I found this article on salon.com by Michelle Goldberg (apparently a very acclaimed feminist writer in the US). It's a supposedly feminist critique of Lil Kim where she is branded as "the hip hop pornographer", says that Lil Kim wants "orgasms not respect", calls the life of the porn-positive rapper pretty empty (What the fuck does she know about that?) because her album is ANGRY. And now you're probably wondering, what the fuck? A FEMINIST downplaying a woman, BECAUSE SHE IS ANGRY? It gets worse. Suddenly Goldberg is saying that Lil Kim is no role model for women because she articulates "rage against men". Goldberg particularly brings up the chorus to the song "Suck my dick" where Lil Kim articulates "rage against men" and snaps: "If I was a dude I'd tell ya all to suck my dick." Sounds pretty feminist to me, but Michelle Goldberg says that it would be nihilist to call this progress... Has she missed the point that pointing at inequality and getting angry about it IS AN IMPORTANT AND PROGRESSIVE PART OF CHANGING THE POWER DYNAMICS. But no, no, no, the following is Goldberg's point and also the way she ends her article:
"The unarticulated pain beneath her (Lil kim's) bravado makes it feel more authentic, but there's nothing liberating about it. If there's no joy in playing the role of a whore, then there's no power in it, either."
What's obvious if you read between the lines is how the white woman Michelle Goldberg does her best to take all agency and authority over her own life from Lil Kim. And this is something that many white feminists have done before, it's nothing new, but it's fucking tiresome. It's the reason why when I was at Way out West-festival 2008, very few of my feminist friends were interested in seeing Lil Kim, and this (white, basically hetero) guy I had feelings for at the time, who defines as a feminist said she was "trashy and a bad artist". And it's the reason why a white artist like Liz Phair becomes a (white) feminist icon (this article is from the same magazine that called Kim an empty hip-hop pornographer), where as Lil Kim is viewed by many (white) feminists as a victim of oversexualization and objectification by men, despite her lyrics and attitude saying quite the opposite.
Just to prove my point, let's do a little lyrical comparison between Phair and Kim when it comes to relationships and sexuality.
Liz Phair had her debut with the album Exile in Guyville. I fell in love with it instantly, I guess in my little white feminist world it really hit a string, the way she sung about trouble with men, with relationships, and sung really blatantly about being really turned on. About fucking. She wasn't afraid to be dirty. But exactly how does she sing about relationships and about sex? Cuz if you take a second glance at it, there is quite a bit of normative shit going on... In Fuck and run she talks about how "She wants a boyfriend" and how one night stands make her feel empty. I'm sure she felt that way and she has every right to sing about it, however it can hardly be called ground-breaking feminism or "breaking the norms for how females should behave sexually". Many other songs on the album are about (SUPRISE!) men and relationships with men, she spends a lot of time analyzing them and also quite a bit of time pining away about her love for a man. All the women, independent? Hardly. Unless you also are one of those people who consider Sex and the City to be the tv-show that shattered patriarchy...
Okay, but than Liz Phair does get to something that does break some boundaries and taboos for women. SEX. She talks about it explicitly, sparing no details. But how does she sing about it? In the song Flower, she sings about how horny she is. But what does this mean to her, it means
"I want to be your blowjob queen", it means
"Everything you ever wanted, Everything you ever thought of, Is everything I'll do to you". In the song "How white cum" it means
"Gimme your hot white cum". Okay, to be fair, she also sings about getting all wet between her legs etc., but the point is when she sings about getting really turned on, her focus is on his pleasure, not hers. Feminist Liberation! Not quite...
Alright. Over to Lil Kim. To begin with I want to say that NO, Lil Kim is not perfect and every single thing she does does not necessarily further the cause of women's rights. This isn't the point I'm trying to make either. My point is that Lil Kim IS an important feminist icon, who does subvert many stereotypes on what woman can and can not do and who does further the cause for independence and sexual empowernment. No matter what Ms. White, or oops, I mean Michelle Goldberg says.
Lil Kim's songs rarely focus on twosome-relationships with men and when they do, they are not afraid to be angry and put them on the spot. And contrary to what Michelle Goldberg says she does demand respect (last time I checked the song "Can't hold us down" does feature Lil Kim) AND would like an orgasm to go with that. Lil Kim usually speaks about relationships with men in terms of "
Ya, wanna eat me cause ya, say I'm sexy. I've Got a man in Japan and a dude in Tahiti, but believe me sweety I got enough to feed the needy".Twosome-normative? Nope. Reproduction of a woman's role in heterosexual relathionships? Nope.
And sure Lil Kim also sings A LOT about giving blowjobs
"I used to be scared of the dick, now I through lips at the shit, handle it like a real bitch", but singing about blowjobs is perfectly feminist as long as you're sticking your neck out there saying Lick my pussy just the same. This is something Liz Phair fails to do, but that Lil Kim does as frequently as she can. Lil Kim probably has the World Record in the number of songs about the art of pussy licking, for example "Queen Bitch" (Got bafoons eatin my pussy while I watch cartoons), "How many licks", "Big Momma Thang" (What's on your mind when your tongues in the pussy, is it marriage, baby carriage), and Not Tonight (I don't want dick tonight, eat my pussy right), just to mention a few. Lil Kim talks about her clit all the time and leaves nobody wondering if the clitoris is the pleasure-centre for women. Kim's songs on sexuality have empowered me immensely, and I mean both when she's singing EAT ME and when she's singing about giving blow jobs (cuz I used to be scared of the dick, now I throw lips to the shit, handle it like a real bitch). Just like Lil Kim I do like sucking dick and as long as I'm getting mine as well, this is feminist...
And well no, Kim isn't scared of the dick, but she sure as hell has got loads of pussy power and if you don't satisfy her, she won't satisfy you. This IS a feminist message and is also taking the sexual discussion out of the (white victorian prudish) missionary position (most women can't cum through vaginal sex). She sticks out her neck for Lesbian and gay rights, and celebrates women getting horny and touching themselves when they see her. Not to mention how important Lil Kim's reclaiming and furthermore empowering of the term "Bitch" is, a feminist feat that Liz Phair doesn't even come near. And did I mention Lil Kim's ass-whooping attitude?
When I listen to Liz Phair I'm usually moping around about some guy, when I listen to Lil Kim I'm celebrating independence and defying being attached to a guy. And okay, maybe I'm being a bit unfair to Liz Phair, I do love a lot of her music, but I just think that the way Liz Phair and Lil Kim have been treated by white feminists (ESPECIALLY SECOND WAVE-FEMINISTS) really exposes what issues with white supremacy (AND SEXUALITY) many feminists have... Would Liz Phair have become a (white) feminist icon if she hadn't been white? The answer to that question should unfourtanetely be quite obvious...