Who is the “Woman” in Soca?
This article originally appeared in the INTERLUDE Newsletter.
I’m going to keep this brief because I want to to expand on it in full soon.
Earlier this year I wrote in my Salty piece, “Throughout the caribbean, women are at the centre of entertainment culture and their reaction to a song is a litmus test of it’s popularity.” But on the other side of that coin, women are always on the receiving end of blatant disrespect and misogyny, even though their opinion and overall reaction is what matters at the end of the day.
So it had me thinking: What is the woman’s role in soca? What’s her identity?
Urban music in general has been historically unkind to women. It’s one of the pillars of Rap. (Also this “new R&B”.) Dancehall, too. Calypso and soca not too far behind. However, where the other genres are straight up with their misogynistic intentions, the genre of our region has smartly concealed it in metaphors, euphemisms and revelry.
In 90% of lyrics and videos, women are reduced to props; objects to ogle, pester, and conquer, then discard when you’re through with them or when you’ve found another “thing” that’s better. Yes, we can blame this on a reflection of our society, and a manifestation of its rape culture. But the woman in soca is bigger than that. She’s multidimensional. Way more than just a subject and victim of chauvinism through art.
She’s the creator (see Alison Hinds, Natahlee Burke, and Imani for e.g.), having her say in the boy’s club by reclaiming her sexuality that her male peers seek to demean through empowering lyrics, figure-hugging outfits, and professing blatant intentions like their macho counterparts. She lifts up the women her “brothers” seek to “destroy”, because they are her and she is them. However, she’ll more likely be chastised should she cross the line. Some of her “sisters” and the good ol’ patriarch are waiting to sternly wag their finger in her face to tell her to be more “ladylike”.
She’s also the disk jockey/radio announcer, sometimes playing the same music that reduces her sisters to nothing, and the business woman/entrepreneur (promoter, manager, tent organizer).
Most importantly, she is the consumer. She’s the reason why promoters break their backs to get her into fetes, and artists work feverishly to get her to dance to their songs. Again, she is the lifeblood of the industry. It depends on her looks and moves to generate income and push culture forward, even though sometimes she is seen as just a second-class citizen.
Carlos Brathwaite is the Founder & Editor of 246Mixtapes. Follow him on Twitter.
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