Growing up, the men in my family came and went but the women were constant. My mother. My sister. My aunts. They were my role models and by watching them I learned how powerful women can be. They worked hard, loved hard and fought hard. They taught me that women could do anything but I never heard the word "feminist" until I went to college. My lefty liberal arts college gave me the language to explain every lesson I'd learned from the women in my family but this intellectual feminism pushed me to question everything - my appearance, my relationships and my language. In some ways, becoming an intellectual feminist made me rigid and guarded. When you sit down with your girlfriend to have a serious conversation about whether or not buying a dildo will make you a bad lesbian feminist, you've gone too far.
So, how does that kind of feminist suddenly become enamored with rap in her 40's? This is a question I've been wrestling with for months as I have listened to Nicki Minaj, Eve, M.I.A., Jay Z, Kanye and yes - even Eminem. How do I reconcile my politics with music that can be, at times, so filled with misogyny?
I finally have the answer - I can't.
Music has always been important to me. It is pure emotion. It is cathartic. It inspires. Rap is no different. It is all about confidence and power. Rap dares you to claim your worth and dares everyone else to doubt it. In the past year, I've pushed myself to do things that I had been afraid to do and rap has been my soundtrack, the beat helping to keep my self-doubt at bay. Also - rap lyrics are hilarious and clever and I am always a sucker for that combination.
My mother worked as a typesetter at a printing company. The company was owned by a married couple but my mother was the only woman who worked with the press operators who were all men. She would occasionally mention that it was hard to hold her own as the only woman. She never complained but simply said, "Sometimes, you have to be a bitch." When she retired, the woman who owned the company gave her a necklace that said, "Bitch" and told her, "Bitches have to stick together."
Nicki Minaj would say that my mother was a "bad bitch doin' it". I can live with that. I aspire to be the same.