Janelle Monáe: Not For Male Consumption
The fact that a man tweeted what is captured below to Janelle Monáe once again reveals how some men really do not listen to women.
Many men, in general, cannot conceive of women existing for a purpose that is not male consumption, and in the case of Janelle Monáe, many Black men, specifically, really have no idea who she is. No matter how many times Black women have said that Janelle does not dress how she dresses to be “respectable” for Black men (nor to be used as a tool of respectability for misogynoir against other Black women not deemed “respectable”) nor does she dress how she dresses to make them thirst for her “hidden” sexiness, some ignore that message. Worse, they seem to ignore the things that she actually says about herself.
Janelle Monáe on why she dresses the way she does (especially in reference to when she wore tuxes quite a bit):
When I started my musical career I was a maid, I used to clean houses and the girls I used to clean houses with used to always beg me to sing while we cleaned. I lived in a boarding house with five other girls and I would sell my $5 CD out of my room. My mother was a proud janitor, my step-father who raised me worked at the post office, and my father was a trash man. They all wore a uniform and that’s why I wear my uniform to honor them. I have work to do. I have people to uplift. I have people to inspire. And today I wear my uniform proudly.
My goal has always been to redefine what it means to be a woman, especially a Black woman, and when I did come into the industry, I didn’t see people dressing this way and I felt as though there was going to be some some pressure to look like somebody else. And, I’m into fashion and I just think the tuxedo is cool; it also is paying homage to the working class. My mother, her last occupation, she was a janitor. And my father worked at the Post Office. So I like to pay homage to them and continue on that legacy to help the community, through music. And so it just keeps me humbled, it keeps me grounded. But my goal is never to dress up because I don’t want to show skin but it is to say I’m in control of my body. And as women I think we should be in control of our body, whether we’re naked or whatever. But let that be your decision, not, ‘these are the standards, you are a woman, you need to do this.’
And the “too damn soulful” comment in that tweet? That’s that binary reference to the idea that “soulful” Black women exist to be “respectable” and “sexy” Black women exist to be “non-respectable” and clearly binary thinkers experience conflict when these lines aren’t treaded in a way they are used to consuming. This is something that I discussed in Respectability Politics ≠ Womanism/Black Feminism since Black men are not the only ones who confuse respectability politics for radical ones; some Black women do as well. (This same binary is used against Solange [”soulful”] and Beyoncé [”sexy”], for example.) Yeah, he apologized (for which I have zero cookies or awards to give; that low bar is not of interest to me, I’ll leave that to people who award “ally” cookies; I don’t bake), but misogynoir is misogynoir. He is not the first nor will he be the last to say something like this to her and it’s something Black women–non-famous and famous alike–have to deal with. In her new song “Yoga” she sings, “you cannot police me, so get off my areola. Get off my areola.” This is deliberate. Are men ever going to listen to what she says about herself? Or is trying to police her more important? She doesn’t exist to please them, at their will. They’ll deal.