The Vermont Cynic

Janelle Monae’s new song empowers women

ERIN BUNDOCK

ERIN BUNDOCK

Kim Henry

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Janelle Monae’s new music video, “PYNK,” paints a radically queer and black sci-fi landscape.

And the way things are going right now, I want to jump in the painting with her.

For many black, femme oddballs out there, Monae has long been the android queen of our dreams, bopping and singing as her robot alter ego Cindi Mayweather.

Now, after a brief Oscar-nominated stint in acting, Monae has fallen down the rabbit hole back to her record label, Wondaland.

Throughout Monae’s musical career, the singer and producer infused her tracks and music videos with sci-fi elements, such as her own fictional “Metropolis” filled with android rebellions and a sweet black robot-sorority called Electro Phi Deltas.

Monae has released three new tracks with videos called “emotion pictures” by Monae’s official YouTube page since the start of 2018, including “Make Me Feel,” “Django Jane” and most recently, “PYNK.”

Monae floods “PYNK” with female imagery, not the least of which are the now-famous vagina pants and her own afro of pubic hair peeking out from behind a pair of underwear, embroidered with “Sex Cells.”

“PYNK” largely takes place in an empty desert motel filled with care-free black women singing and dancing for no one’s entertainment but their own, focusing the camera on self-pleasure.

In addition to self-love, Monae showcases queer, platonic, sexual and sisterly love blending seamlessly among the women surrounding her.

Despite these undeniably strong images, I keep coming back to Monae’s entrance: She drives through a pink desert in a pink drop-top hover car surrounded by a fashionable entourage of black female friends.

Monae and the video’s director, Emma Westenberg, give us the technology of the Jetsons placed in the untouched nature of the desert.

They fill the car with black women — who the media rarely depict in sci-fi or natural settings. Monae’s particular brand of afro-futurism has rarely felt so grounded in this present reality, but “PYNK” breaks the mold.

What could have possibly brought this scene into existence? Maybe the Electro Phi Deltas are just taking a sorority retreat from Metropolis?

Or maybe it’s the world where Trump finally got North Korea to snap, and the only ones to survive the nuclear holocaust were black women who, like the people of Wakanda, have been hiding their superior technology for all these years.

By placing black women in an under-utilized narrative space, Monae continues her radical sci-fi project, allowing black women to be something else, somewhere else and live outside of stereotypes while retaining so much of what makes us magic.

From the labia-based wardrobe to the focus on female friendship, “PYNK” communicates an afro/queer/cis-female-centric message. However, the lyrics speak a universality into the folds of the vagina pants.

Yes, in addition to crooning “pink like your fingers in my,” followed by a pregnant pause, Monae sings to the audience that pink is also like “the lid of your eye … the skin that’s under.”

Monae reminds us that pink is “like the folds of your brain” and is “where it all starts.”

My question: When will Forever 21 come out with their own line of vagina pants?

About the Writer
Kim Henry, Podcast Editor
Kim Henry is the co-founder and co-editor of Cynic Podcasting. While she used to be a host on The Cynic Ear, you can now catch her making cultural commentary on Prime Time Cats with Corey Dew. Kim is a senior studying English and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at UVM. If she were any super...
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Janelle Monae’s new song empowers women