Just Sing the Blues and Face Facts: a screed against“self empowerment”

There’s a thing going on in music right now, where women are all about self-empowerment songs: Survivor, Part of Me, Stronger, Fighter, Good as Hell, Confident, Fight Song, Woman like Me. The list goes on. It’s awesome but it’s weird because something’s missing. I was sitting with a singer friend of mine who is going through a terrible divorce and she’s a wreck. So what does she sing? Self-empowerment songs. When I saw her break down with a totally non-empowered combo of rage/confusion/dismay/depression, I said:

“Why doesn’t this emotion come out in your music?”

And honestly, she admitted it hadn’t occurred to her to express her actual emotions. She was going with the trend—act like you’re the strongest bitch on the planet! But she’s not. She will be eventually, but that day’s not here, yet. Maybe she was going with the “fake it till you make it” mentality, but me, I think the point of art is expressing your real emotions, not the ones you wish you had.

It sure is socially acceptable to create art that waxes poetic about what a strong woman you are. It’s a thing, of course, with us, because of, you know, history and everything. By contrast, it’s weird for men to do that because I mean, come on. Who cares? Because of, you know, history (and current events) and everything. But as someone who is also an artist that specializes in expressing emotion,

I think the tendency toward self-empowerment expression can be a trap.

In fact, I often have to talk my ghostwriting clients out of expressing “fake empowerment.” You really don’t have to sing a song or write a book that makes you look like a hero. People hate heroes. We can’t relate to them. Me, if I read a memoir that either reads like or ends like the author is the biggest self-empowered hero in the world, I’m kind of disgusted. It’s so fake. It’s like painting yourself as a cartoon character. Nobody’s really like that. But more importantly, women, the fact of the matter is:

you don’t have to be strong to be awesome. You can just be whatever you are.

And honestly, “whatever you are” is what people relate to. It makes them feel okay being whatever they are. That’s a big part of what reading memoir does for people, and what listening to music does, too. I blame society. I really do. The concept of feminism went from, once upon a time: “women can be anything!” to “women are strong!” Those are not the same. Women are human beings who have the full range of human emotions, thank God. The truth is seldom a choice between strong or weak but just a very complex reality of being alive. I think that complexity is what we’re looking for in all our art forms.

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