A Woman’s Sexual Exploits ‘Ain’t None Of Ya Business’: Word to Salt N’ Pepa

Society loves to police female sexuality and it is super unhealthy.

Feminist author Chimamanda Adichie mentioned in her infamous TED Talks speech that “we teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.” Young girls are continually bombarded with the message that their number of sexual partners should remain low if they want to be taken seriously as a girlfriend or potential wife. Young men are praised for taking virginities and being the player that can juggle multiple women at once. Marriage for females is seen as the ultimate goal, but for men it is something to be avoided for as long as possible, as it means the end of their promiscuous freedom. Something here doesn’t add up.

Refreshingly, the new wave of female comedienne voices in television and film have begun to chip away at that horrible double standard in their work. Films like ‘What’s Your Number’ and ‘Train Wreck’ have broached the topics of female promiscuity and being taken seriously by men when they play them at their own game. Despite both protagonists being party girls that use men for sex, the message is that they are still human beings who deserve a forever love with someone who respects them. Simple, right?

Relationship guide books like Steve Harvey’s ‘Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man’ suggest that women should hold out on having sex for a while in order to be seen as relationship potential and not something casual. Steve promotes the idea of the ‘90 Day Rule’ wherein the woman makes a conscious decision to wait 90 days after the first date to sleep with the man, in order to decipher his intentions and for him to get to know her outside of the bedroom. Although sex is an important part of healthy adult relationships, should it really hold this much weight in terms of whether this person could be your happy ever after? Why are men not told to hold out for the same reason?

There seems to be this assumption that men are these feral creatures who are only capable of thinking with their dicks when it comes to the opposite sex, which is ridiculously patronising. This assumption is dangerous because it leads to excuses for deviant behavior and the victim blame culture when it comes to rape. Newsflash, men are fully capable of self-control and reading the signs for consent. For 2016, let’s put the focus on our chemistry with each other and mutual respect, rather than how soon we’ve chosen to have sex with each other, and we may just find ‘the one’ a whole lot sooner.

This leads me to the topic of the dreaded friend zone, which comes after a one-sided decision from the uninterested party to have a purely platonic relationship without the inter-sheet action. For men this seems to be a gut-wrenching blow to their ego, but it actually shouldn’t be seen as a negative thing at all. Having a friend of the opposite gender means you have inside information on how the other side thinks and you get that companionship you miss when you’re single. Win win. Sex isn’t a luxury given to everybody, which is exactly how you want your future wives to behave, apparently. Embrace it.

2015 was the year when slut shaming came into the forefront of discussion. Slut shaming is defined as: “an unfortunate phenomenon in which people degrade or mock a woman because she enjoys having sex, has sex a lot, or may even just be rumored to participate in sexual activity.” Celebrities like Amber Rose and Blac Chyna sparked controversy when they arrived in cat suits covered in derogatory terms used to describe women who fit this definition to the MTV Video Music Awards. Their goal being to reclassify the words into something positive and to reclaim the power these words had coming from misogynists and rapists alike.

This publicity stunt followed Amber Rose’s marketing for her own ‘Slut Walk,’ which was inspired by the international demonstrations of feminists who came before her. The protest originated in Toronto, Canada, in response to the viewpoint of the justice system that victims of rape were ‘asking for it’ if they were dressed in a certain way. Her marketing of this event and provocative Instagram posts sparked heated opposition from people bringing her parenting skills into question. Apparently you cannot be sexually liberated and a mother at the same time, go figure. Men don’t have this dilemma when they enter fatherhood.

All of this outrage and these comments on how a woman should behave show how far the feminist movement still has to go in order to achieve gender equality. Why the desperate need for control over how many guys a woman has been with? All of this negativity is affecting the minds of younger generations and sending mixed messages for young vulnerable girls. You are condemned for being a “prude” or a virgin and then for being a “slut” once you are sexually active. You’re teaching these girls that their only value is based on their “body count” instead of what their minds are capable of achieving.

Men, this year let’s leave the judgement of women for their sexual history in the past and pay more attention to the content of their character when deciding on whether they would make a good life partner or not. Women let’s leave the guilt and stigmas surrounding sex in 2015 and focus on being healthy and happy in our relationships. Own your sexual prowess and stay protected at all times. True love is for everyone, not just the sexually inexperienced.

For more on this topic of female sexuality check out one of my earlier posts: The Female Commodity.

For more gems on sex and relationships look no further than the music industry and its visual aids.

If you do find yourself with child after all of this guilt-free sex take a look at what hopefully won’t be in store for you over the next 9 months.

The Female Commodity

Is a woman’s worth solely about the number of men that have been between her legs? Judging by how many conversations that are had on social media about ‘body count’ and the way the sex trafficking business is still booming around the world, you would think so. But I’ll let you in on a little secret; we’re human just like you.

It starts with the representation of women in the media. Physical appearance is deemed an integral part of our careers. We have to do it all and look good simultaneously or we’re dubbed lazy and frumpy. No one likes a frumpy chick. Television anchors have to be young and conventionally attractive to appeal to a wider audience, whereas male anchors are allowed to be old, as it signifies their wisdom and status as a successful member of society. No one wants to watch an old lady, by then we only qualify to be grandmothers and homemakers.

This crosses over into business in general, an opinionated and ambitious woman is labelled a bitch or ‘hard to handle’; whereas an opinionated, ambitious man is a catch. Take Meryl Streep’s character ‘Miranda Priestly’ in the film ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, the title tells it all, a successful independent woman? Naturally, she has to be the devil. We must look good and be amiable to gain any sort of respect in the workplace. Achieve greatness in silence to avoid intimidating the men, and yet they’re supposed to be the strong ones. Showing emotion in the workplace is seen as a weakness and laughed off as being a symptom of PMS.

In the year 2015, women are still being discriminated against by employers for being pregnant, as they don’t want to pay out for maternity leave and paternity leave requests are not taken seriously. If anything men are praised for their contributions to raising children, like that responsibility is only done as a favour to women. This ‘women are the nurturers and men are the breadwinners’ belief starts from infancy with the toys children are given based on their gender. Apparently, a boy deciding to play with a pram and doll is a laughable offence, but these little boys grow up to be fathers.

It’s not just looks and amiability that are important for a woman in modern society; she has to be sexy too. This single quality is way more important than her intellect and character, hence why everything we see now is basically porn. Sex sells and money makes the world go round. The advertising industry bombards us with sexually suggestive images of women on a daily basis; from film posters to detergent ads. Strong, frumpy females are never the protagonist in the film, female superheroes are seen as the lame ones and even in serious narratives the woman’s main aim is usually to get the guy of her dreams.

If looks, subservience and sex appeal rule supreme when it comes to femininity, it’s no wonder that we are seen as something for men to use, rather than respect. Our worth lies in our purity and virginity; which is why virgins sell for a lot more on the black market and why men are so hung up on the amount of sexual partners we have experienced. Crimes that affect women, like rape, child marriage and prostitution, are not taken seriously by our criminal justice system because men are taught from an early age that our only value is in the kitchen and to satisfy their need for sex. Victims hold the burden of proof and are made to feel like it is their fault, instead of men being held responsible for their cruel behaviour.

We are becoming desensitized to the suffering of women so much so that when prostitutes or strippers are abused or killed, the perpetrators are shown more sympathy and are given light sentences. Ipswich murderer Steve Wright felt it was ok to murder five sex workers back in the early millennium and Paralympian Oscar Pistorius was released from prison within a year after murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013. I dare say it would have been a different result if the roles were reversed.

This is a global issue. In the Middle East, female protesters are being sexually assaulted, as a way to silence them, instil fear and undermine their agenda. The Taliban have been vocal in their condemnation of educating women and would rather they stay ignorant and stuck in their roles of domesticity. In New York City a woman cannot walk down the street without being cat called and men don’t take well to rejection. Gang culture tends to recruit women to serve as sex slaves for their men and honey traps for their victims. Oriental women are fetishized for their stereotype of thoroughly catering to their men.

This brings me to the inspiration behind this article, the film ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’. A Geisha is defined as “a Japanese hostess trained to entertain men with conversation, dance, and song.” Not to be confused with “Yugos” who are Japanese sex workers. Geisha “go through intense training, learning only the traditional Japanese arts. Geisha are very respectable women in Japan’s society and would never routinely indulge in relationships with different men.” This idea that respectability comes from monogamy irks me.

The film taught me that Geisha women dedicate their entire lives to serving men and forgo their own needs, as their needs are deemed unimportant. In the film, despite the Geisha being the protagonist of the story, the narrative concluded only once the man came back to save her. His affection for her being validation for all she had gone through. This unsettled me because so many women around the world are taught that their needs come second to their male counterparts. Just imagine how different the world would be if women were seen as equally important by men and, mostly importantly, themselves. We are people, not products for your pleasure, remember that.

Fellow feminists read musician Espa’s thoughts on gender inequality here.

Author Chimamanda Adichie also speaks about #Feminism in her book ‘Americanah’, read my review here.

M&M Review: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Dear Chimamanda,

I was first introduced to your work, with a lot of the rest of the world, when Queen Bey referenced your speech in her track ‘Flawless’. Since then I have gone on to watch a lot of your TED Talks speeches online, I’ve watched Half of a Yellow Sun starring Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor and now I have also read your book Americanah. I am thoroughly inspired.

In this digital age, where social media influences more people than the news, it is frustrating when important movements like feminism are misinterpreted into something negative. Your work is helping to re-educate women and men everywhere and for that I am truly grateful. I love how your speeches about gender equality are reflected in your multifaceted fictional characters and how you depict Africa in such an honest way. Your descriptions of Nigeria in Americanah made me homesick for Sierra Leone, in a way that no other fictional story has.

The story is based on two high school sweethearts and told across three continents and many years of absence from each other. It analyses race relations in England, Nigeria and America and examines the experience of an African person in those countries. It covers all the niche topics that people generally don’t talk about when it comes to race and differing attitudes and customs. Having spent time in each of these countries, I could relate to a lot of the points raised.

It also opened my eyes to some of the constraints and reasoning behind immigration to the Western world. The media would have you believing that every immigrant leaves their country because they perceive the West as better and aren’t comfortable in their homeland. The reasons for immigration are really complex, sometimes the West appeals because of the attitudes of the people you grew up around who see America and England through rose-tinted glasses. Sometimes it is seen as a sign of status or a way to bring new knowledge to your community. Sometimes it is for love or just simply a new start. Not everyone wants to leach off the government and not everyone sees the third world as inferior.

Your words are a big part of the growing TINA (This Is New Africa) movement, which aims to change outdated and often negative perceptions of Africa. You tackle both the untold gems of African culture and the not-so-secret ugly underbelly. You also juxtapose traditional Nigeria and new Nigeria, detailing all the changes that have taken place in between. Your descriptions have helped me to understand a lot about modern Nigerian culture and the way things are done there.

I love the fluidity of the chapters and how the book was structured to reflect the personal growth of the characters, in relation to how their relationship has matured and the reasons for their growing separation. The main characters Ifemelu and Obinze were represented as realistically flawed, but deeply in love with each other. However, their open minded attitudes served as a severe contrast to some of the other supporting characters in the book, who represent more traditional views.

I was enamoured with Obinze; his intelligence, his views on women and marriage and his clear feelings for Ifemelu. Their bond was real and based on way more than the superficial, which most relationships seem to stem from these days. He loved her for her mind and spirit, that kind of love is unconditional. He respected strong women and despised pretence for status and gossip, having been raised by an educated, independent woman. African men usually have a reputation for wanting submissive wives who take on traditional domestic roles and I am so happy that he defied that stereotype, because it is untrue for a lot of men.

I noticed that in both Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun, the matriarch roles were filled by women who gave sensible advice that went against the outdated notions of the 1950s. These women raised topics of self-love, protected sex and staying true to yourself even when you fall in love. They are great role models for any young girls reading these amazing texts. Sadly, these lessons are usually downplayed in favour of the ability to cater to your man and being a ‘good’ wife by fulfilling your duties in the bedroom and kitchen.

The protagonist Ifemelu was an outspoken naturalista who moved to the States to further her education and ended up educating the masses through the use of her blog entitled: ‘Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black’. Her blog served as a series of uncomfortable racial observations and enabled her to gain a fellowship at the prestigious Princeton University. However, Obinze’s experience of life in the West was less sweet, with him being deported from London for attempting to engage in a sham marriage for a visa.

I commend you for using mainly African names for the characters and celebrating their meanings as beautiful. A lot of African children growing up in the Western world seem embarrassed by their names, as they are deemed ‘unusual’ and impossible to pronounce by their Western teachers and friends alike. The terms ‘Freshie’ and ‘Aff’ are usually tossed around meant as a jokey insult, but no one wants to feel different during puberty. Young people don’t realise that being different is something to be proud of and having a name with deep origins actually makes you more interesting than the average person.

We need more academics and free thinkers from Africa to tell their unique stories and share their perceptions of being African around the world. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd and contradict precedent. The world needs to see the hidden treasures of the original continent and its people to better understand the ways in which we can improve our globe and interactions with each other. The potential for improvement is astounding. Grab your copy now!

Like this review? Check out my review of ‘Calling Me Home‘ by Julie Kibler.

A good book always inspires me and makes me see the world a little differently, take a look at my countdown of other books and movies that have had the same effect.

M&M Review: Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

Dear Julie,

Thank you. This story really touched me and the final twist had me grabbing the tissues and depressed for Elizabeth, as if she was real and I knew her personally.

When I first purchased this book my expectations were low. I figured it would be the same as a lot of the other books on racial tension in the Deep South post Jim Crow regulations, but I was pleasantly surprised. I took two major gems from this story. Firstly, a reminder to not judge people by their appearances or apparent privilege, as everyone is fighting their own unique battle in life. Secondly, one of the biggest tragedies in life is when people allow the fear of judgement to stop them from doing what is right and standing up for their beliefs. Courage to stand tall even when you are outnumbered is so important.

The novel was inspired by the experiences of your grandmother, who also engaged in a romantic interracial relationship in a time when that was seen as shocking and inappropriate. The passages detailing the early stages of protagonist Elizabeth McAllister and Robert Prewitt’s courtship were told in such a delicate and romantic way. This particularly struck me because usually when taboo subjects are discussed there is a degree of sensationalism and fetishisation of skin colour, but you allowed their unique chemistry to do the talking.

Even during their sex scenes, there were no 50 Shades type shock tactics used, it was purely an expression of their adoration for one another. The slow build up of their relationship, their short-lived marriage and the consequences that occurred afterwards all leave readers rooting for the young couple, despite all the adversity they face. As a woman who grew up on Disney movies, their tender bond had me grinning at the book like a crazy person and wishing for a happy ending; although the former clues along the way gave me due warning that the poor couple were never going to have their fairy tale ending.

Technically it was a very easy read, with its alternating short chapters between past and present and your vivid use of description, which had me picturing the entire tale on the silver screen. The dialogue between characters was concise, but packed a punch in its social commentary and use of compassion. It is a difficult task to broach the topic of violence without apparent bias or judgement and you managed it effortlessly.

I loved how you intertwined and compared the struggles minorities faced in the 1930/40’s with the contemporary challenges we, as a society, still need to work on in the pursuance of equality for all. Dorrie Curtis’ character was so relatable, as someone who was learning from her bad decisions and trying to do better for her children than her mother had done for her. That scene when her son revealed his poor choices had me wanting to kill him for her and I’m not even a parent yet.

I have a soft spot for any writer who manages to give a vocabulary lesson to their readers within the narrative and you incorporated this perfectly using the very ordinary vehicle of crossword puzzles during the long car journey. Genius!

Overall, it was a great read that was mind-blowing in its simple approach to race relations and forbidden love. You deserve all the kudos in the world for this being your debut novel and I cannot wait to read your future releases. Grab your copy now!

If you enjoyed this review check out my countdown of the top ten books and films that changed how I see the world for more literary diamonds.

How do you feel about the race-related struggles Elizabeth and Robert faced? Take a look at my thoughts on racism in the media.

10 Lessons Music Videos Taught Us About Sex & Relationships

Music is the modern-day educator of the youth when schools fall short of their duty to spread knowledge about social issues. As the media and the world in general has decided to go sex mad, naturally, music is also there to teach you about the dynamics of sex and relationships. Here are a few of the lessons contemporary videos have touched on…

1 Love is universal

Slide 1

(This is 2015. Discrimination should have ended a long time ago, duh!)

In 2002 two completely different videos made a statement through their use of same-sex couples kissing centre-screen. Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful’ and t.A.T.u’s ‘All The Things She Said’ videos forced the topic of homosexuality into the conversation and into the living rooms of young people and homophobes alike. The videos subconsciously planted a seed of hope in the minds of those confused adolescents struggling with their own sexual identity and allowed them to also gain the courage to come out to their loved ones. These videos were part of the process that led to gay marriage being legalised in the UK last year.

In a manner just as groundbreaking, Michael Jackson’s video for ‘Black Or White’ in 1991 also normalised the concept of equality; as it forced racist people to accept that interracial relationships were going to become the norm on their television screens and in their neighbourhoods. Increased ethnic representation in music videos has also helped to both dispel negative racial stereotypes and introduce people to new cultures, which has lead to more uneasy parents being comfortable with whoever their child brings home to date. However, simultaneously these same stereotypes are also being enforced in the media in a negative way and are widening the gap between races. Hence the long-lasting structural racism protestors in Ferguson are currently fighting against.

2 Know your worth and don’t be pressured into sex until you’re ready

 Slide 2

(Be the girl he falls in love with, not the one-night stand he forgets)

2006 saw the release of Ludacris’ ‘Runaway Love’ and Lyfe Jennings’ ‘S.E.X.’ videos, which both broached the topic of underage sex and virginity. They both left viewers with the firm message that young females hold all the power and shouldn’t be pressured into situations they are not emotionally mature enough to handle yet. As Lyfe Jennings put it “you’re worth waiting for”, so ladies take control and do what feels right for you.

The danger with the music videos of this generation, in particular rap and EDM videos, is that hyper-sexualisation of women is the norm and young girls see this and aspire to it believing that that is the best way to get a guy’s attention. This message could be the difference between a teenage girl holding out for someone special to lose her virginity to and a girl losing her dignity at a party; acting out of character for the attention of boys who see her virginity as a conquest.

3 Being referred to as a “ho” or “bitch” is never a good look, mutual respect is key

Slide 3

(Intelligence, confidence and ambition are sexy traits ladies take note!)

As condescending and silly as DJ Khaled’s video for ‘Hold You Down’ was last year, the message to celebrate intelligent, loyal and independent women is one that the younger generation should embrace. But as the delivery proved, male musicians still have a way to go before they understand the true impact that images of men throwing money at women (literally in Khaled’s case) can have on the younger generation.

Note to any young men reading this: attempting to re-enact how Khaled spoke to that woman in the video will probably get you slapped in real life.

Earlier this year the rapper Wale spoke out on the objectification of women in the media and consciously chose to feature a positive female role model in his music video for ‘The Body’; who, for the record, was fully dressed. In an exclusive blog post Wale comments that: “These days, we spend so much time focusing on ‘that assssss,’ we forget how much of love’s chemistry is contingent to a beautiful face and genuine personality.”

4 Cheaters deserve to be dumped because the next one WILL treat you better if you let them

 Slide 4

(The 80/20 rule in full effect)

Growing up I got the impression from TV that infidelity in relationships was typical and that it just resulted in some anger-induced throwing, dramatic door slams and crying into a tub of Ben & Jerry’s. The reality is that being cheated on is a traumatic experience, and where your emotions are concerned it is never as simple as the relationship being over and you instantly hating the guilty party. This can be confusing and a lot of people make the mistake of trying to repair the relationship.

Music videos, a lot of the time, tend to encourage this habit of returning to toxic relationships and labelling it “romantic” to the beat of an R&B love song. Thankfully there have been a couple of female empowerment anthems that have bucked this trend, including Letoya Luckett feat Ludacris’ video for ‘Regret.’ The 2009 visual showed the innocent party embracing the split and finding someone more worthy of her heart, a much better message. 

5 Contrary to what rap videos allude; being too aggressive will not win her heart guys

Slide 5

(Let’s all leave rape culture in 2014)

Contrary to the pandemonium that ensued post 50 Shades, most women don’t enjoy being controlled or sexually assaulted in public. The women that do enjoy it rough in sack are also very aware of the power they have as part of a dominant/submissive type arrangement. Therefore, the overwhelming images of scantily clad women being smacked on the ass and ordered to shake it for cash can be extremely damaging to young boys consuming these images, uninformed of the truth, throughout their adolescence.

Not to go totally Germaine Greer on your asses; but women are more than just sexual play things and aggression is never the right route to that all-important skill of communication. Domestic abuse is currently an escalating issue among young couples in the UK. According to Homicide Statistics (1998), every three days in England and Wales a woman is killed by a current or former partner. Given this shocking statistic, maybe Rihanna should have been less fond of Eminem’s lies in the 2010 emotive video.

6 It is ok to cry your eyes out over a guy ladies, but don’t spend too long dwelling on someone who doesn’t see your value

 Slide 6

(Make like a phoenix and rise from the ashes) 

Music has been a source of comfort to us all over the years and a shoulder to cry on during hard times. Especially when it comes to relationships, personal experience in heartbreak is a hot commodity for singers; just ask Mary J Blige or Taylor Swift. A heartfelt lyric can have amazingly healing qualities when it is relatable; all of a sudden your experiences are put into perspective and you realise that you are not alone.

Over the years there has been a wave of videos proving that no matter how much it hurts, life goes on and you will be fine. Toni Braxton feat Trey Songz’ ‘Yesterday’ video in 2009 and Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ video in 2011 are a couple of my personal favourites. 

7 Most people do not look like the models in music videos and that’s OK

Slide 7

(There is beauty in everyone; you just have to look for it)

After seeing certain YouTube videos on the process of editing for advert campaigns and how different the final product is from the look of the original model, I feel like this should be compulsory viewing in every school. No one looks like the models in magazines, not even the models. Porn star bodies are hard to come by naturally too FYI. So stop beating yourself up for being flawed, perfect is boring and unobtainable.

Last year’s ‘Make Her Say’ video from Estelle was a breath of fresh air compared to most sex-related video concepts. There was not a photo-shopped body in sight. It featured a focus group of couples from all ends of the spectrum racially, sexually and body type wise. They were all asked questions about their sex lives and then proceeded to act out their bedroom moves. If you can’t already tell, I am a big fan of inclusivity and I wish the video had been given more exposure. Big thumbs up to Estelle.

8 Embrace your inner freak in the bedroom. Relationship sex doesn’t have to be boring

Slide 8 

(A trusting environment is key to try out all the things your brain has already fantasised about)

If Destiny’s Child taught us anything it was to cater to your man and Miss Kelly and Beyonce have continued to bring that message forward with videos like ‘Motivation’ (2011) and ‘Partition’ (2013). A healthy sex life can add the pizazz your relationship needs to stay fresh and exciting. Plus it can be a free workout with back-to-back orgasms to boot, what’s better than that?

Bashment as a genre has always been pretty sexual, ‘Hot Fuk’ anyone? Yet, in addition to setting the X-rated tone for the evening, it can also serve as a great self-esteem boost. Dancing to bashment can make you feel like you have the sex appeal of Scarlett Johansson and ready to take on the world. As tragic as it is that looks play such a huge role in self-confidence, everyone wants to feel desired and dancing suggestively to a little Vybz Kartel in your bedroom before a big night can do just that.

9 Expand your social circles to find love

Slide 9

(Having different tastes can make for a more interesting conversation)

In 2006 a study published in Psychological Science by Peter Rentfrow and Sam Gosling found that college students used musical taste more than every other topic combined to generate an idea of a new friend/partner’s interests and values to make a judgement on compatibility. As the emergence of lyrical artists singing about social issues has become more apparent in recent years, musical taste is more telling than ever of a person’s belief system.

People naturally gravitate towards those with shared interests and values, but perhaps having an eclectic group of friends is more beneficial to individual growth. Take a page out of Tinchy Stryder’s book and expand your social circle, it could teach you new lessons you never thought existed. Tinchy’s unlikely bromance with the Chuckle Brothers isn’t a rare occurrence in the celeb world; Chris Brown and Elton John are known to get on famously.

10 When all goes wrong in your love life, a good support system is essential

Slide 10

(Friends are the family members you choose for yourself)

On the topic of friendship, never underestimate the power of a strong support system when your relationship isn’t all that Disney predicted. This goes for men and women, never be afraid to ask for a fresh perspective from your close circle, it may just save your relationship. I’m sure that most women have faced the same brutal wake-up-call conversation from their girls when their man showed his true uncomplimentary colours, as depicted in 2004’s ‘Girl’ video from Destiny’s Child.

However, there is such a thing as too much when it comes to relationship advice, at the end of the day trust your intuition and personal knowledge of the situation (like Dame Dash said don’t become a “Chatty Patty”). Good friends are always there through thick and thin, so cherish them.

Music can have an extremely powerful influence on people in many ways, another of these is health. Check out the 10 ways music can boost your mental/physical health:

https://megansaad.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/ten-ways-music-can-boost-your-overall-health/

If you are currently looking for that special someone, dating can be a scary prospect. Here are some handy tips on what NOT to do:

https://megansaad.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/first-date-what-not-to-do/

Throwback Interview: Espa

espa-150th-and-broadway-ep-stream-main

As Posted on NeonNettle.com

Meet Espa, A New Artist Blurring The Lines Of Music And Fashion

Her EP ‘150th and Broadway’ is out now

Refreshingly, new artist Espa is unafraid to call herself a feminist and stand as an example of a female singer who doesn’t need to sexualize herself in the media to be heard. Her debut EP ‘150th and Broadway’ aims to unlock a sense of imagination in its listeners, as she truly believes that “imagination is the lost gift of childhood.”

At the tender age of 23, Espa touches on quite profound subject matter in her lyricism that shows maturity beyond her years. Despite recently launching her solo career, she has previously worked with the likes of Balistiq on hit single ‘Louder’ and similarly to artists like FKA Twigs, she tends to incorporate her love of fashion into her music.

Neon Nettle sat down with the London-based artist Espa to talk about her female role models in the fashion and music industries, genre bending, feminism and her new EP ‘150th and Broadway’.

NN: How would you describe your sound to those who haven’t heard your music yet? What genre would you classify yourself as?

Espa: I consider my music to be of the miscellaneous category or genre bending. My influences are so vast that it’s hard not to channel a little piece of all of them through my music. Today I’m listening to Jai Paul; yesterday it was Billy Holliday.

NN: Your latest single ‘Apartment 2f’ has already received overwhelming support, what was the inspiration behind that song?

Espa: The song is about growing up. The moments in your early twenties when you realise you’re not a kid anymore and you need to get your shit together and look after yourself. It’s an honest portrayal of a time when I was very vulnerable and far from home. In that moment I was able to see the truth of the situation, that’s the ‘light’ that I talk about in the song.

NN: Your close friends The Flatbush Zombies produced the track, how did you guys first meet and decide to work together?

Espa: The first time I worked with Erick Arc Elliot (FBZ rapper and producer) it was very explosive. The tunes were pouring out, we wrote about six tunes in the first couple of sessions. I’m so fascinated by those boys; the dedication to their art is astounding. I wrote some choruses for them, Erick wrote some beats for me and so we shall continue!

NN: You also collaborated with them on hip-hop track ‘Red Light Green Light’, have you got any more plans to dabble in hip hop or any other genres of music other than your own?

Espa: Hip-hop is a huge part of who I am and my sound, so I will always make music that has one foot in the tradition of hip-hop. And as long as I’m working with artists like FBZ, and now the new super group with The Underachievers ‘Clockwork indigo’ (Espa sang on their debut track, ‘Butterfly Effect’), there is no way that I can deny hip-hop a place in my sound. I’d also like to collaborate with Dave Grohl one day.

NN: What would you like your fans to take from your new EP ‘150th and Broadway’?

Espa: I would love the listeners to feel some or all of these things: Transported, energised, moved and inspired. It’s important that, as adults, we start tapping into our wonderful, extravagant imaginations. I hope that this EP, and the visuals that go with it, are a gateway to your own imagination.

NN: How was it working with Shiftk3y and Todd Oliver? What was the dynamic like in the studio?

Espa: These boys are two of my best friends. So with all that history, a very safe creative space exists. There’s a lot of bravery and honesty in the studio. There’s also a lot of laughter and silliness. We have a very profound understanding of each other’s musical brains and can often preempt what the other person is going to suggest. Spoooooky!

NN: You previously spoke about the EP being inspired by renowned photographer Rankin’s ‘Book of Portraits’, what spoke to you about this particular body of work?

Espa: The EP artwork is loosely inspired by that book. There’s something so magical about Rankin’s work. It feels to me that he is very in touch with his inner-child and imagination. That speaks to me and to the millions of people who adore his work! I’d love to work with Rankin one day.

NN: Are you comfortable with the feminist label and why?

Espa: I saw a poster the other day, it said: ‘Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians’. This amused me. It was clearly written by a very fearful man! Feminism is about the pursuit of equality. Although, the sheer fact that ‘feminism’ exists as a label proves that inequality still remains. When the day arrives that the human race can’t recall that the word ‘feminism’ existed, that there was ever a pursuit for ‘gay rights’ or that there was such thing as the class system, that is the day when we will be truly equal and, therefore, truly free.

NN: You’ve previously described Bjork as being one of your inspirations, what other artists influenced your take on music growing up?

Espa: I grew up with a grandfather who toured with Frank Sinatra for 20 years. He also played with Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Judy Garland and many more. I was only allowed to listen to music of class when I was growing up haha! I eventually rebelled and started immersing myself in Jimi Hendrix, Wu Tang, Nirvana, D’Angelo, Nas and Amy Winehouse. Let’s not get this twisted though, my love for Frank Sinatra is unconditional. That man was a G to the highest level.

NN: What was the highlight of London Fashion Week for you? Were there any collections in particular that stood out?

Espa: Moschino’s Barbie Collection. It’s pure genius. Jeremy Scott really is an advanced creative genius.

NN: Would you ever consider starting your own fashion line, once your career in music is further established?

Espa: Art is art. Whether your muse is music, poetry, cooking or fashion. I’m into it all. It would be a wonderful privilege to get into fashion at some point in my career.

NN: Who are your role models in the fashion world and why?

Espa: Vivienne Westwood. It takes a brave woman to rule the punk rock movement from a throne of safety pins, skulls and couture gowns. There is such a rare union of rebellion, opulence and ethical consciousness about what she does. I’m in awe. I’m currently rocking her ‘Save the Arctic’ tee. Go Viv!!

Another artist who blurs the lines between music and fashion is cyber-pop artist Veronica Vesper, check out my interview with her below:

https://megansaad.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/throwback-interview-veronika-vesper/

Music and fashion have always gone hand-in-hand. One genre that has had a major influence over contemporary style cycles is hip-hop. Read my article below:

https://megansaad.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/hip-hop-has-taken-over-the-fashion-industry/

Throwback Feature: Media Racism

say-no-to-racism

 

As Posted on NeonNettle.com

The Seemingly Ignored Factors In Media Racism

Jon Stewart’s monologue highlights some key points

Jon Stewart’s recent monologue during ‘The Stewart Show’ rightfully brought attention to the blatant racist stance of America’s Fox News and the media in general, in their coverage of the current protests in Ferguson, Missouri; following the police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

The monologue began with Jon completing the “Ferguson Challenge”, which involved him being sprayed with mase and tear gas. The news anchor’s response was to splutter; “I don’t nominate anybody” and ask “can I do the ice bucket challenge now?” This not only shows sympathy for the Ferguson protestors, but also symbolises the diversion of social media from the topic of police brutality to the playful ice bucket challenge, in honour of ALS sufferers. The ALS Foundation has since been proved to be an unreliable source for donations.

Of course both are worthy causes, but worryingly mainstream media seems to be taking the trivial option more seriously in terms of its coverage of both news stories. Jon goes on to talk about other ways the media are undermining the importance of holding police officers to account for how they handle the public and minorities in particular. One media tactic involves downplaying the involvement of the NAACP and their ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative; which was launched by President Obama to tackle the issue of education and job opportunities for young men/boys of colour and from low income backgrounds.

Another tactic employed by Fox News, involves making loose comparisons between the experiences of white and black men in dealing with the police, to make it seem as though minorities are just pulling the “race card” unnecessarily. As part of his hilarious parody, Jon asks “did you just apply the who smelt it dealt it to racism?” Reporters are also known to deflect attention from the clear discrimination occurring by criminalising the victims and raising the unrelated topic of gang crime.

To put the issue into perspective, Stewart lists some of the statistics proving the disproportionate amount of minority arrests and officers of colour in America. With these statistics he also mentions the monetary benefit for the officers of making these racially profiled arrests. But despite these facts, Bill O’Reilly claims that the main issue in the case of Michael Brown is how the story is being reported; and not the injustice itself or the lack of transparency from the police department. Did Jon let him get away with that comment? Of course not!

With the growing amount of cases of police brutality in the states, from racially aggravated ones to homophobic instances and attacks on women; this is an issue that needs serious attention and urgent action. The exaggerated response from police to the Ferguson protests (officers “appear to be auditioning for Robocop”) proves that the power of law enforcement is being abused. Protestors should be allowed to exercise their right to free speech, without having to be beaten and then arrested for bleeding on the officer’s uniform. As Stewart adequately concluded, if you’re tired of minorities using the “race card”, imagine actually having to live in the shoes of a minority in “post-racial” America. Food for thought Fox News.

For the cast of LHHNY’s views on race check out my interview below:

https://megansaad.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/throwback-interview-lhhny-cast-on-race/

Latino DJ, Tony Touch, also adds his two-cents on the issue of racism:

https://megansaad.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/throwback-interview-dj-tony-touch/