How do you handle a Twitter commenter who tells you how you should be dressing? Singer Janelle Monáe just offered the best possible example.
Yesterday, someone tweeted this at her:
girl stop being so soulful and be sexy..tired of those dumbass suits..you fine but u too damn soulful man.
A post on Gradient Lair unpacked exactly why this comment is troubling:
And the “too damn soulful” comment in that tweet? That’s that binary reference to the idea that “soulful” Black women exist to be “respectable” and “sexy” Black women exist to be “non-respectable” and clearly binary thinkers experience conflict when these lines aren’t treaded in a way they are used to consuming.
Monáe’s suits were part of her persona, and as Gradient Lair pointed out in 2012, her reasoning for wearing them is powerful:
When I started my musical career I was a maid, I used to clean houses and the girls I used to clean houses with used to always beg me to sing while we cleaned. I lived in a boarding house with five other girls and I would sell my $5 CD out of my room. My mother was a proud janitor, my step-father who raised me worked at the post office, and my father was a trash man. They all wore a uniform and that’s why I wear my uniform to honor them. I have work to do. I have people to uplift. I have people to inspire. And today I wear my uniform proudly.
With that in mind, her response to the commenter was even more inspiring:
@mellow_saa sit down. I'm not for male consumption.— Janelle Monáe, Cindi (@JanelleMonae) April 13, 2015
Monáe also just released the new video for her song “Yoga,” and a verse speaks directly to this issue of people policing women’s looks, tone, bodies, opinions: “Crown on my head but the world on my shoulder/I’m too much a rebel, never do what I’m supposed to/Bend it never break it, baby watch and I’mma show ya/Stretching on my cash, got my money doing yoga/Sometimes I’m peachy, and sometimes I’m vulgar/Even when I’m sleeping, I got one eye open/You cannot police me, so get off my areola.”
Over the weekend, Pink also took down commenters who concern-trolled her about her weight, with a lengthy response about loving her body. The commenter did later apologize to Monáe, but his remark certainly speaks to a larger issue about viewing women’s bodies as objects. Listen a little closer to what Monáe’s saying.