gendered black matters: *femininities


roles & histories: lived and reclaimed

Julie Dash – Daughters of the Dust (DotD)

  • Julie Dash as the first female African American director

  • released in 1991

  • narrated by a child not yet born

  • topics: drama, conflict and reconciliation, migration to the North

  • family unit at it's centre, as the movie leads up to the last family dinner at Ibo Landing

  • Nana Peazant represents Obatala, a Yoruba goddess

  • gained new attention due to the release of Beyoncé's Lemonade

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Nana Peazant in DotD

Beyoncé – Lemonade

  • 12 songs, gathered in a one-hour long film with spoken dialogue between the songs

  • one of the main topics: embracing Blackness

Beyoncé – "Formation"

  • uploaded on Trayvon Martin's birthday anniversary

  • Louisiana and New Orleans as main film locations

  • impact of Hurricane Katrina: especially Black community has not received the attention and hep they deserve after the hurricane

  • police brutality: scene with little boy dancing in front of armed police show that even in a harmless situation Black people can be seen as a threat, the boy however is fearless and continues to dance

       --> powerful Black culture

  • "I like my baby hair with baby hair and afros, I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils"  

        --> embracement of Black identity

  • "When he fuck me good I take his ass to Red Lobster"

        --> pride of being female and strength of females


Beyoncé – "Sorry"

  • women supporting each other rather than being in competition: Serena Williams, portrayed as beautiful, powerful and independend woman

  • plantation-style house is a nod to the 250 years of slavery suffered by the Black Americans of the south in 18th and 19th centuries

  • video entirely shot in Black and White suggests that colour shouldn't matter

  • "I ain't sorry"

       --> encouraging Black people to embrace their                    culture


Janelle Monáe - "Django Jane"

  • Monáe says Django Jane is “a response to me feeling the sting of the threats being made to my rights as a woman, as a black woman, as a sexually liberated woman, even just as a daughter with parents who have been oppressed for many decades” 

  • Black women and those who have been the 'other' - that's who I wanted to support. (Janelle Monáe)

  • "hit the mute button, let the vagina have a monologue"

       --> men have been speaking enough,         make room for women to be creative

  • Her dream is that when we’re communicating, men and women, that we listen, not to respond, but to understand

Black Girl Magic

"Black Girl Magic, y'all can't stand it, y'all can't ban it" (Janelle Monáe - Django Jane)

  • a term used to celebrate the beauty, power, resilience and universal awesomness of Black women introduced by CaShawn Thompson

  • #BlackGirlMagic is a two-edged sword: Black women are beautiful and powerful, but not magical

Everything inside and outside of me is flesh and bone and a nervous system. Nothing magical. (Linda Chavers)

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Reclaiming Histories: Importance of Motherhood and Origin

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  • Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust is about remembering the past and the "old ways"

  • Janelle Monáe and Beyoncé sing about their mothers and how important they are

  • Beyoncé even named her album after a saying of Jay-Z's grandmother: "I was handed lemons, so I made Lemonade"

  • Beyoncé features the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown in Lemonade

Black Motherhood

  • Motherhood as symbol of power

  • importance of motherhood in the Black culture

  • different perspetives on Black motherhood: 

  • European (American) Perspective: the Mammy, the faithful devoted servant at White people's home and the matriarch in the Black household

  • African Perspective: motherhood as creativity and continuity

  • Othermothers: women who assist bloodmothers (biological mothers) by sharing mothering responsibilities

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Homage to Other Black Artists

  • tree scene: Beyoncé was inspired by DotD, Dash however stated that her scene was inspired by Bill Gunn's Ganja and Hess and the tree scene is a continuum of Black aesthetics

  • Lemonade features various artists: poetry of Warsan Shire, Serena Williams, Winnie Harlow and more

  • Monáe was inspired by Black artists for Django Jane such as Kerry Washington, Shonda Rhimes and Viola Davis.

"Black artists are not getting the respect and credit they deserve in America."
(Janelle Monáe)

Warsan Shrine


Daughters of the Dust

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featured in Beyoncé's Lemonade


black bodies and expressions of sexuality

"We were a little raw, self-conscious, & eager.

This is the energy & part of the style that nurtured for colored girls [...]

With the acceptance of the ethnicity of my thighs & backside, came a clearer understanding of my voice as a woman & and a poet."

(Ntozake Shange)

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Su

Ntozake Shange – 

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf

  • a choreopoem first performed in 1976, in which author Ntozake Shange emphasizes the connection between her art and her body.

  • the poem tells the stories of 10 black women, touching upon experience of love and loneliness, family and independence, sexuality and pleasure, domestic violence and the interconnectedness of body and identity.

  • Shange's work transgresses limitations of genre and nation and has remained an inspiration for black artists to this day.

"bein alive & bein a woman & bein colored is a metaphysical / dilemma / i haven't conquered yet" (45)

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Film (1982)

Commentary (2015)

Black Women in Hip hop and Popular Music

Nicki Minaj - "Anaconda"

  • from being represented to representing

  • playing and breaking with stereotypes

  • resisting and reverting outside gazes

The 2010s have brought a new force to the music business; black female rappers and pop musicians have become major players on the mainstream market.
They have become main artists, writers and producers after a decade in which the presence of women was most visible in the role of the dancer/vixen in rap videos, often objectified and oversexualized.

While profiting from consumer culture, including the consumption of the black female body, these artists have instrumentalized outside gazes, betting on, playing with and breaking stereotypical representations of black female beauty and sexuality.

​“I wanted to create a song that embraced curvy women. I wanted to be sexual but be playful with it. And I wanted it to be so melodic that even if you don’t understand English you could still go along with the melody and you would have no idea about all the raunchy shit I’m saying — I get a kick out of that.”

Cardi B. + Megan Thee Stallion - "WAP"

  • record for biggest US debut on YouTube

  • 55 million views in one week

  • Like few other relases that have come before it, WAP has received not only worldwide media attention, but ongoing scrutiny for its unapologetic exploration of sexuality and female pleasure.

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Female Rappers through the Ages

culture ever since the mid- 1970s, when the culture got its start in the South Bronx, and they represent still. They have been and still are B-girls, women breakers, graffiti artists, dee- jays, and emcees. Today, we can add to the mix women writing and thinking about the culture who call themselves hip-hop feminists." (Pough 2007)

Tricia Rose

One of the leading scholars on hip hop argues that emancipation has only been found in terms of money and sexuality and maintains that mainstream hip hop has abandoned its original function of resistance culture; especially when it caters to a predominantly white audience.
Her book The Hip Hop Wars (2008) aims to supply young black readers with "critical tools" to consume, critique and question mainstream hip hop and the representation of blackness and black bodies.

Femininities*, Being Black & Queer

Stonewall Riots (1969)

  • A series of protests and demonstrations in response to police brutality against the LGBTQ+ community in New York City 

  • Origin of modern Pride Festivals 

  • Led by trans women of colour (arguably the most marginalized members of the community at the time and still to this day)

Fatal shootings of transgender
Health Protections for Transgender Peopl
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  • Black trans women: at intersection of being discriminated against due to race and gender identity


  • Notable personalities: Marsha P. Johnson & Sylvia Rivera (Stonewall riots), Laverne Cox (actress)


Ballroom Scene

  • African-American and Latin American underground LGBTQ+ subcultre

  • countercultural phenomenon

  • born out of necessity, as black people were often excluded from ballroom competitions


further reading

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  • Invisible Scratch Lines: An Interview with Julie Dash - Maori Karamael Holmes

  • The Meaning of Motherhood in Black Culture and Black Mother-Daughter Relationships - Patricia Hill Collins

  • Black Feminist Thought - Patricia Hill Collins

  • "Sara 'Saartjie' Baartman" - South African History Online

  • “Let’s Have A Sex Talk”: The Eras Of Sex Talk By Black Women In Hip-Hop - Dalyah Jones

  • "What It Do, Shorty?: Women, Hip-Hop, and a Feminist Agenda", Gwendoly D. Pough, Black Women, Gender + Families

Short Stories

The material on this page was compiled, created, and arranged by April Tschopp, Mara Baccaro, and Selina Duschletta. 

Complete bibliography and list of references.