I wanted to discuss Janelle Monae’s contribution to gender studies further, and I think the best possible way is through this blog post. Monae’s music, lyrics, and presentation all ignore boundaries set for sex and gender, even sexuality. Her androgynous look with coiffed fro, tuxedo, and the most amazing fucking dance moves on stage anyone has seen since Michael Jackson have put her in not-quite-woman and yet not-quite-man. Although her female sex seems to be very present in her feminine facial features and small frame, she still demands attention equal to that of her male counterparts in the music industry. When I went to see Janelle Monae this past Fall at the IU Auditorium, her messages of free love and understanding were very apparent. Her band, backup singers, and small orchestra all matched her tuxedo-themed show, but nobody seemed to be designated as wearing masculine or feminine clothing. When she sang “Mushrooms and Roses”, she painted a distinctive female body with accentuated curves to maybe hint at sexuality. Her ambiguous sexuality, to me, is the most shocking. She is signed to Bad Boy Records, the hip-hop label started by Diddy (That’s his name still, right?), which is many times very homophobic. The show only became even better after it was over and I looked over at what I got out of it.

Before the show, people were handing out flyers that contained “The Ten Droid Commandments”, which I read once I got home. The sixth, and most realistic commandment states “Abandon your expectations about art, race, gender, culture and gravity.” I believe in this commandment and others, as well as in her songs, that she is confessing that freedom is only found when one breaks free from sociocultural constraints. It’s obvious she has done so through her actual freedom when moving through people’s minds by way of her lyrics and visuals.

-Eleanor Stevenson

 

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