Blues Legacies and Black Feminism

Listening to the blues playlist, the one song that was able to strike me the most was Bessie Smith’s “Kitchen Man”. In the song, Bessie is singing about a forbidden love between a rich lady and the cook. Their tainted relationship comes to an end due to unknown reasons, when he resigns from his position. The song is very groundbreaking due to the fact that it is not only about a woman who is platformed at a higher status than the man, but also because of the emphasize of her sexuality.

At first, it is evident that the lady, Madame Buff, is wealthy and obtains a high status amongst society, due to the fact that she has multiple servants. On the other, the cook, is a poor man in the working class trying to make ends meet. At that time, it was forbidden for women to get married downwards in the social ladder, but Madame Buff still chose to be with him even if it was in secret.

Then, Bessie sings about how Madame Buff is going to miss having sex with her man, Sam,  after they break up. For the first time, women are owning their sexuality and expressing their preferences, even if it has to be done through food metaphors such as “his sausage meat.” Unless Madame Buff is obsessed with Sam’s food because he is a great cook, there is no doubt that these lyrics carry some sexual innuendo.

Even today, it is hard for women to be able to express sexual desire and owning their sexuality without being harassed. Through recent music, there have been movements showing that it is okay for women to also be able to portray their sexualities. The genre of Hip hop is tough part of the music industry for women, solely due to the fact that the genre itself consists of masculine men repetitively rapping about “fucking bitches”. When it comes to women in Hip Hop in modern culture, artists such as Nicki Minaj and Rihanna revolutionize women by proudly projecting their personal sexualities- inside and outside of their music. Both women are powerful representations of the message that Bessie Smith was able to back in the 1920s.

I could not choose between the two songs so I ended up using both Cockiness by Rihanna and Get on Your Knees by Nicki Minaj featuring Ariana Grande. Both of them talk about women being the dominant sexual partners and owning it without any regrets. They are making a progression against slut- shaming indicating that women can be sexual creatures too. They try to break the stereotype that indicates that it is okay for women to be discriminated because of their sexuality and men to be praised for it.

Bessie Smith, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj are examples of black women who not only through their songs, but also through their personas, are able to promote and advocate new ideas contributing towards the feminism movement. In case you haven’t listened to the newer songs here they are. I have to put a disclaimer, though, these songs contain explicted content regarding sex.


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