LANDINGIN: Reclaiming sexuality to fuel feminist thought
Opinions Column: A Sophisticated Tho(ugh)t
Why a sophisticated tho(ugh)t? For anyone who is curious, I’d like to offer a not so simple explanation to how I’ve arrived to naming my column, as this serves as an introduction of the overall theme of this column’s thoughts.
The “tho(ugh)t” in my new catchphrase offers a double meaning of my thoughts and the reclamation of the derogatory term "THOT," the colloquial term for “that hoe over there.” Popularized by contemporary rappers, it is a problematic term intended to tell men to dismiss the girls who sleeps around and are more like to be unfaithful. It differs from the word “slut” because of its racial and class connotations referring to poor women of color.
Like any word or phrase used to oppress marginalized people, it has its possibilities to be redefined and reclaimed. For a woman of color to redefine herself as a THOT means taking pride in how she expresses her sexuality.
To reclaim this word is to make it come alive in opinion and political discourse. My way of rethinking the THOT is supported in my interpretation of the famous black feminist thinker Audre Lorde’s essay, "Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power," where she conceptualizes the erotic as a source of power and information that is deeply rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feelings.
According to Lorde, this is a source that is misnamed into Western society’s superficially erotic that teaches women to suspect, abuse and devalue the erotic. Throughout history, women are taught to distrust this deep and non-rational knowledge, calling them confused or hysterical.
Bridging theory into the tho(ugh)t (You see what I did there?), I will attempt to channel the erotic in me to support my understanding of the engines of society and how marginalized folks subvert oppressive forces by blending the personal and the political.
As Lorde explains, “Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives.”
There’s a reason why the erotic has been corrupted. It is because this kind of of informed knowledge is dangerous to the institutions of the dominant white, cis-male, hetero system.
The dominant narratives of sexuality create conflicts for marginalized communities. As a result, reclaiming such narratives have been a core aspect of black feminist thought, in so much because they experience the intersecting experience of race, class and gender.
Stretching black feminist thought beyond the confines of academic thinkers, hip-hop feminism becomes a vehicle of troubling misconceptions of identities and the black woman’s experience through lyrics and vulnerability.
One of the most influential R&B singer/songwriters in contemporary music, Rihanna exemplifies vulnerability and the reclaiming of sexuality, especially through her eighth studio album ANTI.
As Rihanna lyrically asserts in the track "Needed Me," “I got to do things my own way darling.” It is not their responsibility to bear white women’s responsibility in inclusion.
Rihanna’s music brings a cultural marker in music that resonates towards women who are affected by a whorephobic culture. She speaks to women and folks of color who have to hustle, to dance, to strip, to perform emotional or affective labor in the midst of globalization. But despite how she might be exploiting their experience that's unlike her own privileged and celebrity experience, her music’s work in itself has been similar to the strippers and dancers. She speaks to women who are not interested in dating, in being in a monogamous relationship. She celebrates the intentionally joyous and sexual. She’s not settling for the options before her and redefines savagery in terms of empowerment, “didn’t I tell you that I was a savage? F*ck ya white horse and ya carriage.”
Rae Landingin is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies with minors in art history and digital, communication, information and media. Her column, “A Sophisticated Tho(ugh)t,” runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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