Blues Legacies And Black Feminism Analysis

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Blues Legacies and Black Feminism by Angela Davis emphasizes on the work of Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday – the three black women artists, who not only helped articulate working-class black feminism but also shaped the American popular culture. Because blues today is a heavily male-dominated genre, it is often forgotten that black women were actually the first artists to record the blues.
Due to the long history of slavery and segregation, most black women lacked the freedom of expression and association. Especially, working-class communities were often excluded from the black feminist traditions. Therefore, they sought to the recording industry where they could be heard and acknowledged. In the introduction section, …show more content…

Ma Rainey’s “Prove it one Me Blues” serves as a protest against the social norms and stereotypes of black women during this time. Specifically, this song is an affirmation of lesbianism: “Went out last night with a crowd of my friends/ They must’ve been women, ‘cause I don’t like no men.” Sung in first person, it suggests that Ma Rainey is announcing her love for women. Not only reveals her sexuality, she also plays a role of a spokeperson for black working-class women. It is explicit that she does not keep a secret about her affair with women in public, however, she dares the society to “prove it on” her: “They say I do it, ain’t nobody caught me/ Sure got to prove it on me.” The song not only expresses the defiance of black working-class women against the heterosexual, dominant culture, but it also challenges the social gender role and authority in America during 1920s: “It’s true I wear a collar and a tie... Wear my clothes just like a fan/ Talk to the gals just like any old man.” Ma Rainey describes her appearance as masculine in which she wears man’s clothes and is flirting with other women. Even though it was socially prohibited during this time, the depiction deviates from gender expectations. It reflects the vision of black working-class feminism that males and females sexual roles are …show more content…

Generations of women after Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, especially since 1970s onwards, have focused on female sexuality as one of the dominant themes in popular culture. We can recognize similar images that appear in “Prove it on me blues” in many pop songs sung by female artists today. With the same confidence that the blues female singers used to reflect the working-class black feminism, one of the most prominent genres, which continue that same spirit, is hip-hop/rap and its icon – Nicki Minaj. In the 21st century, Nicki Minaj is a model of women empowerment as she constructs her own image of black feminism and black womanhood. Though her public image is controversial, she still remains her own notion of femininity, an her music often challenges the social norms. Specifically, in “Anaconda”, she proves the stereotypes of black female sexuality as destructive. The MV features a female-dominated world where Minaj enjoys being with other women. She also subverts the norm of domesticity in the scene where a male dancer appears powerless to her sexuality. In addition, her impact in a male-dominated field is undeniable as she is one of the most famous rappers in the world, and maybe the most well-known female rapper in the hip-hop/rap

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