The New Generation of Female Rappers

For as long as I can remember, hip hop has been my favourite genre of music. However, it has often been criticised for objectifying women in lyrics and videos, and music, like many industries, has been historically male-dominated. Today, there’s a new generation of female rappers changing the narrative for women in hip hop, and hopefully in society more widely.

Through lyrics and visuals, women are claiming power in their relationships, expressing their sexuality and showing pride in being financially independent. Finally, women can find the genre less aspirational and more inspirational.

For years (in my lifetime at least), the female hip hop space was dominated by Nicki Minaj. She was the one who kept me interested in the genre, along with Drake, who in my opinion is the ultimate feminist male rapper. (Just listen to songs like Fancy, Make Me Proud and Nice for What.)


The New Generation

Then along came Cardi B. She started her career as a stripper and is now one of the biggest hip hop artists in the world. Her debut album, Invasion of Privacy is probably the most feminist hip hop album I have ever listened to. She was criticised for choosing to be a mother when her career was just taking flight. In an interview, she said that she did not want to deal with having an abortion. Her parenting is constantly criticised and mocked online. When is society going to stop shaming mothers with careers?

The artist who has had the most impact this year is Lizzo – she’s had everyone singing that they’re “100% that b*tch,” – even Hillary Clinton. Her album Cuz I Love You is filled with self-love and power anthems such as Truth Hurts, Juice, Good as Hell and Tempo. Also, the girl can twerk AND play the flute simultaneously.


Real Hot Girl S***

Megan the Stallion inspired everyone to have a Hot Girl Summer. While being a skilled rapper, she is also studying towards a degree in health administration. Her lyrics are very sexual at times, but I think they’re empowering. If you’re a hip hop head like I am, you’ll know that she is an extension of Lil’ Kim or Trina. Girls should be able to talk about and embrace their sexuality in their own terms, and Megan encourages that through her music.


Honourable Mentions

The most exciting thing about this new generation of female rappers is that there are so many options now. Thank the internet. For more conscious-based rap, listen to Rapsody, who recently released an album dedicated to iconic African American women. There is also Young M.A, an openly lesbian woman, who could out-rap any of her male counterparts. What stands out the most about Rapsody and Young M.A is that they’re not hypersexualised in the way that Nicki Minaj and Cardi B arguably are. The genre has diversified so much that it has given them space to be their authentic selves. To me, that is what hip hop is about.

Two artists I also find fascinating are Doja Cat and Rico Nasty. Not only are they lyrically genius but their fashion and videos are visionary. They made a song together about boobs that gets me hyped every time. And it also has a body-positive message.


“Stripper Rappers”

Jermaine Dupri has referred to this new generation of female rappers as “stripper rappers,” simply because some of them rap about sex and money. How hypocritical.

Feminist or not?

None of these artists claim to be feminist role models, or even to be feminist, but these female rappers are changing the narrative in a massive way. Hip hop is the biggest genre in the world right now, so it’s only right that more women are part of the movement. Whether it’s music, fashion or corporate, women need to be in these spaces as equals.

The Fashion Industry is Suffocating our Planet

The UK has the highest consumption of clothing in Europe. On average, a piece of clothing is worn only a handful of times before it is thrown away, and online shopping is continuing to grow. The fashion industry has become a major contributor to pollution and the overuse of land and water.

‘Fast fashion’ refers to items of clothing produced rapidly and cheaply in factories by retailers desperate to be the first to produce the latest trends. We, as consumers of the fashion industry, are buying and discarding our clothes far too quickly, resulting in approximately 235 million items of clothing being put in landfills every year.

Fast fashion is suffocating the earth.

To hear the opinion of someone in the fashion industry, I interviewed Imogen Evans from Edinburgh, who recently showcased her own designs at New York Fashion Week. When I asked Imogen about her thoughts on fast fashion, she told me: “We live in an instant world where everyone wants things as soon as we see them… People are seeing fashion week pieces and then purchasing them online at Pretty Little Thing for £5 the next day.”

Fashion items have become so cheap that they are only used once, even just to take a picture to upload to Instagram. Online retailer Pretty Little Thing stocks hundreds of items under £5, made possible by using cheap blends of materials. It’s encouraging people to carelessly buy a clothing item and then throw it away almost instantly.

Plastics such as polyester and nylon, which are found in cheaply made clothes and take up to 200 years to break down, are going straight into landfills.

This is polluting the earth and affecting wildlife. Landfill sites are taking over natural habitats and plastics are being eaten by unsuspecting animals. The fashion industry is guilty of contributing to air and water pollution in a major way. This, in turn, is contributing to climate change.

The fashion industry is currently creating more pollution than all of the aeroplanes in the world.

We should be extremely worried. According to scientists, we have 12 years to stop climate change. Fighting fast fashion is one major way to do so.

Several British Influencers, such as GraceFitUk and Zanna Van Dijk are now using their social media platforms to encourage people to shop in charity and vintage shops. Their influence will hopefully slow down the rate at which clothes are being bought.

Another example of an influential person using social media to change people’s views on fast fashion is Alice Wilby. Wilby is a Sustainable Fashion Expert for the BBC, as well as the founder of Future Frock – an online editorial platform focused on sustainable fashion. Through her Twitter profile, which is almost entirely dedicated to sustainability, Wilby explains how we can reuse, repair and recycle clothing.

There are several innovative plans being created to help reduce the impact of disposable fashion.

American Eagle has launched a new clothing rental scheme. For $49.95 a month, customers can rent items for a certain amount of time before returning them to be reused by someone else. The aim is to reduce fast fashion while still being able to fulfil customer need, and will hopefully decrease the number of items that are thrown away.

Another idea is a ‘penny per garmet‘ levy, which would require retailers to pay a penny for every item they sell. The money would then go towards recycling the clothes instead of throwing them away.

Only 1% of material from clothing is currently recycled for new clothing and only 12% is recycled for other uses.

We are slowly waking up. We’re getting rid of plastic bags and single use coffee cups and we are reducing the amount of meat we are eating. Hopefully, we will begin to phase out disposable clothing and the climate-changing emissions it produces.

There are some companies who are already trying to do their bit for the environment, such as Adidas, who have said they will only use recycled polyester by 2024. H&M have begun mending clothes for free so that they are not thrown away.

When speaking to Imogen Evans, she rightly noted, “the main problem is trying to educate millennials who aren’t necessarily interested in fashion because these are the people who are mindlessly buying from Pretty Little Thing and Misguided every other week.”

As consumers, we need to change our attitude towards clothes.

We need to stop seeing items as disposable and start buying fewer better quality items which will last longer. This way, we will reduce how much we are all contributing to climate change. Buying less clothing at a slightly higher price and recycling old clothes is a small price to pay for better quality products and reducing our carbon footprints for the earth.

The Thin Line Between Violence and Art

When it comes to sexualisation in the media, often people respond with – “sex sells.” Although sex may sell, I often wonder at what cost? Who is footing the bill? The answer: everyone.

Sexual exploitation in advertisements affects the whole of society in one way or another.

However, women bear most of the costs and, as a result, our mental health and well-being suffers. Although much has been said on the sexualisation of women and girls in the media, sexual violence, particularly in fashion advertising, must be addressed.

In 2007, Dolce and Gabbana (D&G) published the advert below:

Image Courtesy of Buzzfeed.com
Image Courtesy of Buzzfeed.com

Many women’s rights groups and advertising watchdogs have argued that the advertisement above clearly symbolises gang-rape. Held down against her will, the woman in the image falls victim to her male oppressor while an additional three men look on eagerly, seemingly awaiting their turn. Gang-rape is a horrifying and grotesque human rights violation from which no one should ever have to suffer. Why then, is it perfectly acceptable to normalise gang rape and use it as a concept in advertisements and marketing campaigns? In response to the global public outrage, D&G withdrew the advertisement from all its publications. However, D&G insisted the image was not meant to be controversial but simply represented an erotic dream.

The fashion industry continues to push the boundaries of what is new, edgy and original. Some argue that fashion advertising is art and therefore should not be taken literally, yet I beg to differ. Take this 2012 winter collection titled ‘Shameless’ from the Dutch company Suit Supply:

Image Courtesy of Buzzfeed.com
Image Courtesy of Buzzfeed.com

The advertisements above suggest that, by buying a Suit Supply suit, women will allow men to do whatever they desire, including sex, touching and groping and peering at our vagina’s. Suit Supply’s advertisements not only represent women as sexual slaves, but also imply that men buy suits to enhance their sexual appeal solely to women, thereby ignoring the entire homosexual population.

Some advertisements are ridiculous, stupid and extremely offensive, others are indescribable:

last image
Image Courtesy of Buzzfeed.com

Considered ‘fine art’ by the fashion world, marketing executives marvelled at the degrading advertisements.

Studies show that such violent images negatively impact adolescents’ self-esteem and confidence. The continuous bombardment of violent  images on television, magazines and the internet reinforce negative gender stereotypes and normalise violence and the sexual exploitation of women and girls.

Whether deemed fine art or fashion, it is wrong and unacceptable.

Verily Magazine: For the Empowerment of All Women!

Image Courtesy of Verily Magazine
Image Courtesy of Verily Magazine

When I was 13, I purchased my first copy of Seventeen Magazine. I can still remember the feeling of excitement as I opened the glorious front cover. I absorbed every detail of fashion, relationship and beauty advice.

I was hooked!

As a young woman, I marveled at the beautiful women, high fashion and the seemingly “perfect” physiques that were displayed on each page. I still love opening a women’s magazine and reading its contents from cover to cover. When I travel, wait in a long line, or take a relaxing bubble bath you can usually find me with the latest copy of Women’s Health.

As I approach my 30’s, I find myself more and more dissatisfied and even disgusted with the content allowed in women’s magazines. Have you picked up a women’s magazine lately? The advertisements and images may make your stomach turn.

When flipping through a women’s magazine you may find images and “fashion” advertisements from popular designers like this one, a 2012 Steven Klein ad:

Image Courtesy of Buzzfeed.com
Image Courtesy of Buzzfeed.com

These images objectify and promote violence against women.

Is this what we call fashion?

As a woman and avid magazine reader, I am horrified by these photographs. I now find myself scanning through most magazines hoping to find some worthy content and, if not, I avoid purchasing the magazine altogether. As an advocate for women’s rights and empowerment, I cannot endorse these advertisements or the magazines that allow their content to be displayed.

Just when I thought my love for the woman’s written word was waning, I found a magazine with a mission to uplift and empower all women.

Introducing Verily Magazine!

Verily is a new kind of women’s magazine: one that that celebrates the best of who you are. We feature fashion that is worthy of the woman, relationship articles that go beyond sex tips, and strong cultural and lifestyle journalism. Verily is the modern woman’s go-to guide on how to lead a fulfilling, integrated life.
Verily Mag

Verily Magazine is a breath of fresh air. The first issue,  released in June 2013, focuses on real issues for real women. The Style Section accentuates a woman’s true beauty, value and worth. I love that I can open the page and find a fashion story which benefits campaigns such as No Kid Hungry.

The Relationship Section acknowledges that all relationships are hard work.  Real women contributors  offer their life experiences and research to help the everyday woman navigate relational challenges. The photography and advertisements are stunning and capture the strength, beauty and wisdom of women from all walks of life.

Image Courtesy of Verily Magazine
Image Courtesy of Verily Magazine

Above all, what has most impressed me about Verily Magazine is the focus on the Lifestyle and Culture of women. The June/July issue features a story which highlights human trafficking and the importance of fighting the issue. Hot off the press, the August/September issue features a story which promotes women as entrepreneurial change agents. These are the stories that inspire and  empower women.  These are the conversations that make a difference in our lives.

My love for magazines has been reawakened. The feelings of excitement that I once had as a young girl have reemerged as I wait for the August/September issue of Verily Magazine to arrive in my mailbox. The magazine is also available for people who live abroad. Verily Magazine truly promotes women’s rights, beauty and empowerment.

Want to become a Verily Mag reader?

Subscribe Today!

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America: A Nation of Slobs? Well, Just the Women

Image Courtesy of GlamourDaze.com
Image Courtesy of GlamourDaze.com

Hey ladies! What are you wearing today?

If you are like me, you prefer casual but trendy outfits that offer a glimpse into your own personal style. From jeans to chic blazers to summer dresses, American women tend to enjoy dressing in less formal attire than women of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (i.e. when hats and gloves were considered a wardrobe necessity).

Do you prefer to wear casual attire as well? If so, bad news. You are a slob.

Linda Przybyszewski, an Associate Professor at the University of Notre Dame, teaches students about 19th and 20th century fashion in the United States in her class, “A Nation of Slobs: The Art, Ethics, and Economics of Dress in Modern America.” The class description states that students will “consider whether [fashion trends] represented freedom or the downfall of western civilization;” however, judging from the class title one can assume Przybysewski believes the latter.

Sure, I agree that women’s fashion over the past 100 years has become much more informal. However, I strongly disagree with the notion that such informal fashion trends have made women so-called slobs and it definitely does not represent the downfall of western civilization.

In an interview with CBS, Przybysewski explains her opinions regarding modern fashion, at one point stating that “style just slipped into simplicity and eventually slipped into stupidity.” Although my feminist self found much of the interview simply outrageous, one part in particular made me livid. Przybysewski praises the following description of a young school girl:

“At schoolmates’ glamorous displays, not only eyes, but eyebrows, raise.”

In my opinion, this rhythmic depiction glamorizes the objectification of women by emphasizing the importance of a young girl’s wardrobe over the importance of her studies. Przybysewski further objectifies women as she longingly reminisces about the days when women’s fashion made [male] “heads turn,” referencing classic movies such as Funny Face, After the Thin Man, and Gilda.

Although Przybysewski never deems specifically women’s sloppiness as more detrimental to society than men’s, we can assume her ideas of sloppiness focus mainly on women’s fashion since she neglects to ever mention men in her argument. Rather, Przybysewski focuses solely on the evolution of women’s “sloppiness” using magazines, illustrations, and (unbeknownst to them) current female students.

Not once does Przybysewski describe how changing fashion trends empowered women to shed their corsets in exchange for a more comfortable, practical look. Not once does Przybysewski refer to the correlation between fashion trends and women’s rising political, social and economic power. Not once does Przybysewski declare that a woman’s actions and words are more important than her dress.

Instead, Przybysewski’s teachings only reinforce the idea that women should be seen and not heard.

In a nation where female CEOs earn only 74.5 percent as much as male CEOs, constantly scrutinizing women for their fashion sense rather than concentrating on their education and/or leadership ability inevitably delays gender equality. Did anyone criticize former Apple CEO Steve Jobs on his iconic black turtleneck and jeans? No. Instead, the world rightfully appreciated his undeniable impact on the advancement of computer technology and articles like this one cheerfully “admired” his wardrobe evolution (or lack thereof).

Unfortunately, today’s gendered reality suggests Przybysewski is not alone in her beliefs. While Przybysewski teaches our nation’s youth that a woman’s wardrobe is of extraordinary importance, the media simultaneously dissects and critiques female celebrities’ and political leaders’ fashion, thus reinforcing Przybysewski’s ideals.

In order to achieve complete gender equality, we must stop judging women on their outward appearance and start listening to their voices. Don’t you think it’s time?