Body Politics: Representations and the Impact of Black Women in Music (ProudFlesh Journal)

“Society has a problem with female nudity when it is not packaged for the consumption of male entertainment. Then it becomes confusing.” – Erykah Badu

Body politics refers to the practices and policies through which powers of society regulate the human body; particularly the female body. It involves the struggle over the degree of individual and social control over the body. Thus engaging in body politics – is to push back against the oppressive effects of patriarchy – sexism, misogyny, misogynoir – racism, institutional and interpersonal power over the bodies of those deemed inferior and are denied rights to control their own bodies. Further, the attribution of ethical, moral, temperamental, and social characteristics to individuals or populations based on skin color, facial features, body types, and sexual anatomy figure prominently in racial body politics. When coupled with respectability politics, those who are oppressed are denied agency over their bodies, their sexuality, their image or social representation. Public discourse usually focuses on what and how much clothes they have on, as well as whether their statements, actions, and appearance is stereotypical, demeaning, or respectable.

In terms of media, there is nowhere this is more apparent than in the music industry, where artist have highly crafted images and personas. With the advent of social media, these artists are able to more directly engage their fans, the press, and the public; and often the lines begin to blur between their work and private lives. This issue will take a look at the work and impact of Azaelia Banks, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, and other Black women in music whose public persona and work engage in body politics and challenges respectability politics.

Some possibilities to consider: Who crafts these images? Does the artist have any agency over how their body is represented? How is the artist body being represented in the musical landscape? And who is doing the representation? Are hyper-sexual representations of the Black female body and sexuality liberating or simply tied to the male gaze? Is it an extension of the exploitation and stereotyping of the black female body and sexuality that has been historically carried out during colonialism and slavery? Are expressions of Black women’s sexuality and body positive images in music and media suppressed by or subjected to respectability politics? Do these artists utilize their platform to speak about social issues; if so, in what ways? What type of social issues have they discussed or highlighted? Cultural appropriation? Misogynoir? Reproductive justice? Slut shaming? Do these issues become a central topic in their music, on one of their songs, or other forms of media that involves their work? Do they speak about these issues in other public forums; whether it be social media, media interviews, etc? Has Black Twitter had a role in forcing these artists to publicly (through their work or other forms of media) address social issues or called them out on their silence?

We are seeking original, unpublished, and un-posted work in the following format:

Poetry (send no more than 4 poems, 8 pages max)
Stories, Articles, Essays & Drama (3000 words max)
Visual Art (no more than 5 images, 300 resolution, jpeg)

Submit your paper directly to Cherise Charleswell in Microsoft Word to: Your name and email address should appear on every page. Please, put (PFSubmission) in the subject box.

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