The Reinvention of “Fem Rock” in Modern Culture

In the late 1990s/early 2000s gender-bending female artists started to rise in popularity. The pro-LBGT group Le Tigre began to gain recognition. Chicks on Speed released electroclash songs that highlighted society’s obsession with the female body. And of course… there was the Canadian born, false-beard-wearing, giant-inflatable-penis-riding, pubic-hair-celebrating, feminist and great appreciator of irony: Peaches.

But for the past few years, there has been a lull within the fem-rock community. Peaches released her fifth album, I Feel Cream, in 2009, but on the whole, this socio-political form of music seemed to be disappearing from modern culture.

However, within the past few months, there has been a resurgence of fem rockers. These women are completely reinventing the genre.

South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord has been gaining attention for the music video, “Rich Bitch.” In the video, female rapper Yolandi Visser sits on a toilet with golden underpants around her ankles. She has her “grill” and her badass haircut and she raps about her wealth and her past of violence. The music isn’t particularly creative and the content of the video is obviously controversial, but Visser undoubtably works to reinvent the way that society perceives female artists. She is not a man, but she has stepped into the image that viewers associate with males in the industry.

Sweedish singer Lykke Li has also been in the media quite a lot recently, especially for some choices regarding her lyrics. In her song, “Get Some,” she sings “I’m your prostitute, you gon’ get some.” The music video for the song flashes black and white images of female “island savages” capturing men and celebrating primal victory. The lyrics and the video play off of each other in a way that creates a sort of bizarre sexual empowerment and conquers the assumed exploitative quality of the lyrics.

And then there is 2010 grammy nominee Janelle Monae. Monae is known for her creativity and and for the intricate narratives of her songs and videos, but she is also recognized for her unique style. Monae is almost always dressed in a tuxedo. By choosing this masculine associated uniform over minidresses and cleavage-bearing tops, Monae is paving the way for a new sort of Hollywood woman–one not judged by her physical appearance, but by her talent.

Janelle Monáe – Tightrope [feat. Big Boi] by AtlanticRecords

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