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Womyn Power Playlist: Love God Herself

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As you probably already know, last Wednesday was International Women’s Day (or should I say, womyn’s day) — a day for celebrating and empowering womyn, while acknowledging and generating discourse on how to change structural barriers. If there is one exemplary way for womyn to empower ourselves, it is music. Music, just like any form of art, is a weapon for the oppressed. The womyn I chose to feature on this playlist have wielded this tool successfully — and hit the target right on the mark. From indie, to hip hop, to electronic, these womyn are resilient. Each one of these songs inspires and empowers me in a different way, and I hope they do the same for you. So without further ado: ladies/womyn/people all across the world, hold onto your seats, and get ready for some (intersectional) grrrrrl power.

 

  1. “Girl Gang” – Leikli47

This song was a no-brainer way to kick off this playlist.  If the title isn’t explanatory enough, this song oozes with female badassery. With a power chorus featuring an ensemble of female vocals, Leikli47 gets me hoppin’, and I mean HOPPIN’ with this hip-hop banger.

 

Highlights:

“If you try to shut us down/ We’ll show you just how we get down/ And just to even up the score/ We’re coming, kicking down your door” &
“Do you know all the shit we gotta overcome?/ But that ain’t stopping nothing / Me and my girls on top, straight stunting.”

 

  1. “Greedy” – Ariana Grande:

  Grande expresses her high demands for sexual pleasure in this stunner pop piece. Before spring break I saw Grande in concert and had the pleasure of seeing her perform this song. Let me tell you, seeing a 5 3” womyn strut around stage in a bikini top and demand an orgasm is nothing less than a spiritual experience — just wait till you hear the beat drop in that second chorus: Spiritual. Experience.

Highlights:

“I don’t need a phone call/ Got nothing to say/ I’mma tell you when it’s over/ Got no games to play/ You know that I’m coming tonight/ I know I’m coming tonight/ I just need to get this out the way”

 

  1. “Q.U.E.E.N.” – Janelle Monae, feat. Erykah Badu

   This song has been a personal favorite of mine for years now, and I’m sure this rings true for many black womyn. Black womyn have historically been left out of conversations on gender inequality — Monae and Badu come together to strike a crack in the doubly thick glass ceiling. Also, the final verse at the end of this song is probably one of the best things ever.

Highlights:

“Hey brother can you save my soul from the devil?/ Say is it weird to like the way she wear her tights? (but I like it)/ And is it rude to wear my shades?/ Am I a freak because I love watching Mary? (maybe)” &

“Mixing masterminds like your name Bernie Grundman/ Well I’mma keep leading like a young Harriet Tubman/ You can take my wings but I’m still goin’ fly/ And even when you edit me the booty don’t lie/ Yeah, I’mma keep singing and I’mma keep writing songs/ I’m tired of Marvin asking me, “What’s Going On?”/ March to the streets ’cause I’m willing and I’m able/ Categorize me, I defy every label”

 

  1. “Go Off” – M.I.A.

M.I.A is no stranger to political activism when it comes to her music, and is no stranger to womyn power anthems. She strikes again with this synthy, headstrong number off of her latest album, AIM.

Highlights:

“So I stay way up on a level/ Like my name is Neymar and you know I’m not normal/ There is no competition/ I’m gonna talk and you gonna listen/ I’m on ten like men, even better than them.”

 

Bonus: this playlist really wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include M.I.A.’s Bad Girls. It’s one of her most popular songs for a reason — sexual prowess and communal girlhood — this song is everything a badass bitch track should be.

Highlights:

“Looking in the rear view swagger going swell/ Leaving boys behind cause it’s legal just to kill/
Shift gear automatic damned if I do/ Who’s gonna stop me when I’m coming through/ What we got left is just me and you/ But if I go to bed baby can I take you?”

 

  1. “Can’t Pin Me Down” – Marina and the Diamonds

This saucy and satirical song asks the question “Do you really want me to write a feminist anthem?/ I’m happy in the kitchen cooking dinner for my husband.” It is obvious that this song stems from a place of rage and discontent, which is what makes this song so anthemic. After all, that’s where most of the best art comes from.

Highlights:
“You can paint me any colour / I can be your russian doll / But you ain’t got my number / No, you can’t make me small”

 

  1. “Cherry Bomb” – The Runaways

Let’s be real, it would be an affront to girl power if I didn’t include this classic 1970s rock anthem.

Highlights:

“Bad nights cause’n teenage blues/ Get down ladies you’ve got nothing to lose/ Hello Daddy, hello Mom/ I’m your ch ch ch ch ch cherry bomb/ Hello world I’m your wild girl/ I’m your ch ch ch ch ch cherry bomb”

 

  1. “Goddess” – Banks

There’s nothing quite like a womyn putting a sleazy ex-lover in their place. Banks lets this guy know she’s overcome it all, and she doesn’t want him back – ‘cause she’s a goddess.

Highlights:

“Now you gotta deal with this glitch on your shoulder/ Fuckin’ with a goddess, and you get a little colder/ Yeah, it’s colder, colder/ Fuckin’ with a goddess, and you get a little colder” &

“Finally surfaced above the downs/ Feeling her boldest, she came around/’Cause she’s a goddess/ Finally saw this”

 

  1. “Back Up” – Dej Loaf

Pitchfork.com, an online music magazine, describes Dej Loaf’s as “the rap equivalent of a well executed eye-roll”, and this track certainly does not disappoint. Heavy on attitude and sex appeal, this song delivers on every single line.

Highlights:

“You don’t know me, I’m too clean, I’m too holy, bitch I’m godly/ I only go for real niggas who don’t brag ’bout what they bought me/ Cause they know I got a bag, gotta fuck me up some commas” &

“See the difference with me, I never needed niggas, ever/ I’ll leave ’em where I met ’em, I ain’t trippin’ off no extras”

 

  1. “I’m in Control” – AlunaGeorge

I really wanted to include an EDM song in this list, because EDM appears as such a male dominated genre. However, as shown by AlunaGeorge and several other womyn making EDM (many of them womyn of color), womyn are serving amazing electronic tracks. This beat heavy number is laced with vocals from Jamaican dancehall artist Popcaan adding a dancehall lift to the dizzying beats . AlunaGeorge is certainly in control.

Highlights:

“If you’re picking up my call/ Gotta tell you once you know that I’m in control/ I’m in control/ Don’t you know I want it all?/ Put your hands against the wall/ I’m in control, I’m in control”

 

  1. “Don’t Hurt Yourself” – Beyoncé

You didn’t really think I could make it through this list without including the fertility goddess herself. There are no words to aptly describe the brilliance of this song — it is cutting, fierce, probably makes all men tremble — it is everything I aspire to be.

Highlights:

“And keep your money, I got my own/ Keep a bigger smile on my face being alone/ Bad motherfucker, God complex/ Motivate your ass, call me Malcolm X” &

“Blindly in love, I fucks with you/ ‘Til I realize I’m just too much for you/ I’m just too much for you” &

“When you hurt me, you hurt yourself/ Don’t hurt yourself, don’t hurt yourself/ When you love me, you love yourself/ Love God herself.”

Go See Hidden Figures

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I do not pretend to be a film critic, but what I do know is that “Hidden Figures” is the movie the entirety of America needs to go see right now.

The story centers around Katherine Goble — married name Katherine Johnson — Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan, three Black, female mathematicians working for NASA during the Space Race. At the time, the Langley Research Center was racially segregated and a highly sexist workplace. The three women are initially employed as “human computers,” tasked with calculating launch and landing trajectories for all rockets sent up into the atmosphere. However, due to their exceptional minds and tireless ability to push past the seemingly interminable layers of discrimination, each woman worked her way to transcend the occupation of a calculator and used her brilliant analytical mind to become an integral, invaluable component of the organization’s success.

In the film, we see the protagonists bombarded with horridly intentional discrimination from all sides. Dorothy is continuously disrespected by white, female counterparts in the East Computing Group. Katherine is forced to run for miles just to use the restroom because the one near her desk is reserved exclusively for whites, Mary must appeal to a judge in order to take classes at an all-white school to become an engineer, Dorothy is thrown out of her local public library by police officers because she was searching for a programming book in the white-only section.

“Hidden Figures” brings to light the innumerable, explicit, and overt elements of discrimination women and minorities experienced working as mathematicians, programmers, and engineers. While we have come a long way from the days where Jim Crow reigned legally supreme and there existed no protocol for women attending Pentagon Briefings, remnants of that time still linger and can be seen quite clearly in the severe lack of women and minorities in the majority of professional STEM fields.

One of the main implicit biases found against both women and minorities in STEM fields is the lack of role models and historical figures who look like them. My calculus classes continuously reference a series of white men — Euler, Pythagoras, Lagrange, L’hopital — who made various advancements in fields relating to integral calculus. I have never been in a math class where the teacher mentioned the name of a famous Black mathematician or one who was female.

Though the discoveries of the men listed above may have been relevant to the lesson, only mentioning white, male names sends the message to the subconscious of females and people of color that we are lacking some instrumental intuition necessary for the acquisition of a great mathematical mind. In the same light, the fact that I and so many others had no idea Dorothy, Katherine, and Mary existed until watching a movie made decades after they changed the world is problematic and extremely unsettling. Simply shedding light on the existence of diverse mathematicians will help derail this implicit bias.

In some ways, Swarthmore works hard to counteract biases such as these. Bulletin boards featuring women and minorities in various STEM fields grace nearly every department hall of the Science Center, and my Linear Algebra Professor Alexander Diaz-Lopez from last semester, continuously reminded the class that none of us should ever be afraid of pursuing our passions, even if those passions lie within in a field where we don’t see a lot of people who look like us.

Recognizing the importance of “Hidden Figures,” Swarthmore has provided students with multiple opportunities to view the film, including a free, Friday night screening in Trotter and free tickets for our college’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. Additionally, this past Wednesday, the Women’s Resource Center held an event titled Majorly Underrepresented, which was a dinner and panel featuring students who are underrepresented in their respective fields.

Yet, while the movie’s lessons are some that Swat has been trying to implement, it also exposes some faults within our own STEM programs. As much as Swarthmore does to counteract implicit biases in STEM fields, the school does reflect a percolation of some issues “Hidden Figures” illuminates. Take our own engineering professors: there is only one woman and one person of color in the entire department. The rest are white men.   

With regards to the impending Academy Awards, like I said before, I am neither a film critic nor a self-proclaimed cinematic expert. I do strongly believe, however, that this movie should win because it is an empowering story told through a beautiful piece of art. Whether the experts will concur with this assessment, I have no idea.

With respect to box office results, Theodore Melfi’s masterpiece has achieved impressive numbers, earning $144.2 million so far. “Hidden Figures” has the grossed the most to date domestically out of any Oscar contender, surpassing even incoming favorite “La La Land” with. But after two years of #allWhiteOscars, nothing is a guarantee.

Personally, I found the film to be extremely impressive on all fronts. Performers beautifully executed their characters, and the seamless progression of the story was well supplemented with entertaining background music. But most importantly, it unearths a story that has the power to influence children who love numbers, who are sitting in math class wondering why none of the famous mathematicians look anything like them.

Yet the movie’s most noteworthy point is its ability to achieve a feat natural science teachers, professors, and organizations across the country have been failing at for so long. This intricately crafted piece provides those who are severely underrepresented in computational fields that people like them can and have historically achieved excellence. And if that isn’t greatness — cinematic or otherwise — I don’t know what is.

The Red Lips Project seeks to empower subject, audience through unified symbolism

in Arts by
MC
Photo Courtesy of Aditi Kulkarni

The Red Lips Project, run by Aditi Kulkarni ’17, has been gaining attention across Swarthmore’s artistic spheres.

The project’s main premise is simple: to take pictures of women wearing red lipstick, and attach a quote of them saying what makes them feel powerful. Kulkarni leaves many of the technical decisions in the making of the portrait to the subject, and adds minimal edits.

“I really want them to be able to decide what their lighting decisions are, if they want a darker picture to represent themselves or if they want a bright, contrasting picture,” Kulkarni said. “I try to edit minimally and the only thing I would edit for at all would be, if it’s too dark to see the picture, [to] turn the exposure up a little bit.”

To Kulkarni, the project is about bringing out the individual strengths of each woman, which is why she values their creative input for the shots.

“I think they know themselves best and what represents them best,” she said.

The project found its roots in a lot of work Kulkarni did through high school, although it’s the first time her work is culminating in a long-term endeavor.

“I’ve done a lot of photography; I did that a lot in high school and then have continued it through college, but this is the first time I’ve done a project-based thing,” she said.

That said, her initial inspiration stemmed from a social media feud she witnessed.

“A$AP Rocky came out and made a statement that dark-skinned women shouldn’t wear red lipstick because it doesn’t look good on them,” she said. “That started a movement where a lot of women of color posted pictures of themselves wearing red lipstick. [It] inspired me because all the women who posted pictures looked so powerful and confident in themselves.”

The project really crystallized this summer, around the image that is so quintessential to its foundation.

Kulkarni said, “I’ve always been really fascinated by the imagery of red lips, and I think it’s a very powerful image. I initially just started playing around with that image in my photography this summer and I realized that I could use this to make a project out of it.”

Issues of race, which were so central to the initial inspiration for the project, are somewhat less essential to Kulkarni’s endeavor; however, this is out of a desire for total inclusivity.

“I think my goal is to address all women, and I don’t want to isolate anyone at all,” she said. “I do think that women of color have a very special space in feminist dialogue and tend to be underrepresented. I want them to have a voice in this project, just like everyone else.”

It is hard to tell, at first glance, whom the project is for: it seems gratuitous for all parties involved. In Kulkarni’s experience, both the subjects and the audience feel driven and empowered by the experience, whether through thinking about what empowers them or reading other people’s thoughts that invigorate them. This ambiguity is something that Kulkarni has picked up on, and which even extends to her own view.

“At the same time, it’s been really nice for me as well; I find it empowering for myself to hear everyone else’s responses, she said. “So I think the project has played a role in everyone’s viewing of it.”

But really, Kulkarni’s aim in her project is detached from herself. Through the freedom she allows subjects in the individual shots, and the imperative of reflecting their voice in every shot, it becomes clear that her goal is almost therapeutic and contagious, to help as many individuals as possible. She echoed this impression.

“My ambition is for women and men both to see the project and recognize that we’re all powerful individuals,” she said. “I don’t know the number of images it will take to get to that place but my goal is to make an impact on people in some way and I hope that I can do that.”

In this way, the growing size of the project is ideal, since outreach is Kulkarni’s aim. As much as she’s had to solicit in the early stages, she hopes this will change in the future. The project is, after all, about empowering those involved, something she’d hope people would seek out.

She said, “Right now it’s still a very new thing, so there’s not enough people that know about it that I don’t have to ask around and people will just automatically come to me, but it’s getting there. We’re building it up slowly.”

The project, at its core, is simple, which gives may explain its rapid rise to prominence within Swarthmore’s arts scene.

“I think mostly the underlying feeling was what makes women feel powerful, so I played around with the variations of that and settled on the very simple question that would elicit that response,” she said. Leaving us with a set of compelling individual portraits, of the driven women of this school.

The project can be found online at http://theredlipsproject.tumblr.com.

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