How often have you encountered a sod that has callously dismissed your taste in music? Perhaps demanded that the hip-hop anthem you requested at a club be switched midway to an onslaught of EDM?
I for a fact am no stranger to such unwanted incidents, and I guess some of you readers too might be victims to the unflattering remark – “What trash are you playing?”. In my case, this so-called trash usually turns out to be Nicki Minaj aka Harajuku Barbie aka Boss A$$ B****… whom I unapologetically ADORE! My cis-hetero male (red alert!) friends are so averse to her singles that they judge my character because I don’t want none unless you got buns, hun!
Some remain unbothered by such comments. A few milquetoasts even admit their lack of good taste and readily divorce their favorite tunes to fall in line with the preferences of the consensus. However, when someone hints that my music is wack, I, in the wise words of Ms. Minaj, just about wish to ‘put my d*ck in their face’!
Listen, most of the albums or songs that make it to my playlist have a personal connection with me. They have captured my feelings accurately or helped me figure myself out during a personal crisis. The best one have (and forgive me for sounding cringey AF) become Metonymies of my Identity (okay, cringe…).
One might ask why I’m bestowing such honor upon someone like Nicki, whose last name FYI is likely a pun on a sex act… Well, if I had to defend Minaj in just one line, I’d say she taught me ‘how to be a strong and independent woman, one who refuses to take $#*! from anyone! Seriously, anyone who can move her callipygian figure so fiercely, so flawlessly while rapping like a mother-fudging monster can make the world stop own her own sans Queen B by her side!
Speaking of Beyoncé, I was once under the sway of her masterful self-titled album for weeks on end. Her sexiest songs, right from the wild Drunk in Love to the teasing Blow, the raunchy Partition and the passionate Rocket, unleashed my inner femininity. Her wish, her desire became my own. For those 6 heavenly minutes of Rocket, I too wanted to be the personal trainer, the therapist, the piece of sunshine, inner peace, entertainer.
But most importantly – I wanted to sit this ass on him!
I love it when my ladies get salacious, be it Beyoncé, Britney, Iggy, Nicki, Miley, P!nk, Azealia, Madonna, Rihanna, Khia, Lil Kim, and the list goes on and on. No one captures this phenomenon better than Ms. Spears in her sizzling single Slumber Party – ‘We use our bodies to make our own videos’. Note the words: ‘Our own videos’. Instead of being arm-candies or girls-next-door to male artists or experimenting but within acceptable boundaries of femininity (predominantly dictated by male audiences, that too), these female artists, through a feral and rebellious display of their sexuality, redefine femininity in their own terms. In the process they have become role models to legions of their cis-women and LGBTQIA followers who remain equally unapologetic bitches!
During my childhood days, spent in a small town in Gujarat, I simply could not identify with the coy, almost obsequious femininity the local media was perpetuating through films, television soaps or music videos. That’s when in 2004 came a Bollywood movie called Aitraaz. It starred Priyanka Chopra, who is now a force to be reckoned with globally. In that film, she essayed the character of an influential and manipulative socialite who would use her sex appeal to exploit her male employees. While her role was antagonistic, the eleven-year-old in me then was enraptured by the transgressive yet totally desi femininity that was on display. Watch this music video I Want to Make Love to You where she gyrates in a sexy business suit inside her swanky office cabin like the boss a$$ b**** she is!
Later on, remixes of popular old Hindi songs like Kaanta Laga, Chadti Jawaani took the country AND ME by storm with their risqué music videos (Shefali Zariwala’s thong peek-a-booing in Kaanta Laga was enough to shake the sanskaaris). So did Rihanna’s sizzling Umbrella, as I trilled ‘ella-ella-ella’ in an attempt to emulate her register albeit unsuccessfully. These chartbusters became sources of fantasy and identification for me.
I couldn’t grasp that I was somehow ’different’ from the girls around me until statements like, “Which girl do you like the most?”, “You are too rough with girls. Don’t touch them”, and “Do not sit with the girls” came my way. As I grew up, I was made to realize that for a teenage boy to imagine these possibilities was just absurd, but a sacrilege.
That’s when I began repressing my femininity, and became increasingly withdrawn, confused and angry. Musically, I turned towards hip-hop and rap by male artists like Notorious BIG, Public Enemy, Wu Tang-Clan, Slick Rick, Eminem, Kanye West. It was perhaps an unconscious and forcible attempt to adopt a toxic and aggressive masculinity that never existed in me.
I realized I only had two options– either self-realization or self-destruction. I chose the first. What followed it was an unceasing devotion to the ‘Material Girl’, the ‘Empress of Pop’ – MADONNA. For months I devoted myself to her albums ‘Erotica’, ‘Ray of Light’, ‘American Life’ and ‘Confessions on a Dance Floor’; she became a mother figure to me, calming and protective, and her strength inspired me to come out to the world.
Although people embraced my sexuality, my femininity, which continues to be in a perpetual state of discovery and rediscovery, was not received as kindly. However, music lent me confidence to twerk in the face of those ridiculed me on the way I ‘walked with my chest out, butt out’ or how ‘I spoke too much with my hands’.
Over time, I have realized that the Indian society at large, be it oldsters or the millennials, will never acknowledge my femininity as natural or desirable. I shall be made to feel dysphoric right from the time I leave my bedroom with the crippling expectations to play the ‘boy’, the ‘son’, the ‘brother’, the ‘man’. I shall be expected to pump up my pecs when I desire curves. I shall be at the receiving end of giggles and eye-rolls when I sway my hips because ‘men just don’t do that’.
Therefore, I am glad there is a Nicki or Iggy out there who, through the might of their big hips and thick booties, not only dispel traditional notions of femininity but also inspire people like me who could otherwise never have imagined that our masculine physical state could possess such femininity!
My femininity-on-the-fringes fight the madness of the world outside with my music by my side reassuring me that I am alright.
As a parting gift, here’s a 12-Song Playlist to Become an Unapologetic Bitch 101.
- Baby Doll – Kaanta Laga (Remix)
- Nicki Minaj – Anaconda
- Rihanna – Pour It Up
- Beyoncé – Blow
- Madonna – Justify My Love
- Khia – My Neck, My Back
- Britney Spears – Piece of Me
- Iggy Azalea – Work
- Lil Kim – How Many Licks ft Sisqo
- Miley Cyrus – Bangerz ft Britney Spears
- P!nk – Slut Like You
- Azealia Banks – 212