On a particularly grey New York afternoon, one of my best girlfriends and I sat perched in front of my MacBook Pro glued to YouTube as we fell further and further down a nineties R&B time warp. Each song led us to another suggestion even more mind blowing than the one before. We were transported back to middle school. A much simpler time, when the biggest heartbreaks we encountered were not receiving a note from that week’s crush stuffed into our lockers between classes. A decade+ older and all of these soulful songs had so much more meaning to me now. These women knew what real heartbreak was and, well, they weren’t having it.
At this particular time, I was in the midst of an especially tumultuous time in my relationship (what else is new?). I was one foot in, one foot out and struggling to decide whether I should stick around and fight it out or head for the hills. Immediately- if not sooner. As I sat there and listened to the powerful words sung by these incredibly empowered women, I thought to myself, “What the f&#k am I doing? Mary J. would have NEVER tolerated this.” And she sure as hell wouldn’t have let her homegirl tolerate it either. Da Brat would have punched me in da face for dealing with such idiocy and disrespect one time, let alone over and over.
Because the first red flag, first round of violent crying, and complete and utter public humiliation wasn’t enough to have me packing up my shit, tossing my hair, slamming the door behind me, and never looking back, I’d hung tight to indulge in a second helping of the same meal. Heaven knows, it’s “so over” before it’s really, really over. Well, no, not if you’re Janet, Toni, or Brandy.
Listening to these songs from the days of yore, immediately alleviated my heart ache and had me feeling like a strong black woman. There was no way in hell I was going to let down the ladies of En Vogue by sitting back for one more second taking this type of abuse. That’s when I had the realization that the lack of strong women in music, singing songs that empower women rather than objectify them was startling. Since when did we decide to become the victims? When did we slide out of the drivers’ seat and settle for backseat driving and booty popping backup dancers?
It would appear that we, ladies, have forgotten just how much power our lady parts hold (that one Summer’s Ever commercial sure didn’t though). Either that, or some of us have forgotten exactly what that means. More than likely, we’ve been tricked by the male species into believing that thrashing around nearly nude while wiggling our jiggly bits for them is liberating, not lude. Now, don’t get me wrong- I love a crop top more than you can believe and I will wear short shorts until I have a child large enough to share the same size, but just because I advertise the venue doesn’t mean everyone gets unlimited VIP access to the show.
So, as Toni Braxton belted out the last few bars of “Unbreak My Heart” basically telling all dogs everywhere to find another bitch to bone, I wondered, “What happened to ‘No Scrubs’ and ‘Bugaboo’?” Now all we’re left with are “Blurred Lines” and “Back that Ass Up.” I love rap music, but if you actually took a moment in between twerking to listen to the lyrics, you might just find yourself wondering what exactly are we promoting? Repetitive lyrics leave us chanting phrases that would send our elders into states of shock. Perhaps you might ask me about my plans for a PhD not my pu$$y or maybe what I got my Masters in rather than my mammary size? Instead of rappers suggesting I slide up and down that pole to earn my keep, which is so incredibly tempting (no thanks, pal. I’ve got my own savings account, 401k, and healthcare. I appreciate the romantic offer though), maybe they could go back to asking real questions- like what is the government doing, or how about promoting social issues that don’t involve Veuve?
I hate to say that Taylor Swift is the closest damn thing to this and that’s kind of terrifying because I’d hardly qualify the heartbreak of being dumped by a member of One Direction as the same as holding your man down while he’s behind bars or being a single mother, but it’s a start. It’s time to stop singing about trivial matters like lipgloss and whipped cream bikinis and start sticking up for ourselves again. While you may think sleeping with whomever you want whenever you want makes you free, and exploiting your feminine wiles deems you daring, we’ve been able to do that for ages. Try something called “withholding” because the real power lies within what you don’t do, but knowing that you could.