back there.

Normally, I would merely be annoyed by someone selling me old shit in a shiny, new-ish package. I might make a point of turning the particular pop culture bag-of-shit into a teachable moment for my kids, but I wouldn’t go to the trouble of writing an entire post about one artist — but Beyonce is not, in any measurable sense, “one artist.”

Beyonce is a pop culture phenomenon who plays a central role in setting the tone for the America in which my boy and girl are growing up. When people of that stature not only sing what amounts to pablum, but are also selling the twin soul-crushers of “the price of a woman’s body is a wedding ring” and “the power of my coochie runs the world,” I feel a rather powerful need to point it out for what it is: bullshit. And dangerous, damaging bullshit at that.

I am blogger! Hear me squeak!

Who the heck am I and why am I blogging here this week? Click here, and all will be revealed.

Where are the lady rappers?

Nicki Minaj
This piece is so good.

Mini-controversies go down practically every minute on the rap internet, beef and battles inherent to the genre, so this one blew over within a matter of weeks. But it illustrated a deeper problem within the music industry. BET felt like it had to stretch for nominees because there is a constant dearth of space for female rappers. Since the heyday of strong, powerful, positive and feminist MCs piqued in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s — with Queen Latifah, Salt n Pepa, MC Lyte and YoYo at the helm — at any given time there have only been three or so female rappers topping the industry.

Missy Elliott and Lauryn Hill remain the gold standards, and Lil Kim, Foxy Brown and Eve had their day. But before Nicki Minaj stomped and snarled her way into mass consciousness, arguably the last female rapper to gain as much industry respect and recognition as her male counterparts was Remy Ma — who’s been incarcerated since 2008 after shooting her best friend in a Manhattan parking lot.

“Since ‘97 it’s really just been Kim, Foxy and Missy, and then a rotating feature of crazy ladies,” says Judnick Mayard, rap and R&B columnist at Fader’s Suite903. “But they were never included or even paid attention to unless they could at least stand a bit on the level of those top three. If you’re a female rapper, you have to prove yourself on so many levels and be so many different things.”

And there are a ton of super-talented female rappers beyond Kim, Foxy and Missy (and Kreayshawn, jesus). Read the whole piece, because it is excellent, and Julianne is one of the best music journalists out there.

How to talk about Judas

This is a guest post by honeyandlocusts.
It’s pretty classic Gaga, if we can talk about “classic” Gaga already: visually lush, intricately choreographed, fantastically costumed. Also, it’s a total fucking mess.

Lawyer Music Nerd Stuff

Bob Dylan is apparently quite the influence on lawyers:

U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik — Your Honor, not Bobby — has been known to invoke the voice of the vagabond poet in rulings from the federal bench in Seattle. He has recited lines from “Chimes of Freedom” in a case weighing the legality of indefinite detention and “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” the battle cry of the civil rights movement, in a landmark ruling that excluding contraceptives from an employer’s prescription drug plan constitutes sex discrimination.

Lasnik isn’t alone in weaving Dylan’s protest-era pathos into contemporary legal discourse.

No musician’s lyrics are more often cited than Dylan’s in court opinions and briefs, say legal experts who have chronicled the artist’s influence on today’s legal community. From U.S. Supreme Court rulings to law school courses, Dylan’s words are used to convey messages about the law and courts gone astray.

His signature protest songs, “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” gave voice and vocabulary to the antiwar and civil rights marches. His most powerful ballads, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” and “Hurricane,” have become models for legal storytelling and using music to make a point.

Dylan’s music and values have imprinted themselves on the justice system because his songs were the score playing during the formative years of the judges and lawyers now populating the nation’s courthouses, colleges and blue-chip law firms, says Michael Perlin, a New York Law School professor who has used Dylan lyrics as titles for at least 50 published law journal articles.

Perlin and others lured to the law by the moral siren songs of the 1960s credit Dylan with roles in passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, federal sentencing guidelines that purport to ensure more equitable prison terms and due process reforms prohibiting racial profiling.

“Everyone wants to believe that the music they listen to says something about who they are,” says Alex Long, a University of Texas law professor who has researched the penetration of political songwriting into the legal system.

“Being a judge is a pretty cloistered existence, having to crank out these opinions in isolation. Dylan was popular at the time they were coming of age and trying to figure out who they were,” says Long, a 41-year-old exposed to Dylan’s musings as a child at the foot of his parents’ record player. “The chance to throw in a line from your favorite artist is tempting, a chance to let your freak flag fly.”


Thanks, Dad, for the link.

Not Another Odd Future Think Piece: Rap, the Internet and Female Agency

This is a guest post by B Michael Payne. B Michael Payne writes about a variety of things. He has a weekly thing at, a website, and he’s probably tumblogging here, right now. You can email him at b dot michael dot payne at gmail dot com.

*Sexual assault and violence trigger warning.*

There are a lot of people who refuse to buy (rent, lease, or even attend an open house for) the hype on internet rap (defined broadly as any rap that mentions Facebook in its songs). For the most part, I’d agree with this stance. But right now, it’s not a good one.

For one, if you’re the type of person who’s ‘on the internet,’ then internet rap is going to/already has bubbled into your life. For two, you’d miss some interesting (and even good) rap. For three, you’d also miss what appears to be an eruption of social intersections that are probably even more interesting than the music itself.

Why, after all, are there so many Odd Future think pieces?

Before getting into that, it’s worth looking at how Brandon Soderberg has been patiently chronicling some of the more salient intersections among rap, r&b, rape, misogyny, and homophobia series of columns on Spin. His piece on Rainbow Noise’s “Imma Homo” picks up the perhaps most important idea on why the song is powerful (it’s because it’s good). Soderberg’s hypothesis that r&b is veering toward the ‘too rape-y’ whereas rap is owning up to its own terribleness seems to hold water, until a conversation with Racialicious‘s Latoya Peterson starts to pick apart the idea by asking wither the interests of women in rap’s ostensibly ‘better’ songs.

That that hasn’t been the question hanging over the entire discussion is, of course, the discussions biggest flaw from the start. You know, “that’s a pretty bad way to start a conversation,” in the words of Kanye.
In the above piece, Peterson calls songs underlain by rape culture ones in which “the artists are removing agency from the woman and putting their desires at the forefront.” That’s, of course, a formula for a variety of oppressions. What’s striking about it is that it’s also a laconic way of describing the entire aesthetic and ethic of Odd Future’s, like, whole deal.

The inherent importance of removing the woman’s agency is also — perhaps interestingly? — why people either really like or dislike a lot of Odd Future’s songs.

[As a note, Odd Future (né Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, hereafter OF) are (I’m now, like, internet-contractually bound to say) a close-knit, eleven-person hip-hop collective based out of Los Angeles, California. They feature a lost member (recently located) who calls himself Earl Sweatshirt and is precocious and now seventeen years old; a gay woman, Syd tha Kid, who produces a good number of their songs but rarely graces any of them, vocally; and a charismatic leader, Tyler, The Creator, who’s recently turned twenty, is 6’2″, and boasts a deep, raspy voice that seems like it was almost divinely intended to be good at rapping. They’re very popular ‘on the internet,’ and with a pair of breathless profiles in the New York Times, they’re going to be popular in whatever ‘not the internet’ represents, very soon.]

When people mention OF, what they usually mean is Tyler, The Creator and/or Earl Sweatshirt. The two of them’s songs seem to have generated the majority of their press. Their raps tend to focus (being somewhat general, here) on the most extreme rape and kidnap fantasies that’ve made the group an instantaneously incandescent hot topic on the internet. Not that there isn’t violence and homophobia elsewhere on OF’s thirteen (fourteen? fifteen?) internet-only releases, but that really is par for the course when it comes, not just to rap music, but pop music (and classical music and opera and… well, all of culture, unfortunately).

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In honour of the wonderful Elly Jackson

It was recently Elly Jackson’s 23rd birthday, so I thought we ought to celebrate! (But, uh, ran a little late, apparently!) Who is Elly Jackson, you ask? She’s half of British electro-pop band La Roux, who won this year’s Grammy for best electronic/dance album.

She’s also one of my favourite pop stars, because she refuses to play into a mode of femininity that doesn’t fit with her personal gender presentation preferences. She keeps her red hair sticking up, her clothes androgynous, and doesn’t ever smile for photoshoots. It’s wonderful to see a young woman who simply doesn’t care to be like anyone else, who wears the clothes she wants and makes the music she loves. It’s people like Ms Jackson who show that you don’t have to conform to be popular or, more importantly, to be good at what you do. A very happy belated birthday to her.

You have to check out La Roux’s song “Bulletproof,” which may get stuck in your head for a week solid, just to warn you. Embedding is disabled on the video, so click through to see it. Lyrics here. A transcript follows:

We open with lines snaking across a floor covered with geometric objects. There’s a shot of a pair of shoes, and then of their owner, a red-haired woman dressed in an androgynous style, sitting in a white chair with head bowed to her left side. Her head snaps up and she begins to sing. She rises and walks along a (clearly digitally created) room governed by geometric shapes and lines. The colours of the room change as we move into the chorus – and the same for the next verse – and for some shots she is standing still rather than walking. She’s back in the chair for the bridge, then, for an instrumental section, walking along a black pathway in a white room as a lot of geometric shapes hit the floor and bounce, with an explosion-like effect. Another chorus, as she walks along a corridor, the shot fragmented with a broken glass effect so that we can see her wearing bits of different outfits she has been wearing through the video (a black and white one, black clothes with a white jacket featuring coloured patches, a grey ensemble and so forth). Then there are rapidly-switching shots of her in different outfits. We end with her sitting in a chair, the shot zooming out as the lights go out.

Tough Times, Alanis, and Giggling

I’ve had a weird/hard year in my personal life (well… all aspects of my life, really), and my therapy through most of that was music. Nothing new, really, but I did find myself going back to Alanis again and again because no matter what mood I’m in, I can always count on Alanis to see me through with her infinite wisdom.

I’ve realized that for the last few weeks, when I’ve really needed it, music has failed me. I think I want to listen to something (Nicki Minaj, Robyn, NSYNC, whatever the hell) and then when I start, I realize it’s just not working. Today I accidentally had my entire library on shuffle instead of the playlist I had listened to last, and Alanis came on. I have no idea why I hadn’t already thought to play her, but I hadn’t and, of course, it was just what I needed. (Now I’m listening to Flavors of Entanglement on repeat, so it’s fine.)

ANYWAY! I wanted to share with you all the song that started playing because I think it’s great for anybody going through a hard time: Giggling Again for No Reason.

As you try to dig yourself out of whatever mess you made or fight through whatever life has thrown your way, you need those things that will pull you through. You need the long drive/run by yourself. You need the night of dancing with your friends. You need a case of the giggles. You need the tequila. You need those moments of pure joy and inhibition.

So enjoy, check out the lyrics after the break, and share in the comments a song that helps you through tough times.

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