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Janelle Monáe Wants Us To Stop Telling Women They Should Be More Ladylike
Rich Fury/Getty Images

Janelle Monáe Wants Us To Stop Telling Women They Should Be More Ladylike

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Women should be seen and not heard, speak only when spoken to, and mind their manners in the presence of others. A "well-bred" woman will refrain from using foul language, wear only clothing that is deemed socially acceptable, and be discreet about her sexuality.

If you were raised in the church or any old heads in the South, you know that historically, this way of thinking was dominant in the black community and pretty much the entire world. Oh, the hoops women have to jump through to be considered "ladylike"; it should be a paid position in and of itself. Luckily, we now live in a world where I can proudly say "f*ck that," wear whatever the hell I want to and know that it doesn't make me any less of a woman.

Prince prodigy and sci-fi superbabe Janelle Monae agreed with my way of thinking in a recent interview with ESSENCE. The 33-year-old star of the upcoming feature film, Ugly Dolls, told the publication that how you gauge her womanhood is not and never has been a reflection of the woman that she actually is.

Rich Fury/Getty Images

"There's always this constant idea of what's ladylike and what a woman should do. Let's stop listening to what people tell us we should do and just do what's in our hearts and what's in our spirit."

In the past, the androgynous star has been transparent about her sexuality and her refusal to conform to societal norms has made her one of the hottest entertainers in the industry. After coming out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community last year on the cover of Rolling Stone, she's made an effort to shift the narrative in the black community of what it means to be a queer, Black woman one boss move at a time. In an intimate conversation with fellow songwriter, Lizzo, she had this to say:

"With 'Dirty Computer', I made a bigger declaration to myself — that I'm not putting out an album if I can't be all of me. You're gonna take the blackness, you're gonna take the fact that I love science fiction. You're gonna take the fact that I am a free ass motherf*cker. You're gonna take that all in and because that is what you're gonna get."

She told ESSENCE that her confidence to be the pro-black, non-conformist badass that she was by learning to take the advice of others with a grain of salt. Janelle explained that she knows what it's like to have both your body and sexuality policed by people that don't even know you; even the people we love can sometimes try to push us into being someone that we're not.

The singer emphasized the importance of letting the people around you know that your body is your own, they don't own you. This is why the previously somewhat conservative artist says she's grown comfortable with showing more skin on stage:

"I've always been clear that it's important for me to remind myself and remind others that I have agency over my body. I get to decide when, where, how, and not live by anybody else's interpretation of what they thought I was. The message has always been very clear."

According to Janelle, being honest with others starts with gaining the ability to be real with yourself. Walking in your truth also means learning to love and accept your eccentricities and know that they are what makes you truly unique. She told POPSUGAR:

"We are one living, breathing organism — humanity. We depend on each other to survive. What makes us one is the many unique things about us. A puzzle piece is not the same, but when you come together, you create a beautiful puzzle that was put together and everyone can marvel at. That's what humanity represents. We each are a piece of that puzzle, and we're designed uniquely to do a specific thing."
"Self-love starts inward. If you don't love you, I don't think you could ever really love anybody else."

The Hidden Figures actress explained that after being bullied in her childhood, she had to learn that she may never be ladylike enough for other people, so she just had to be good enough for herself. Once she did, she learned:

"Once you start walking in your truth, you'll start finding your tribe of folks who are walking in their truths. And then you guys can take down the patriarchy and abusers of power."

Power to the people, Ms. Monae.

Read the full ESSENCE interview here and check out the trailer for her new film, Ugly Dolls below!

UglyDolls Trailer #1 (2019) | Movieclips Trailerswww.youtube.com

Featured image by Rich Fury/Getty Images

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My knee-jerk reaction, of course, comes from years of watching film and TV that have exploited Black trauma onscreen and were created with little (if any) consideration for what could emotionally trigger the Black audience. The 1955 murder of Emmett Till is so heartbreaking and inherently violent; would this film make us live through that violence on screen?

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This week, before watching Gina Prince-Bythewood's incredible The Woman King, a featurette for Till played in place of a trailer and it soothed my fears.

"There will be no physical violence against Black people on screen," the film's award-winning director and co-writer Chinonye Chukwu says in the featurette. "I'm not interested in relishing in that kind of physical trauma. We're going to begin and end in a place of joy," she says.

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Mamie's story of courage in the face of unspeakable tragedy deserves to be told--especially as we continue the fight for civil rights today. Knowing that the Black filmmakers behind the film are centering Black joy and aiming for our empowerment through the film makes a world of difference.

TILLis in theaters October 14.

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