Prince Rogers Nelson, the icon known as Prince, passed away at age 57 in his home in Minnesota Thursday, and we’re still recovering.
Unlike many popular musicians in the early 80s, Prince emerged as an entirely unique, gender-bending artist who broke the barriers of gender conformity, as well as increasing the visibility of female sexual appetite.
Yes, he did become a republican who didn’t vote because he was a devoted Jehovah’s Witness, and yes, he also spoke against gay marriage later in life, but that doesn’t discredit the space he carved out for gender fluidity and sex positivity in his music and style. Unlike other male artists of his time, Prince was both dominant and submissive, and this aesthetic is inherently feminist in many ways:
1. Prince was a musical genius
Most of his songs celebrated feminine sexuality. In “Raspberry Beret,” Prince is the conquest and loses his virginity to a beautiful woman.
“They say the first time ain’t the greatest/But I tell ya/If I had the chance to do it all again/I wouldn’t change a stroke/Cause baby I’m the most/With a girl as fine as she was then”
In “Shockadelica,” Prince is dominated by a woman he calls “Camille-mille:”
“She got you tied with a golden rope/She won’t let you play your guitar/And when you’ve cried enough/Maybe she’ll let you up/For a nasty ride in her shockadeli-car/She’ll make you beg, girl”
2. Prince Celebrated Female Sexuality
In “Darling Nikki,” Prince explored women’s sexual appetite through his heroine, Nikki, who masturbates in hotel lobbies.
“I knew a girl named Nikki/I guess you could say she was a sex fiend/I met her in a hotel lobby/Masturbating with a magazine/She said how’d you like to waste some time/And I could not resist when I saw little Nikki grind”
3. Flawless style
Whether he perfected all-white outfits or draped himself in head-to-toe sequins with heels to match, Prince pulled off jaw-dropping outfits.
Images via billboard.com
4. Prince championed women
Prince saw his surrounding artists as his contemporaries. He famously created his band to be multi-racial and multi-gender. The band was called The Revolution, and it included some amazingly talented women like Wendy Melvoin on guitar and Lisa Coleman on keyboard.
He also had many proteges, including Denise Matthews a.k.a. Vanity, Apollonia Kotero, Andy Allo, and he mentored former BUST cover girl Janelle Monae.
5. Prince challenged masculinity
Prince’s album covers embodied both feminine and masculine personas.
Image via complex.com
Image via entertainment.time.com
Image via last.fm
In a Fusion article, pop culture director Dodai Stewart writes,
“Slight of stature, narrow of hip. Rising to global popularity in the 1980s, at the same time as another major American export: Hip-hop. A genre in which many black male artists releasing music on shelves alongside Prince’s albums—Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Ice Cube—projected an urban toughness. Leather jackets thick as armor, heavy gold chains, bold aggression. But Prince was a flirtatious, peacock pastiche made of diamonds and pearls, a dandy in paisley and lace. Some rappers’ personas aligned with the age-old oversexed, “primitive,” mandingo stereotype invented by white slaveowners. Prince defied stereotypes, period.”
6. Purple Rain was arguably a feminist film
Image via youtube.com/purplerain
Pop Feminst, a pop culture blog that ran from 2007-2009, argued that Purple Rain belongs to feminist cinema because “he is undermined throughout the film through his own destructive displays of masculinity and is trapped within a dark patriarchal narrative as expressed by the great track, ‘When Doves Cry.’”
7. Conveying sex without misogyny
Prince was able to convey sexual desire without using misogyny in “Kiss.”
“You got to not talk dirty, baby/If you want to impress me/You can’t be too flirty mama/I know how to undress me/I want to be your fantasy/Maybe you could be mine/You just leave it all up to me/We could have a good time”
Prince will live on forever as a gender-bending icon that gave female sexuality a voice.
Top image via playbuzz.com
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