Tag Archives: femme

Janelle Monáe, Q.U.E.E.N. of my heart

Screen shot of Janelle Monae's QUEEN music video

Janelle Monae silhouetted in black in the final scene of the music video for Q.U.E.E.N.

How many songs have you heard that challenge racism, sexism, slut-shaming, homophobia… and make you want to bust a move? There are only a handful of artists I’ve encountered who wrap up all of those dynamics in a fresh way (M.I.A., Santigold and Ebony Bones! come to mind) but for whatever reason, Janelle Monáe stands out from the pack.

In late April, the great folks at Browntourage posted a link to a song. When I clicked play, I had no way of knowing it would become my new anthem. Q.U.E.E.N. has been playing full blast non-stop: as I make dinner in my kitchen, in my headphones at work, in my living room as I chill out with my cat, over and over. So when I saw there was a music video for the single, released May 1st, I fell even more in love with the song. So much so that it merits its own post:

Janelle Monáe referencing “Qui etes vous, Polly Maggoo?” Yes please! Janelle rocking a 1960s bob? I never thought she could top her badass trademark pompadour.

Screen shot 2013-05-03 at 9.09.50 PM

Film still from William Klein's 1966 satirical art film, "Qui êtes vous, Polly Maggoo?"

Film still from William Klein’s 1966 satirical art film, “Qui êtes vous, Polly Maggoo?”

Erykah Badu has an alter ego named Badula Oblongata? Gold!

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Monáe does with Q.U.E.E.N. what she does best, mixing visually stimulating high art, culture, and her very own brash brand of feminism. This song and its accompanying video marries them with deft skill.  Her lyrics reference everything from black NYC drag ball culture in the 1980s (Walk in the room they throwing shade left to right/They be like ooh, she’s serving face) to Philip K. Dick (Will you be electric sheep?/Electric ladies, will you sleep?/Or will you preach?). Visually, her machismo comes across in her posturing and sartorial adjustments, while lyrically schooling you on the state of racial politics in America today.

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Anyone else see that final scene lighting set-up as bit of a wink to James Bond?

Not to mention the hard femme rebelles who bring their leaders out of art gallery exile:

Screen shot 2013-05-03 at 9.06.10 PM

Now, I shouldn’t be surprised by all the artistic and (sub)cultural references in a Monáe video. First off, I’ve been a fan for years. She consistently prides herself on bring high art – or at least art that is all too often limited to university classrooms – to the masses in her own creative manner. One of her earlier videos, Tightrope, references Maya Deren. Of course, it’s not just her music videos; her concept albums are incisive, subversive, cohesive (not to mention catchy as fuck) – something we see all too rarely in the world of pop music.

What thrills me about a music video like this one, and what sets it apart from the masses, is that although it references these various elements, it remains unique and fresh. For example, as much as I love Beyoncé’s video for Countdown, I was taken aback at how blatantly it ripped off dancer/choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker… without so much as a wink in her direction (let alone questions of financial compensation). There are countless other examples, some of which lead to successful law suits on the part of the lesser known parties who are being “honored” in this fashion. But Monae? No. Her work is thoughtful, intentional, and unique. It just serves as a reminder there is a very fine line between homage and straight up rip-off.

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Sartorial excellence, bravado, and an impressive catalogue of art/film references are all showcased beautifully in this video, but they would be nothing, of course, without politics. Her commentary of race and class is absolutely essential to her oeuvre, summarized nicely in this quote from April 2011:

Heavily inspired by Fritz Lang’s 1927 German expressionist film Metropolis, which used an urban dystopia to berate capitalism, she too has invented a not-too-distant future in order to comment on the confines within she is expected to perform and present herself as a black female artist. “As an African-American woman, as an immigrant, wherever I am, I’m always the minority,” she explains.  “So I came up with the concept of the android as the ‘other’ in society.  I’ve been studying the theory of technological singularity, which predicts that as advances in technology become faster, there will come a point when robots will be able to map out the brainpower of humans and recreate our emotions.  I’m posing the question – how are we going to live with the ‘other’?  Are we going to treat them inhumanely, teach our children to fear them?”

Damn. Smart, stylish, talented, critical, gorgeous… you can have it all.

Now go watch the music video. Again.

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february: a little less depressing.

header from http://fatshionfebruary.tumblr.com/

february is not my favourite month, by far. the winter is just getting started, and the weeks of bitter cold feel endless and dreary. i try to stave off the winter blues with lots of upbeat music, delicious food, and winter activities… but it’s still not something i look forward to conquering. and yes, every february i feel like i have conquered the month.

to make these 28 days a little less of a bummer and more something to look forward to, i have three suggestions for you. one, check out this lovely tumblr my friend iris started. it’s a winter blues survival tumblr, posting great quotes and photos and links. so that’s for everyone. now we get a little more exclusive: it’s shaping up to be a great month for fat femmes. tomorrow, on february 1st, femme and friends fa(t)shion february officially begins. the project was initiated by jessie dress, and she wants anyone who identifies as fat or femme to contribute to an outfit of the day type post.

jessie dress’s call out for submissions reads as follows:

In february, I will be blogging my outfit every single day on Tumblr.  Sometimes twice a day, if I wear two outfits.

I want other people to do this too. I’m calling it: “Femme & Friends Fa(t)shion February”… (Don’t fret, I am acquiring a better camera solution than my current mirror/iphone mix. HOWEVER, Please participate EVEN IF you have the same camera solution I have now, or a webcam, or whatever. I want to see your hot ass!) I want to see people wearing work clothes, or house clothes, or going out to dance clothes. I want to know where you got what you’re wearing, and what you did to make it fit your body and your life.

Let’s make this shit huge. Let’s make fashion what we want to see! Its going to be super rad and hot. I can feel it.

i can already think of tons of great people who would like to participate in this project, as participants and consumers of this fun project. i’m going to try! i’ve only done daily outfits once before, beginning in 2009 when i first moved to quebec city. i just paid for a flickr pro account for the very first time, just so you guys can see those photos! (for the record, i have not cut my hair since then, and the reason i was really diligent about taking a photo and posting it every day was because i had no friends and was ridiculously lonely.)

a while ago i wrote advice for daily outfit posts (from the person who did it for 100 days):

  1. select a constant location. find a spot that is effortless to take photos in every single day. not somewhere where you have to move furniture, tidy up, shit like that. somewhere where you know you can set up your tripod and two seconds later you are taking a picture of you in your outfit! this could be in your house, at your office, outside if you like. and i say ideally use a tripod, but i am notorious for putting my camera on perilous ledges, desks, even stacks of books.
  2. make it part of your routine. instead of using a mirror to see how your outfit looks, use your camera! budget for like 10 extra minutes before you head out the door or when you get home so you take a picture at the same time every day.
  3. get to know your camera. it sounds simple enough: take a full-length body shot of your outfit, from head to toe. it is a LOT harder than it sounds. maybe that’s because i’m almost 6 feet tall? anyway, knowing your camera is key. i tend to put it on the auto setting when taking photos indoors, but i also don’t have tons of natural light in my apartment. set your self-timer to a setting you like. i do 10 seconds, three photos in a row, and then i pick the best of the three. i thought it would help to do like 10 photos in a row but i find that harder to get a good shot, strangely.

if you decide to participate, comment with your tumblr username and where you’ll be sharing your photos! i think i will be posting mine on flickr.

a cute belgian blogger wearing a cape. mad props to anyone who rocks a cape.

on top of that, i remembered a great call for submissions i came across a few months back is wrapping up in february. afrotitty wrote as follows:

I am in the process of creating a femme paperdoll zine. I want to immortalize you and your style in all of your femme-gendered fabulousity.

This project will be Femme of Color-centered (What does this mean? It means that FOCs will not be othered! The majority of dolls with be of Color), slutty (want your paperdoll to be naked with just a couple of leather strips and sequined bits as clothes, GREAT!), and all about the amazing style that runs free in our Femmetopia!!!

I want fat bodies, not-fat bodies, grrl bodies, boy bodies, trans bodies, crip bodies. High-end fashion, DIY fashion, stripper shoes, vintage flair, b-grrl realness. Everything in between.

sounds amazing, right? i can’t wait to see it. but if you want to contribute, here’s how:

Send me clear full body pictures and pictures of your fave outfits, pieces of clothes, and accessories. They can be photos or drawn. But photos are fine! Send me written pieces about your favorite style tips, how you shop, thrifting for fat femmes, your favorite stores, makeup tips for Femmes of Color, body liberation through fashion, and other great things.

the deadline for submissions is feb 14th, so get on it!

now i’ll leave you with some browsing materials to get your inspired.

some of my favourites (fashion-centric) in the fat-o-sphere:

fatshionista on flickr

fuck yeah chubby fashion on tumblr

fuck yeah old time fatties

double-chin love

death fatties

my favourite fat femme bloggers

sources:

jessiedress’s original announcement

afrotitty’s call for submissions

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