Rapper Ana Tijoux On “Garbage Culture”, Feminism & Why Rebellion Is Necessary

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2014 was a monumental time for modern feminism. Monumental in the sense that conversations around gender issues have become so front and center, that we believe there is another wave of feminism emerging, and it is going to include men, LGBT communities, minorities and people of color. Feminism today is more about intersectionality than it is about winning the right to vote.

For all the negativity that exists on the internet in the form of anti-feminism sites and pages, the truth is these discussions need to be had out in the open. All the anti-feminist groups prove that the movement is more necessary than ever, because even today, sexism exists and people want to do anything possible to cover it up. We’ve seen huge celebrities like Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Pharrell Williams, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and many many more openly declaring their affinity or feminism, because they believe in equality.

Emma Watson’s now-legendary UN speech has been burned into the consciences of every young person today, and that is a good thing! But despite these dazzling displays of feminism and equality, there is still a lot of work to do. And pop culture has a lot to answer for because arguably it has the biggest platform in our lives today.

Ana Tijoux, a Latina rapper and musician from Chile wrote an essay in October about how we live in an age of “garbage culture”, meaning what is produced these days will be forgotten in 5 minutes. She delves into how the music industry, and how although women expressing their sexuality is commonly referred to as “freedom” and described as women having control over their bodies, there is a bigger lie at play which is in fact still perpetuating the very notion of sexism.

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We have included our favorite parts of her essay because there is so much power and incredible truth to her words. First up she talks about how women in music have no longer become about the music itself, but about their bodies:

“There’s no avoiding the stomach convulsions, the wrenching shiver. It invades the most hidden spaces. It appears with every piece of over-information on TV, the nonstop visions of human flesh on display in those farcical displays we call music videos.

We can’t hold off the bodily violence, can’t prevent it from invading our irises. Nor can we avoid the unremitting discomfort that floods us when we see those feminine silhouettes, the way every inch of their bodies is presented to us, avid and eager to provoke and excite.

Eyes drift to the corners of the screen, lips are licked, and even the shyest pixels blush to the rhythm of a schizophrenic beat. Desire lights beacons in the shadows, and the far-flung fantasizing opens the way for an endless tide of ardent women, anxious to be touched, as they parade through pop songs that have been eviscerated of their beauty, songs that could have made the heart and soul tremble.

This is not about music. It’s not about composition or verses, nor is it about art; it’s not about a perfect dance along furious chords, or harmonious interpretations. It’s not about courageous songs or compositions of sounds that can make us ride the storm of our emotions. This is about visual punches: it’s about snatching away the very beauty of women. It’s about a bubblegum format now ingrained in our brains, with that strange capacity to make us sing along and chew on choruses under the influence of the drug of a music industry that has made good use of repetition.”

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Next she goes into detail about how the issue of women’s bodies as a commodity are part of the consumer machine that we have become accustomed to in pop culture:

“The master keys are repetition and constant reproduction, keys that open all the doors of a market anxious to transform human beings as much as possible into machines of production.

Music videos are a clear example of this situation. Bodies are not bodies, faces are not faces, smiles are not smiles but merely lips smeared with oil. Thighs are muscles the camera lens exaggerates, conflating the woman’s body with that of an animal in heat.

These bodies melt into a single mass, distorting each other in the process. Girls are not girls. Women are not women: they are girls with a dual stance, little girls made up like grown-ups, over-exaggerated in every wink of their eyes, forced into the role of “adult little girls.” The question is, who can put out the most provocative video, who can swivel their hips most nimbly, who can grind their haunches against the wall with the most sexuality, all the while gazing provocatively into our eyes?

Masculine eyebrows rise, cheeks turn red, and the eyes gazing at the woman become bullets of lustful desire. The woman is not a woman, but the object of lascivious greed. And as women we swallow this pervasive pattern, convinced that this way of dialoging with the world is the language we must adopt in our own interactions.”

Ana believes the sexuality on display in most music videos is not about power, it is about out-doing each other simply to continue to reinforce the sexism that has been established by the system:

“The general agitation accelerates the collective palpitation, the open legs of the female singers surrendered on the floor, and the clichés of women reduced to being things, like the luxury cars we see onscreen. This is not just a modus operandi, it is totally accepted in everyday society. This is the new era of violence against the body.

Every female singer must compete in an infinite game of provocation. Now nothing is enough, and nothing is too much, the goal is to put everything on display, always setting a new challenge with a higher bar: who can show more and more, who can achieve the most extreme contortions in the most acrobatic way, who is the most desirable, and who has the highest ability to annul the most beautiful femininity, to transform it into something and not someone.

Where are the songs and videos showing a woman in her role as sister—or a woman in her role as protector, or economic head of family, or devoted daughter, or grandmother dignified in her old age, the little girl reflecting on the world, the exemplary worker, or the peasant organizing the community? Where are they? Where are the women in these videos? Where is your sister? Where is your mother? Do we recognize ourselves? Do we find ourselves in the other? And ultimately this box of illusions, this square of superimposed images, accumulates more and more of these repetitive videos in a mockery of reality.”

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Here she talks about how women being forced to look and feel young is the ultimate degradation of our femininity:

“It is overly violent, overwhelming, and heart-rending to see how our image has been hatcheted, how they have robbed us of the right to grow older, as if wrinkles were a contagious disease. They have taken away the joy of the passage of time on our faces.

We don’t have the right to grow old, nor do we have the right to feel the magnificence of time in our bodies, to bear the passage of time in a humanized body that coexists with the condition and the right of a person to be.

We are mothers and we are daughters. We are sisters and neighbors. We are your companion and your friend. We are women.

The violence in the way we are disfigured, distorted, and presented to the world is a silent, accepted violence, a permitted violence, a repeated and shattering violence.”

She explains why the capitalist society is not always compliant with powerful women, and why rebelling against the created norms is a must:

“We live amid a generalized social abuse where the terrorism of the media has laid a deadly trap for the female being. One shouldn’t express too many opinions, or sing very loudly, for fear that our ideas may expand like a harvest of reflections that would lead to an imminent awakening of awareness of our condition.

Sexism in the media is one of the most capitalist ways of controlling the emancipation of women. An emancipated woman is a dangerous woman, one who threatens an entire system with all its distortions that manage to keep the possibility of real freedom in check. Because there is nothing more capitalist than sexism. It is the capital of man before woman. The masculine body is power, domination, colonization. It is that which denigrates and subjugates. Women, on the other hand, must follow orders, comply with physical expectations, and, in a form of bipolar disorder, also adhere to conservative moral expectations.”

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Finally, she says that at its core, music and musicians have the power to transcend the systemic rationalizations we are taught about gender roles, but they need to be different from the rest to truly make an impact, and not just feed into the same old “garbage culture”:

“Facing this is a daily task, interweaving all of women’s roles—to remember, reflect, question, and debate this normalization of violence. Understanding that education is not carried out only in classrooms, but that all platforms of public space can be educational.

Singers have the imperative task of bringing about a shift through our songs and lyrics. We have to bring the issue to the fore, awaken critical thought, remember with beautiful responsibility the reason for our voices. We must assume the radiance of the passage of time in our melodies and in the way we compose. To give the tremendous elixir of filling every space with public dialogue, and be rocked in the arms of creativity.

The arts must question, they must think, they must feel and speak with the world. Art without constant dialogue lives with the critical danger of falling into the pit of advertising. Music must be free in its totality, and be free of itself, free of patterns, and free of funds and forms.”

Reading this was very confronting for us, but it is also the type of powerful message we need to break through the noise. When you look throughout history, all the revolutionaries and world-changers have gone against the grain and angered the masses because they had a vision of a better society. What Ana is saying here is so important and it’s not just for women, or for musicians. We ALL need to be critical thinkers and challenge the status quo. Reaching equality in a society that still pushes back against it in many arenas is going to take both men and women transcending the thoughts and notions that are forced upon it. It will mean being willing to be the outcast if it causes the next generation to have at least one freedom ours did not.

We want to live in a world where women’s bodies are commodities like a luxury car or a handbag and the only way that is every going to change is if we refuse to stay comfortable and popular. Are you willing to join us? We stand with Ana and pledge that as we look to the year ahead, we don’t want to settle for average or just allow culture to shape us. We are the culture we are the powerful ones, and we are the people who have the capacity to make a difference.

We’re pretty sure you agree with us when we say Ana’s essay deserves a mic drop AND a fist pump!

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