Female artists have something profound to bring to the universe. Living in a man’s world means the domination of masculine energy, which holds us back as women. I have a primordial appreciation for artists who embrace the power of the feminine spirit, and I believe FKA Twigs, a British musician and dancer, demonstrates this notion movingly.
Female sexuality in the media is prominent, but the sexuality presented by mainstream artists seems to be a reflection of the male gaze, which is enforced by largely male-dominated record companies. The representations of women lack depth and the emotional facets which ultimately build humanity. It is rare to find a woman in the media who demonstrates humanity and who expresses herself honestly. The fact of the matter is women face serious systematic pressures, particularly within the realm of media.
It is rare to find an artist that is relatable and able to describe deep emotional issues listeners can relate to, especially issues concerning women. For example, artists like Taylor Swift tend to be put on a pedestal. She embodies purity yet lacks depth. Her music is vapid and often discusses nothing more than idealized romance. In her new song, “Shake It Off,” she spent roughly four minutes singing cliches, and some have criticized the music video for the song, saying that it perpetuates stereotypes and appropriates black culture.
In contrast with Taylor Swift, artists like Katy Perry demonstrate only sexuality, which appeals almost strictly to men. When asked about her feminism in an interview on early morning news show I Wake Up With Today, she stated, “I used to not really understand what that word meant, and now that I do, it just means that I love myself as a female and I also love men.” Even in this sentence, Perry demonstrates a lack of understanding about what feminism means and puts an emphasis on loving men. Her music expresses this notion, with songs like “I Kissed a Girl,” which is a messy, offensive attempt at exploring sexuality.
I find myself searching for an artist able to demonstrate not only honest sexuality—which to me is a personal expression of sexuality not influenced by gender roles or stereotypes—but also who they truly are as a person, without being censored.
Over the past year FKA Twigs’ music has impacted American media and shaken our preconceived notions of female sexuality. She blends R&B style as well as electronica to create a balance of ethereal and sensuous sounds. The first time I listened to FKA Twigs, I recall entering a deep, melodic trance. Despite the ethereal quality of her voice, her music encompasses strength and feminine power. She is more than an R&B singer; she is a warrior running through the deep wilderness of man and fighting for woman.
FKA Twigs’ music videos are dark yet seductive. She explores sensuality as well as the dichotomy between the masculine realm and the feminine realm. Her video for “Video Girl” explores the darkness of loving a troubled man and how that affects her morality as well as her sense of self. She is watching a man she seems to be involved with face lethal injection with tears in her eyes. Toward the end of the video, she is dancing over his dying body. Her art is dark and chilling, portraying themes most musicians are afraid to portray.
The difference between mainstream media and FKA Twigs’ art is that it is relatable, real and deep. When I consider the music I hear on the radio or music videos I watch on television, the messages are simple, which is the problem. Love is complex, being a woman is complex and living in the world we are living in is complex. Life is not always shaking your ass at a club, falling in love with the cute guy in your geography class or buying yourself Chanel sunglasses. What FKA Twigs explores in her music is the pain underneath the glitter, the aspects of womanhood that are arduous and the ability to be a fighter in a world that often seems like it’s against you.
In a world which is so dominated by man, being a sexual woman can be terrifying. At times I feel alienated as I seek to empower my own sexuality. Women embracing sexuality in unconventional manners are highly criticized and misunderstood. I find FKA Twigs’ ability to be sexual, insightful and unique to be groundbreaking.
Media pressures female artists to either embody ultimate strength or ultimate passivity, yet both portrayals are dangerous. By pressuring women to embody only one of these two qualities while also remaining attractive to men, we are ultimately dehumanizing women.
Instead of simply being the strong and adventure-seeking Lara Croft or the passive stay-at-home mother June Cleaver from Leave it to Beaver, I hope to see a woman with human qualities. Rarely in media do we see a woman who embodies both strengths and weaknesses, with the ability to demonstrate human emotions. In “Preface” of FKA Twigs’ new album, she opens the song with: “I love another and thus I hate myself.” Her art is honest, raw and orphic. She paints pictures women can empathize with.
My hopes are that more women like FKA Twigs appear in the music industry and shake the core of the masculinity found in the media. Though there are female artists in popular culture, the issue is that much of their music embodies oppressive patriarchal values. FKA Twigs possesses the strength to empower the feminine.