What’s up with all these ladies morphing (at least on their album covers) into super sci-fi singers? Just as many women, particularly Black women, we’re beginning to let go of living up to this mythic Superwoman hero of a Mother, Wife, Working Girl, Sista-Friend, it seems like Erykah Badu, Janet Jackson, Janelle Monae, and Christina Aguilera have all shed their hot pants to become super beings ready to take over the music industry and yeah, I guess the world too. However, the major and significant difference is that these women are not reemerging as wonder women with supernatural powers, they are instead beautifully wired-up, digital divas who have exchanged their hearts for hard-drives. With some success they have all, to varying degrees, dipped their toes into the hot-tub of bootyliciousness (major kudos to Erykah for the smash “Window Seat” video, which propelled her record sales into a stratosphere she hasn’t approached since her Baduism debut), but now, I would argue in an attempt to revise the image of the female singer and women in general, these ladies are seeing strength in being androids—in being non-human. And I’m not talking about being Seven of Nine either who was the most sensually charged cyborg I’ve ever seen. I’m talking about revising the politics of the female body and yo, there is a lot to be said for this new robotic physique. The conversation moves from tits and as$ to titanium and aluminum. Instead of focusing on her body we, at least visually, are forced to reckon with something else. Ah maybe her lyrics and skills? Yes, this desexualization is empowering in this context and I for one love it!
I’m so grateful for Janelle Monae who really goes deep with this phenomenon and through Cindi Mayweather– her android being, is able to be so many things simultaneously. One minute she is James Brown, the next Harriet Tubman and then Cleopatra. She is strong, hip, funky and uber intelligent and doesn’t seem to be bound by human emotions like fear, jealousy or vanity. Just yesterday I was talking to my godmother about this trend and she thought it was funny and said this: “Every time I reprimand these boys out here about wearing their jeans low or tell them to stop cursing around me or to stop loitering in front of the building, they call me a ‘Robo-bitch.’” She continued, “Honestly I could do without the bitch part but it doesn’t phase me. I know they call me robo as in RoboCop because my assertiveness is alien to these fools. I may be alien, but I tell you this: They listen to me.” Go godmommy! Whoa, this just got me thinking. Does this mean in order for us grrrls to be taken seriously– to be respected– that we have to act hard as a rock? Is there power in showing less emotion, less sweetness? Hmmph, I smell a lil bionic backlash in the midst. What say you?