janelle monae

In a new interview with NMETV, R&B musician Janelle Monáe has some exceptionally eloquent words about the expectations of women to fit in a certain box—both in their behavior and their physical appearance. Of course, it isn’t news to any of us that as women, we’re supposed to act, dress, and speak in a certain way, and that the conception of an ideal women is drawn from a very narrow definition. But Monáe’s ideas were extremely refreshing and articulate in a way that I haven’t come across in a long time, especially in reference to her style and the statement she makes with her clothing.

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Monáe is known for her relatively androgynous style, which she says is a tool she uses to make a political and social statement. While she likes dresses and heels and other conventional, “feminine” clothing, she uses her androgynous style to convey a bigger message to “redefine and rebel against sexism.” She says that “it’s up to us as women not to accept [sexism] and lead by example, and that’s what I’ve always tried to do with music and the way that I dress. I won’t allow myself to be oppressed, or I won’t allow myself to be a slave or controlled by anybody’s own belief system.”

In our culture rampant with sexism, Monáe shows an admirable amount of empathy for the people who have voiced concerns about her style and behavior because she didn’t fit their mold of femininity. She says that they simply didn’t know any better, and that closed-minded, oppressive concepts are passed down from generation to generation until something stops the cycle. She says that “it’s just important that we set up a better future, a better world for the next generation, especially of young women.” Yes. This.

There’s one particular statement from the interview that really stuck with me: “I will peacefully remain in control of my body.” I’m going to repeat that to myself next time I want to punch someone who says something vulgar to me on the street, next time a man tells me I should wear more dresses, or the next time someone tells me I’m too opinionated. I’m going to tell my 13-year-old cousin to use that to inform her response when she gets called a slut at school. I’m going to tell my future hypothetical daughters to think that as they grow up. Janelle Monáe, you’re a goddamn heroine.

Photo: Getty Images // Story via Upworthy