Coachella Bound

Packing for Coachella

For the second year I’ve got my bags packed and I’m ready to run around the desert for three days sweating out of every inch of my skin in order to soak in as much music as possible. You guessed it: Coachella.

I’ve got a plane to catch in a couple of hours for which I can’t check in, my chargers are still strewn across my room, and because I love myself I just spilled a full cup of coffee all over my comforter and jeans. But by this time tomorrow I’ll be pitching a tent and drinking a beer with one of my best friends of 12 years. So it’s hard to get too worked up about anything.

The current issue at hand is making sure I’ve packed everything I think I’ll need. As you can see my suitcase is ready to go with nary a flower crown or crop top in sight, but of course I have the sinking suspicion I’ve left something out. But Molly, you’re thinking, if there are no flower crowns what on earth could you be packing?

  1. Tickets. I cannot stress this one enough, and really I shouldn’t have to, but I checked about fourteen times to make sure i had the most important thing packed safely: the tickets.. Despite the fact that I’ve never lost tickets to any major event, I’m constantly double and triple checking because I’m so certain I’m going to leave these at home. Seeing as I have both tickets and the car camping pass, I would be in deep shit if I didn’t double check.
  2. Layers. Things I didn’t know before going last year include the fact that the sun will scorch your bare shoulders if you dare to taunt it with bare flesh, and yet by midnight in the desert if you don’t have a jacket you’ll be colder than a white walker freezing into a million shattered pieces. Nas brought out Lauryn Hill at the end of his set which was amazing, but just minutes prior to that I had been contemplating heading back to the tent due to insufficient coverage. I would have never lived it down if I had wound up giving in and missing the end of that set.
  3. Body suits & bathing suits. Ok, so I’m not lame enough for a flower crown, but I do have to get into the spirit somewhat. How am I gonna scream along with Drake in my regular everyday outfit? I’m a big fan of a body suit or one-piece under some shorts.
  4. Snacks, snacks, snacks. At music festivals I’m basically the mom who constantly has snacks in her bag, because you never know when hunger will strike. You’re surrounded by food, but you don’t want to have to drop $10 on a slice of pizza every time you’re feeling a little worse for the wear. So of course I tucked some granola bars and mini boxes of cereal in my bag. Last year I carried around cheesy crackers and granola bars all weekend, and convinced The Boy that we would want mini bagels and salami in the morning. I will forever consider it my greatest victory that he admitted I was right about needing food and snacks around.
  5. Willpower and an extra battery. The willpower is for when you want to send everyone snaps of how great Coachella is but you know your battery is gonna die if you do. The extra battery is for when your willpower gives out and your phone dies.

My bonus this year? I got a sun shower that I’m nerdily excited about because it means I can somewhat shower without having to wait in the insane lines for camping showers.

And of course, there are the things you can leave at home.

  1. Last year’s Coachella tee
  2. Wedges and heels (I want to weep when I see women in heels—you’re on a grassy field walking around for 12 hours!)
  3. Tanning oil (just a burn baby burn situation waiting to happen)
  4. Debbie downers
  5. Your offensive American Indian inspired headdress

See you on the other side, probably burned and slightly worse for the wear but happy as can be!

Advertisements

‘Ask Me’ End of Year Recap

Back in March I posed the question to friends and family: what would you recommend I do? I wanted to push myself to try new things, but not just the easy things that I had on my own list. Suggestions for books, recipes, trips and activities flooded my inbox. Initially my goal was to finish my full list by the end of the year.

My life was derailed just a wee bit along the way, so I definitely didn’t get as much done as I wanted, but I guess that’s to be expected. I’m trying to not beat myself up, because I took some time away from this project starting in August to take care of myself and do the things that I’d been burning to do.

I did manage to get a number of good asks in, and I’m going to keep going through the list in 2015! I want to inject some new life into it, so I’ll be asking for new submissions, but in the meantime wanted to recap all of the things I did off my list.

Top 5: The Asks I Loved

  1. WATCH Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight
    • Courtesy of Film Guru Feinstein, this suggestion came at a perfect time when I was looking for movies to escape into.
  2. LEARN to make donuts
    • This one required a bit of an investment because I didn’t have a rolling pin, cookie cutters or a thermometer. Once I got the goods together, though, I was unstoppable. It definitely requires a lot of time (8 hours of rising dough) and a messy kitchen but donuts have become my new favorite party favor.
  3. READ something important by a WOC
    • I think I might’ve cheated on “important” but I used this as an excuse to read Bad Feminist. While it’s not the best writing out there, Gay has important things to say. Already wrote some brief thoughts about it here.
  4. MAKE Eastern European Cuisine
    • I made borsht. Turns out I love borsht. My roommates probably weren’t pumped that my cutting boards were all dyed bright pink but it was worth it. I also made blinis and chicken schnitzel, and I’m not sure if they count but were delicious as well. (It was a bad day, I got bad news, so I cooked all three at once.)
  5. WATCH Doctor Who
    • I only watched the post-2005 Doctor Who because that’s what’s on Netflix, but I feel like this was one I needed to do to get the whole Doctor Who phenomenon. Am I a diehard fan now? Nah. But I had a lot of fun watching a few seasons with the Doctor, his ladyfriend, and the TARDIS.

The Ones I Finished: 21

  • WATCH Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight
  • EAT sea urchin
  • WATCH an episode of a Chinese soap opera
  • MAKE a list of all the ideas you get
  • READ anything John Updike
  • LISTEN “Fineshrine” by Purity Ring
  • MAKE this sangria recipe http://www.pinterest.com/pin/269441990178564804/
  • WATCH Lost
  • MAKE a list of the goals you want to accomplish in the next three years
  • LEARN to make donuts
  • LEARN to make fudge
  • MAKE friends with a stranger
  • READ The Tao Te Ching
  • WATCH Doctor Who
  • WATCH Waking Life
  • LEARN Meditation
  • VISIT Boston, MA
  • MAKE Eastern European Cuisine
  • READ something important by a WOC
  • VISIT the Palace of Fine Arts
  • LISTEN Nicholas Jaar’s BBC One Essential Mix

Still to Go: 27

  • READ Norwegian Wood
  • MAKE a cheap, easy hummus recipe
  • LEARN rollerskatedancing
  • WATCH Shameless & True Detective
  • EAT this recipe, it’s delicious! http://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/2013/04/crunchy-cashew-thai-quinoa-salad-with-ginger-peanut-dressing/#comment-5123
  • LEARN to sew a bathing suit
  • VISIT the Hotel Del Coronado
  • MAKE a bracelet for yourself you’d actually like to wear
  • READ The Goldfinch
  • VISIT the nude area of Baker Beach
  • MAKE samosas
  • EAT fried crickets
  • WATCH a plant grow from a seedling
  • WATCH The Battleship Ptomkin
  • MAKE Tyler Florence’s Beef Wellington
  • LEARN sous vide cooking
  • VISIT The Legion of Honor
  • LEARN Muay Thai Kickboxing
  • WATCH The Feynman Series
  • LEARN jump rope tricks
  • MAKE flash fiction – a short story under 1000 words
  • MAKE cinnamon roll pancakes http://blog.moodifoodi.com/2013/11/recipes-cinnamon-roll-pancake.html
  • WATCH Howl’s Moving Castle
  • LEARN how to make a chocolate croissant
  • VISIT House of Air
  • LEARN to write server-side code

Discarded as facetious or not feasible: 8

Examples include “learn fire breathing”, “eat your greens”, and “make a project that doesn’t suck so much.”

The Pop Culture Feels, Pt. 2

As promised, more feeling-inducing pop culture. This time, however, I’ve tackled a different beast.

The Inspirational: Pop Culture for Kicking Ass and Setting the World Straight

I do, in fact, do more than just wallow, and lately I’ve found myself reading books & watching clips that give me a different kind of feels. I like to dub them “Miracle moments.” You know what I’m talking about: you’re sitting on the couch, eating rice cakes crumbs off your sweatpants and channel flipping, and all of a sudden the Miracle speech comes on and you find yourself yelling along with Herb Brooks “Tonight we skate with them. Tonight we stay with them, and we shut them down!”

Obviously Miracle is the greatest inspirational movie of all time so there’s no point even debating that. But there are smaller Miracle moments, more honest & personal, that get me fired up in all kinds of different ways.

Pop Culture for Inspiring

 

“Flawless” Beyonce

I woke up like this, I woke up like this
We flawless, ladies tell ’em
Say I look so good tonight

A week doesn’t go by that I don’t power sing along to this, sneering into the mirror that I do look so good tonight. This song is the fire. Beyonce dropped her album like it was nothing at midnight on a Friday, finally giving us the anthem we deserve. On “Flawless” she growls with confidence as she warns us to bow down. I beseech you to give yourself over to this song, and let it carry you on a wave of feels.

I was lucky enough to go to the On The Run tour just after my breakup, and it might have been the best possible therapy there was. For me, “Flawless” was the best moment of the night. The flashing Feminist lights we came to know and love at the VMAs. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie laying down the law about what it is to be a feminist. And Bey, standing there, holding it down and imploring us to post up, flawless.

And let’s never forget that I been preaching the gospel of Bey, long before she was rocking the feminist sign in public.

 

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

“We should be able to say, ‘This is my truth,’ and have that truth stand without a hundred clamoring voices shouting, giving the impression that multiple truths cannot coexist.”

I’ve been making my way through Bad Feminist, reading Gay’s fabulous book of essays slowly as I blast through fiction left and right. This is the kind of book I wish would make it onto high school reading lists. Is it the best of the best when it comes to writing? Not quite, and there are some parts where Gay’s redundancy shouts over the important ideas she’s sharing. But what she’s saying is important, and the writing thoughtful.

Gay has a lot to say about what it is to be a feminist, a woman of color, a large woman, a child of immigrants, and a queer-identifying woman. But some of her most compelling moments come when she reminds us, and herself, that it’s okay to fail. I count myself among the titular “bad feminists” of the world, and the reminder of multiple truths and acceptable failures is one I could use from time to time.

“B” by Sarah Kay (as seen in her TED Talk “If I should have a daughter”)

“I want her to look at the world through the underside of a glass-bottom boat, to look through a microscope at the galaxies that exist on the pinpoint of a human mind, because that’s the way my mom taught me. That there’ll be days like this. There’ll be days like this, my momma said.”

If you’ve ever needed the inspiration to write something truly wonderful, look no further than spoken word poet Sarah Kay. I was introduced to Kay by a TED Talk (bear with me), which she opens with “B.” She packs the joy, laughter, heartbreak and fear of both growing up female and raising a (hypothetical) daughter into just a few minutes. It’s worth a few minutes of your time just to allow yourself to be taken away by her storytelling.

And because I can’t stop at one quote from Kay: “She’s gonna learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.” If nothing else, she’s my inspiration in knowing that some other kick ass ladies out there “get it,” whatever that means.

Watch her here. 

 Sports Moments

 “This is our fucking city”

As I found myself poring through the mental archives of inspirational movies I’ve watched recently, I struggled to find any that resonated as clearly as the aforementioned songs & snippets, or made me want to kick ass and change the world. I kept coming back to sports movies–I had recently watched A League of Their Own, Billy Elliot, and, of course, Miracle. But what can come across as artificial and manipulative in sports movies is exactly what inspires and connects people in actual sports.

Last spring as Boston was trying to find a semblance of normalcy in the aftermath of the Marathon bombing, David Ortiz took to the field and uttered those five unforgettable words. “This is our fucking city.” A beloved player defending a beloved city in the wake of something it was impossible to make sense of.

There is something about sports as a binding agent that gives them the power to inspire, either by way of victory on the field or in moments of terrible sadness. Now is this strictly a sports moment? No. Neither was three nights earlier the crowd taking over singing the National Anthem for Rene Rancourt at the first post-marathon Bruins game. These moments inspire, invoke some sort of visceral feeling, but aren’t truly about the sports. But then again, neither is Miracle.

The Pop Culture Feels, Pt. 1

Pop culture escapism holds a special place in my heart, because I think it serves a very real purpose. When you’re numb from bad news or tired of crying over a bottle of cider, there’s always another episode of Bob’s Burgers or BoJack Horseman. A bad hangover can be watched away with a Will Ferrell marathon. I myself recently indulged in Mystery Men on a particularly torturous Sunday morning. I owe a lot to the type of pop culture that lets you escape from your immediate reality.

And then, there’s all the rest. Pop culture that forces, as us Internet kids would call it, The Feels. There are some pieces of pop culture that you’re meant to rub in open wounds and let sting you. You know them when you come across them: the end to Of Mice and Men, anything sung by Billie Holiday, when G-Baby dies. (Okay that’s an inappropriate juxtaposition, sorry Ms. Holiday, but losing G-Baby was one of my earliest scarring moments.)

I was going to share my Good Songs for Shit Times playlist, but that would be like opening my diary and letting you in. So instead, I thought I’d share some of the snippets of books, songs & movies that have struck a chord with me recently.

To prevent this from being stupid long, I’m breaking this up into different categories that I’ll share over a few days.

The Sad: Pop Culture for Wallowing

In the interest of keeping it wistful and melancholy per my last few posts, I’m starting with the sad snippets that pair well with a comforter cocoon and long sad phone calls to your best friend and/or mom.

Pop Culture for Wallowing

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

abyss, n.

There are times when I doubt everything. When I regret everything you’ve taken from me, everything I’ve given you, and the waste of all the time I’ve spent on us

corrode, v.

I spend all this time building a relationship. Then one night I left the window open, and it started to rust

I don’t know that I would recommend this book to everyone, but you’ll find yourself somewhere in the pages, whether you’re currently in the throes of a relationship or watching one crumble.

I picked this up from the dusty rows of a used bookstore, having seen it recommended before. As I sat down to dinner alone that night I started thumbing through it. Five pages in I felt the lump in my throat, and 10 pages later I was sobbing into my chicken tortilla soup.

Levithan details a relationship through a series of dictionary entries. It covers the moments of intimacy, light-hearted observations, and life-ruining revelations that come with a relationship. The book only takes about an hour start to finish, so it’s perfect if you’re looking for somewhat shallow & quick feels.

“Love Me Like You” Ella Eyre

“I guess I’ll love you forever, I guess that’s all my fault”

I recently started listening to Ella Eyre, the unmistakable voice behind Rudimental’s “Waiting All Night.” She has a voice that won’t quit and sings a slew of great shower karaoke songs. “Love Me Like You” made it into my regular rotation just post breakup, because it’s heartbreaking and also a lifeblood-girl-anthem power source. It recounts the slap in the face feel of realizing you’re the one who has to do the moving on, because your ex’s boat has already sailed. I also recommend “If I Go” for the restless in love, and “Deeper” for when you’re a little less in love than you should be.

“I Will Fall” from Nashville

Just when I think I’ve let you go / your song’s playing on the radio

And just like that it rushes back, / every part of you

I’m not even embarrassed that the Nashville soundtrack has crept its way into my top ten listened to albums (do the kids still call them albums?). T-Bone Burnett pulled together some incredible music for this show’s first season. The songs fit the narrative, but like the Burnett produced Oh Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, they stand alone as well. And no, I’m not saying the music on this show are as good as that soundtrack.

But this song, oh my, this song. The harmonizing, the heartbreak, the pleading to just please stay away because I will fall if you come around. It will resonate with anyone who has ever had to truly get over someone.

The Spectacular Now

Sutter: I almost just killed you and you wanna know if I’m okay?

Aimee: Yeah, I wanna make sure that you’re okay.

Sutter: What the fuck is wrong with you? Do you not see that I’m bad for you?

This is somewhat cheating, because in addition to wallowing to this movie I use it to live out my Miles Teller fantasies. The first time I watched this I developed a huge crush on Teller, and I recently realized it may be because he reminds me of a boy I used to crush on, so there’s that.

My go to wallow movie would typically be Eternal Sunshine, so that’s my most honest recommendation. I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch that alone, however, since the last time I watched it was on an air mattress in my ex’s childhood bedroom. So instead I’ve wallowed to Spectacular, a charmingly heart-rending movie about high school love. Teller and Shailene Woodley capture the sadness and vulnerability of a first love.

Plus it has one of my favorite wallowing lines, delivered by the perfect Brie Larson: “You’ll always be my favorite ex-boyfriend.”

Podcasts

Podcasts have come to the rescue since I’ve been in San Francisco, riding buses left and right. At home I’m so quick to hop in the car anytime I need to get somewhere, and in my car I always blast music (just a little too loudly). But here I spend so much time walking to the bus, waiting for the bus, riding the bus, I cycle through my favorite playlists pretty quickly. One solution is to get new music so I don’t get bored, and never you fear I’m all over that. But I also love to listen to books on tape or radio shows. Enter the podcast.

I used to be so wary of podcasts since in my mind they belonged to the realm of the nerd, sitting in front of his computer spouting information no one wants to hear. They fell in the same category as bad college radio. Obviously that’s not true, since there are podcasts on just about any subject you could ever be interested in.

Cheaper than a book on tape, and more varied as well, podcasts are like radio without the advertisements. Stories and music on demand, if you will. I don’t know why it took me so long to get on board with podcasts as brilliant option for commuting and traveling, but now I’m hooked. I can bop along to the music of All Songs Considered, or listen to Grantland writers discuss the weeks entertainment releases. When I was stuck in the Atlanta airport for 3 hours I listened to a podcast of the best music of the past decade, which included discussions and samples of the songs.

I realize this is a post that should have been written in 2006. Sue me, I’m behind the times. However, I’m happy riding the bus while listening to podcasts with a look of late-to-the-game wonder in my eyes as I’m fed the 40 minutes of entertainment I want.

A few of my favorite podcasts? I’m a big NPR fan, so I love All Songs Considered for new music and music conversations. This American Life, on the other hand, is great for some good stories. When I venture away from NPR I like the Grantland Network Hollywood Prospectus podcasts, although all of theirs are good, particularly for sports fans who don’t have all day to sit in front of Sports Center. Other channels I’ll download just an episode or two from, like TED or various yoga & wellness podcasts.

So for those of you who are laughing thinking “Oh Molly, it’s cute how she finally listens to podcasts,” do you have any favorites? Or better yet, any recommendations for how to pass the time on the bus?

She Runs The World: Beyonce and Feminism

Recently I had a long-delayed bus ride and a longer-delayed train ride during which I had to keep myself amused, so naturally I listened to a lot of Beyonce. Now normally when I have a long Beyonce jam-sesh I’m in the car and I’m belting out the lyrics in my worst Beyonce voice. You better believe I do a mean rendition of “I Was Here,” although my “Halo” could use some work. As I was sitting on the bus, and at Penn station, and on the train, I started thinking about Beyonce as a cultural producer rather than as the person who I most want to be in this world. And I started thinking about what it means to listen to Beyonce as a woman and, beyond that, a feminist. After all, Beyonce sings primarily about being a woman in a heterosexual relationship, with the occasional power ballad or club anthem thrown in. However she is also widely acknowledged as a badass diva extraordinaire, and one not to be trifled with. So as I sat listening to her belting that she’d rather die young than live her life without me (yes, I believe it was directed towards me specifically), I couldn’t help but think about what Beyonce means to women. Is she a feminist?

Destiny’s Child Roots

I’ll try not to linger too long on the Destiny’s Child days, because I think it’s hard to judge Beyonce on what she did 11+ years ago when she was still young enough to sing a song called Bootylicious. However it’s fairly undeniable that Destiny’s Child did something pretty important when they were around. Though they were not the first to do so (they continue a legacy somewhere between the Supremes and TLC), they were a group of strong, unapologetic women who were talented and confident enough to keep the limelight on them. No doubt when the group released Survivor the world was aware they were not girls to be trifled with.

Other songs of theirs, however, seemed decidedly simpering and hollow. Cater 2 U might be one of my least favorite songs ever, and not because I hate on love songs or the idea of giving selflessly in a relationship (I’m not a heartless freak). I just think that the group that took such pride in female independence and forcing men to own their actions could do better than, “Let me run your bathwater” and “I’ll keep my figure right, I’ll keep my hair fixed, keep rocking the hottest outfits.” Come on, Kelly drips herself against a car and sings “I know whatever I’m not fulfilling another woman is willing.” If my man ever told me to step it up because another woman would run his bathwater and keep her hair fixed he’d find himself free to pursue that other woman far far away from me.

Fast forward to 2011 and the album 4. The album may not have been as widely praised or critically successful as her previous releases, but it was undeniable that Beyonce now knew she was a badass woman that any man would be lucky to have, bathwater or not. In some songs she seemed to trumpet her love of her husband, but there was always a hint or more of undeniable female swag. On “Countdown” in between the touting of her love and the praise she heaps on her man, she sings, “Don’t ever let me go, say it real loud if you’re fly, If you leave me you’re out of your mind.” It’s clear she knows that she brings as much to the table as her man, and in my mind that’s a far cry from Cater 2 U.

Sasha Fierce & Ego

With the release of her third solo album, Beyonce introduced the world to her alter-ego, Sasha Fierce. Accompanied by a duo of backing dancers, she strutted and swagged her way to the top of the charts. For those of us who read gossip magazines, there was a disconnect between her “Single Ladies” anthem and the fact that she was a recently married woman, but none of us were willing to deny that she was indeed fierce.

In my mind, one of the undeniably “fierce” songs on the album was “Ego.” At first I was hesitant. A woman singing about her man’s big ego and how sexy it is? Seemed like the kind of song that could serve as kindling for a big ass ego fire. But the more I listened the more I grew to love the song, not for any grand musical genius, but because it touched on that same “Countdown” vibe: my husband is awesome, I’m awesome, and we just work. Who can argue with that? I think that if I had been in the spotlight since I was 17 I’d be curled up in a ball somewhere right now, but instead Beyonce sounds more sure than ever on “Ego” that she’s a catch (And let’s face it, she is. I’d date her). With sex appeal just a touch of attitude she sings, “I talk like this cause I can back it up. I got a big ego, such a huge ego. But he love my big ego.” On someone else it might sound arrogant (like, for example, the Kanye verse on the remix), but she pulls it off by reminding us that “he” loves her big ego, oh and don’t forget she’s got the goods to back it up.

You may not worship at the temple of Beyonce the way I do, but I think there’s something to be said for that kind of message being out there. Too often female empowerment in popular culture takes the form of man-bashing or pure sexuality. Beyonce, instead, tells girls that they can love who they are, that they can know how incredible they are, and that the man worth writing love songs about will appreciate that strength and knowledge. How’s that for a sexy message?

Demanding Respect

Beyond just knowing that she is worth something, Beyonce tends to demand respect in her music. ‘Irreplaceable’ is a prime example of that, although certainly not the only one. Any girl I know who has been cheated on or wronged gets immense satisfaction out of singing along to “I could have another you by tomorrow, so don’t you ever for a second get to thinking you’re irreplaceable.” What’s interesting about her confidence is that not unlike J. Lo in “Love Don’t Cost a Thing,” much of Beyonce’s confidence and self-assurance comes from her monetary power. She, like many other women of power, derives much of that power from her money and her sexuality; it’s easier to demand respect and kick a man to the curb when you have the resources, and when you know the power of your own sexuality. However, the same could be said for many men who derive power from money or good looks, so it’s hardly easy to fault her for falling into that trap.

In addition to “Irreplaceable” songs like “If I Were A Boy”, “Best Thing I Never Had”, and “Single Ladies” are all brimming with Beyonce’s swagtastic demands for respect. “If I Were A Boy”, despite all its shortcomings and the strange way in which she switches between the things she could get away with and the things she knows a man should do, tells the men of the world exactly what it looks like to respect a woman: “I’d listen to her ’cause I know how it hurts when you lose the one you wanted ’cause he’s taking you for granted.”

On “Best Thing I Never Had” she lets her betrayer know “I’m gonna always be the best thing you never had. I bet it sucks to be you right now.” She knows she’s the best, and doesn’t stick around to hear anything else. And seriously, you cheated on Beyonce, it probably does suck to be you right now. Even her slightly scary growl on “Ring the Alarm” warns that you best not be the man who wrongs Beyonce, because she’s not putting up with anything less than the utmost respect and love.

And then there’s “Single Ladies.” Oh, “Single Ladies”, how you call to me. I know that a lot of the discussions of feminism and Beyonce have arisen around “Girls” but for me this was the song where I first thought “Wow, she really is not messing around with the whole I am woman hear me roar thing.” Sure, it’s a club song. Sure, it’s got a silly and fabulous music video. Sure, a million scorned women have probably sung along badly to this song. But when it comes right down to it, it’s the ultimate in demanding respect.

Before you interrupt, I know that “putting a ring on it” is not everyone’s goal, and doesn’t mean respect, and maybe there’s something to be said about Beyonce playing into gender and relationship expectations (Hey B, you could buy him a ring). But there’s also something intensely satisfying about hearing her tell her man, “You can’t be mad at me, ’cause if you like it then you should’ve put a ring on it. Don’t be mad when you see that he want it.” Not ready to deliver Beyonce to infinity and beyond? “If you don’t, you’ll be alone, and like a ghost I’ll be gone.” That’s a woman who knows what she wants and, better yet, what she deserves. Respect, and a shiny ring.

Love Ballads

So this may be where people are thinking, “But hey isn’t this the same woman who sings ‘Halo’ and ‘1+1’? Those are so not chick-anthems.” Okay, so maybe not. But I don’t think to be a feminist you have to sing chick anthems and only sing better off alone songs (although “Me, Myself and I” is a fabulous better on my own song). What Beyonce does is sing the (heterosexual) female experience, from staggering heartbreak and soaring love, to moments of introspection and relationship musings. Sometimes you feel like you’ve found someone perfect and they’re your “saving grace,” as Beyonce belts on Halo. Empowering women doesn’t mean pretending you’ve always done everything on your own, forsaking relationships and man-bashing. It does mean being honest, and if nothing else many of her love songs are the epitome of stark honesty. Admitting you need someone doesn’t make you un-feminist, and it certainly doesn’t make you less of a badass. In fact, on 4‘s “I Miss You” Beyonce sings “It hurts my pride to tell you how I feel, but I still need to. Why is that?” What it says to me, in tandem with her other music, is that she is willing to sing about real relationships good and bad, doubts and confidence.

Girls

I’ve saved the most-discussed for last, and “Run the World (Girls)” was nothing if not a point of discussion. Was it feminist? Did it promote the idea of a female-driven world that doesn’t exist? Globally, what is her responsibility? Is it problematic that her video made use of African dancers without explicitly acknowledging their role in the choreography?

For example, one article discussed the idea that her sexual dance moves negated her girl power message:

Does the ultimate message of female empowerment resonate with audiences, or are they too distracted by Beyoncé’s obvious pandering to the male gaze to take it seriously, or even notice it at all? After all, men joke all the time about how hard it is to think when all their blood has rushed south. And it’s hard to project a powerful persona when one is so subservient to the ideals patriarchy has set out for women: perfect hair, a perfect face and a “bootylicious” figure.

The article seemed to argue that Beyonce was pandering to a male ideal of beauty and only subverting norms when it served her. There may be some truth to that. But it ignores the idea that Beyonce may be one of those woman who is trying to own her sexuality. Aha, but is “owning your sexuality” just a post-feminist ploy to make you feel like you’re making a choice? I hope not, because I like to think I am a woman who genuinely owns my sexuality, from the clothing choices I make right down to my uterus. You can tell me heels and a “bootylicious” figure aren’t feminist and I can tell you to shove it.

Additionally, people were highly critical of the idea that girls don’t run the world, finding it problematic to suggest that they do without highlighting the problems faced by women around the world.

People were quick to discuss the song, in part, I think, because by the time Beyonce released the song people had come to recognize her as a powerful woman in a position to influence hoards of girls. There is an expectation around Beyonce in her post-Bootylicious days that she will be something of a role model to girls. Because there is no such expectation around Britney Spears or Katy Perry, both are free to say whatever they want about girls. But when Beyonce says that girls run the world, people listen and question whether that’s true, or whether it’s aspirational.

I’m not dumb, and I don’t actually think Beyonce is either. We both know that neither girls nor women run the world. But does that mean we shouldn’t aspire to? There are a hell of a lot more women helping run the world today than there were 30 years ago, and more then than 30 years before that. Should we only sing songs called “Run the World (Boys)” just because the majority of the politicians and bankers that we see are men? Not a song I’m trying to listen to, call me crazy.

So is she a feminist?

In the end, I don’t have any grand conclusions about Beyonce. She sings about relationships from a female standpoint, and she does it well. She continually expresses the fact that she knows her worth, and continues to demand mutual respect in relationships. I think, in the context of her subject matter, that’s not too shabby. True, she still plays into the male gaze and uses her money and sexuality as forms of power. But there are also messages of confidence and female strength throughout her music, and even her videos tend to be more varied and less blatantly sexualized that one might expect. And furthermore, she is an important female voice (a black female voice at that) and perhaps it’s better if we listen to her as an important but flawed female figure we can learn something.

I’m not willing to say for Beyonce whether or not she’s a feminist, and she herself has declined to call herself feminist. But I’d be more than happy to go on a road trip with my future daughters and listen to nothing but Beyonce. In fact, I intend to. And they’ll be getting an earful about feminism and pop culture, you’re welcome.

(Image Source: 1)

Running Playlist: Rap and Hip-Hop

My iPod is the sole reason I’m able to run

The last few days I’ve been listening pretty much exclusively to my running playlists and Beyonce (more on that to come). But one of my favorite playlists is my Rap & Hip-Hop running playlist. There are definitely days I want to indulge in guilty pleasures or an eclectic mix of music, but more often than not this is the playlist that keeps me the most pumped up. I’ve found that a lot of people who put together hip-hop playlists for running focus on the obvious radio rap (Kanye, T.I.). There’s nothing wrong with that (although there might be something wrong with the amount of Black Eyed Peas that shows up on those playlists), but I tend to favor a bit more variety. Besides, Kanye makes appearances on my other playlists, so I like to dial him down here. I’ve also left off any songs that I previously posted on other playlists.

I know rap and hip-hop isn’t everyone’s thing. To that I say, you’re just not listening to the right songs and artists, because I really believe there is something for everyone. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you listen exclusively to country and obscure modern operas. If that’s the case, probably just stop reading now.

I’ll throw my usual disclaimer on this playlist by noting that not all of these songs are the *best* that rap & hip-hop have to offer. They will, however, get your ass running. It is a longer playlist, so feel free to pick and choose the songs that work best for you.

Running Playlist:
Rap & Hip-Hop

  • D-Block – Mighty, Mighty D-Block : There’s nothing like a good chant set to some militaristic drumming to get you feeling ready to run. Again, this is near the beginning because it’s the type of song I like to listen to while I jog over to the track.
  • 50 Cent – In Da Club : Because no playlist is complete without a song that could be played on repeat at a frat party. Or maybe that’s just me.
  • Beastie Boys – Intergalactic : I’m not the biggest Beastie Boys fan (I can appreciate Paul’s Boutique without loving everything about it), but I do love running to this song, and it’s a good way to mix up the style of a playlist.
  • Outkast – B.O.B. : Outkast has several songs that could have made this list, but B.O.B. has a higher BPM and a go-go-go feel to it that makes it perfect for picking up the pace.
  • Dr. Dre – Forgot About Dre (Feat. Eminem) : There’s a lot of Dre that’s good to run too, but this is another one of those shoulder wiggling songs that makes me look really stupid while I’m running and ensures that I’m having a great time. Plus I always like a little “I’m way better than you” when I’m running.
  • Brand Nubian – Concerto in X Minor : From the first “We got a really big show” to the last “I’m outta here” you can’t not love this song. Or you can and you’re just the worst. This is one of those songs I love listening to every single time, and the lyrics are just spot on. The funky jazzy vibe is just an added bonus.
  • Big Boi – Daddy Fat Sax : This whole album was pretty much my jam for an entire summer (Tangerine & Shutterbug got a lot of play time), but Daddy Fat Sax in particular has that sassy beat that’s great to run to. It’s shorter as well, and helps to keep song length varied and interesting.
  • Gang Star – Check the Technique : I love California Soul (particularly the Marlena Shaw version), so Premier sampling it had me on board from the start. Plus maybe you’ll remember to have good running technique? Okay that’s a stretch, I know, it’s just a really good song.
  • The Roots – Here I Come : You will be pumped up by this song. The Roots will set your feet on fire and get you moving. If they don’t, you and I need to have a very serious talk.
  • Killer Mike & Big Boi – ADIDAS : So maybe they’re not dreaming about sports, but tell me that beat doesn’t make you want to smile while you run. Awkward smile-dance-running is my specialty.
  • Young Jeezy – Crazy World : Okay let’s just agree that Young Jeezy has a silly sounding voice. But then again so do a lot of people (I’m looking at you Bjork), and none of them have made anything this fun to run to.
  • Ludacris – Move Bitch : In the 7th grade when I still thought I was a badass (I got over that quickly), I was feuding with another equally badass 7th grader, and this song kind of became my anthem, as songs so often do in 7th grade. In the intervening years I’ve become considerably more self-aware, but I haven’t abandoned this as an awesome pump up and get mad song.
  • Jay-Z – Moment of Clarity : At this point if you’re trying to be in the zone it doesn’t get much better than this. Some of his more popular songs might be a little more MTV generation approved (Izzo, something from the abominable Blueprint 3), but in my opinion Moment of Clarity is one of the best running or workout songs ever. (Also worth considering: Lucifer)
  • Ghostface Killah – Apollo Kids (Feat. Raekwon) : For a while I had a bunch of Raekwon on my running playlist, but he was recently ousted because honestly a lot of the songs just weren’t that fun for me to run to. As a way of killing two birds with one stone I added this into my rotation, because it’s got two people I love and also includes the line “Ayo this rap is like ziti.” Say what, Ghostface?
  • Freeway – Freeway’s Beard : It’s a song about His. Own. Beard. Can you get any better than that? “Plenty beards Em could’ve jumped up in and vanished / but he picked mine, best beard on the planet.”
  • T.I. – Respect This Hustle : There’s a reason T.I. makes it onto a lot of running playlists: it just works. But I like a good spelling lesson, therefore I give you the song that demands respect while giving a school-worthy lesson on hustling.
  • Andre Nickatina – Ayo for Yayo : While I don’t condone getting drugged up before a run, I do condone listening to this song on repeat. And mouthing along while you run, ensuring that everyone at the track/gym/running route will stare at you.
  • Dilated Peoples – This Way : If you hadn’t noticed by now I love the Save the Best For Last mentality when it comes to running playlists. This is a bit of a staple on some running playlists, and for good reason. Motivational? Catchy? Unexpected use of a piano? Yes, yes, and yes.

More suggestions:

  • Wu Tang Clan – Protect Ya Neck
  • Talib Kweli – Ms. Hill
  • The Roots – Adrenaline!
  • CunninLynguists – 616 Rewind
  • Kid Cudi – cudderisback
  • The Knux – Bang Bang
  • Bun B – Damn I’m Cold
  • Jean Grae – Fall Back
  • Lil’ Wayne – Got Money
  • Rick Ross – Push It
  • The Roots – The Seed (2.0)

Good Cool Down/Stretching Songs (or warm up):

  • Lil’ Wayne – Let The Beat Build
  • The Roots – The Fire : In the interest of diversity I tried to keep each artist to a minimum, but I don’t really think you can ever have too much Questo. I leave you with, “You don’t say good luck, you say don’t give up, it’s the fire inside ya.” Preach.

I don’t know why this playlist is so much longer than my other ones (and this is after I left some songs off), but it’s certainly fun to run to. Even if you’re just looking for a good rap/hip-hop playlist that’s on the upbeat side I recommend taking a listen. I know this list skews towards less music from the last few years, and I don’t think has anything from the last year, so is there anything more recent I’m missing? Other suggestions for good rap and hip-hop to run to?

(Image Source: http://fitbottomedgirls.com/2012/03/our-top-10-podcasts-to-move-and-groove-to/5/)