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Thread started 05/11/04 7:56am

StainedGlassBi
mbo

What can we learn about Gender identity from Prince?

Hey.

This is my very first post on here, but I've been reading the board for a good few months now. I just thought that a good topic of discussion would be how Prince contorts gender roles and what influence this can have on younger people? I've been writing an essay for my degree entitled How powerful is popular music as a source of Gender identity for young people? It tells you a little bit about what kind of fan I am, and how I find his appearance and his lyrics fascinating. Here are a few excerpts which you may find interesting...it's quite long-winded even though it's heavily abridged, but if you're bored and lonely it may help you pass the dark hours...

-----


Being at an age where conformity was considered essential, musical taste was the source of much conflict. People like me -secure enough in their gender and sexuality to follow more sexually ambiguous artists- became the target of abuse. Social Constructionists believe that gender has to be sculpted and taught by the society around us as we grow up. In which case, like all media, music must have a major influence. Young people can turn to music in order to sculpt their identities simply because it is omnipresent. Just like boys and girls sometimes feel the need to look like the images they see in magazines (before they know better), I can imagine that they too look to musical figures for inspiration.

In 1984, when Madonna performed Like a Virgin whilst wearing a wedding dress and caressing herself, she was perhaps teaching young women that they are allowed to be sexually active, but they must also pretend to be coy in order to create the right impression. Madonna’s many styles have been replicated by girls for several years. For example, when Madonna dressed in a suit in the Express Yourself video (1989), she opened the door for girls to follow suit (excuse the pun) and ‘dress like a man’. She manipulated traditionally accepted stereotypes and played power games, thus giving girls something to aspire to. Madonna both celebrates her femininity and distorts it.

Madonna and Prince have created trouble with their increasingly challenging and often rather adult output. As a persona, Prince flaunts ambiguity and is full of fascinating contradictions. I grew up listening to his early 90’s output, becoming a fan when most other people lost interest. He was an especially adult choice of idol, I thought, which is one of the things that made him interesting. I also liked the way he played with his gender, and how he really could not care less what people though of him. He was someone I aspired to be, a strong figure that I could relate to. He taught me that a little ambiguity about sexuality cannot be a bad thing, otherwise why would he have been such a popular performer? I learnt a lot of what I know about sex (the process) and masculinities from Prince. I never completely understood it, and some of the material wasn’t entirely positive, but it certainly got me asking questions. I was utterly intrigued; this was a guy who could shamelessly wear outrageous outfits, high heels and make-up. The cover of LoveSexy (his religious album from 1988) portrays him naked, with a leg strategically placed, reclining on a pink flower. Even when he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol in 1993 it consisted of both the male and female symbols, with the extra flourish that he had become famous for! I became even more fascinated with him at this point. And, although I admit this grudgingly, yes I did ask my classmates to refer to me in the same way! Consequently they could never talk to me. Whoops.

Incidentally, I was quite young and impressionable at the time, but I was still making conscious decisions about everything I did. Prince taught me to never believe in peer pressure. He taught me that uniqueness can be great thing, the irony being I was the only one who thought this! I became more outgoing, more eccentric and I loved it. I became unafraid to display the many stereotypically feminine qualities that were within me, and if women are traditionally the fairer sex, then how is that a bad thing? I despised football, I spent a lot of time doing my hair, was sensitive, polite, and actually a nice person.

“If I was your girlfriend
Would u remember 2 tell me all the things u forgot
When I was your man?
If I was your best friend
Would u let me take care of u and do all the things
That only a best friend can

Would u let me wash your hair
Could I make u breakfast sometime
Or then, could we just hang out, I mean
Could we go 2 a movie and cry together?”


If I Was Your Girlfriend by Prince is the perfect example of gender ambiguity. The song- performed in falsetto- could be from many different perspectives: someone who is a man, someone who used to be a man, or someone who simply does not know where they stand. This person is desperate to please their partner, asking why she does things with her “girlfriend” that she doesn’t do with him. If he offered to do these things would it make her happy? Interestingly, it starts with a sample of The Wedding March, suggesting ‘heterosexuality’, but is that what the song is about? Upon first listen I would have been approximately eight years old, and for someone who liked to listen so intently at such a young age it was a lot to digest. Even my own mother didn’t understand it! I remember her saying “how could he be her girlfriend? He’s a man!” which I suspect is precisely the reaction Prince craved in order to prove his point. The song is a positive role model, encouraging men to be more sensitive to needs of the opposite sex. You don’t have to be a masculine in order to be a man. Prince has certainly made me think, and it is debatable whether he has previously ever had such an effect on someone so young.

Many would suggest that a lot of his material is unsuitable for such young minds, but I always consumed it with innocence, forming a subjective opinion. For example, a vast quantity of his albums have had high sexual content, e.g. Come (1993) featuring the songs Pheromone and Orgasm. These titles are quite laughable and blatant, but at that age I found them interesting because they were new concepts and, like I said, they were consumed with innocence. They forced me to question their meaning. At that age the only word I could use to describe their meaning was simply “sex”, but it obviously goes much deeper than that (again, excuse the pun!) Prince sang of body parts I did not know existed, and feelings I had never experienced. It was a major learning curve for me. I was permitted to listen to it provided I didn’t repeat it! My mother answered as many questions as possible, and I found it all frightfully enlightening! However, she quite rightly drew the line at the blatantly heterosexual and misogynistic display apparent in Sexy M.F. The radio-friendly version was deemed appropriate because it sounded like he was simply singing about someone’s sexy mother, but I was banned from listening to the album version until I was much older. This song is an example of Prince being hyper-masculine, having sexual fantasies about a sexy woman. Sexy M.F. is one of his less ambiguous efforts, showing unquestionable heterosexuality whilst simultaneously being somewhat oedipal! Like Madonna, Prince both celebrates his gender but also bends it, breaking unwritten rules and opening unseen avenues.

Incidentally, I am now an even bigger fan of Prince, not only for sentimental reasons, and my choice of musical idol may reflect my sexuality. I’m more than comfortable with my heterosexuality, which allows me to be more experimental.

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It's only a selection of the 2,500 words, but you get the idea. It's a very weighty start to my time here, but hell, I like to make an impact. Are you still awake?
[This message was edited Tue May 11 8:04:22 2004 by StainedGlassBimbo]
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Reply #1 posted 05/11/04 8:27am

TheBluePrince

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In my Undergrad Sociology course, we studied androgyny, and a new term "Metrosexual" Prince was mentioned in class as being the 'poster boy' of androgyny. Prince is very masculine in ways, very much so. Yet, you wouldn't tell that by looking at him. He where's heels better than any woman, and Halle Berry is the only person I know who comes close to wearing that haircut to perfection. Yet, he doesn't have his ears pierced...

As a symbol of my comfort in heterosexuality, I pierced my ear, again, and again, the more ridicule I received from my peers, the more I pierced. It was my way of being rebellious. Now that I look back on that, Society had more control over me then, than ever. Being rebellious in itself is, being controlled or heavily influenced by society. Now I have 3 holes in one ear, and 2 in the other.

I don't wear heels, but I do wear Sweet Pea (my fav Bath and Body Works fragrance). I'm not a feminist, but I will fight for women's rights as much as I would African-Americans', I don't wear make-up, but I do use a cover-up in some areas (covering blemishes sad ) I don't wear blouses, but I'll where pink or purple in a heartbeat.

It's all about being a human being...
Blue music
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Reply #2 posted 05/11/04 8:49am

ThreadBare

What can we learn? Hmm, beats me.
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Reply #3 posted 05/11/04 10:06am

langebleu

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StainedGlassBimbo said:

What can we learn about Gender identity from Prince?
He's male.
.
ALT+PLS+RTN: Pure as a pane of ice. It's a gift.
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Reply #4 posted 05/11/04 10:17am

shygirl

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Actually, Prince's ears are pierced. He just doesn't wear earrings anymore. Except for those ear wrap thingys.
Prince is a pretty man, like his song says. And he's secure enough in his masculinity to flaunt it to the nth degree. One of the many things I love about him.
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Reply #5 posted 05/12/04 7:26am

StainedGlassBi
mbo

He's definitely male, we've established that...
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Reply #6 posted 05/12/04 7:41am

TheBluePrince

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shygirl said:

Actually, Prince's ears are pierced. He just doesn't wear earrings anymore. Except for those ear wrap thingys.
Prince is a pretty man, like his song says. And he's secure enough in his masculinity to flaunt it to the nth degree. One of the many things I love about him.


Oh, didn't know that. Every close up pic I have of him, there isn't a hole in his lobe. Maybe it's the upper ear?
Blue music
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Reply #7 posted 05/12/04 8:17am

Zelaira

Well, being a Fan of His and Madonna for so long my Gay Male side came out.Made a Macho Male side come out in me.My Wonderful Strap On Robbie Baby was actually all the Men why they Wanna kiss a Rubber 7" God Only Knows.
[This message was edited Wed May 12 8:18:29 2004 by Zelaira]
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Reply #8 posted 05/12/04 8:52am

JediMaster

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Very interesting. I experienced a whole lot of this myself. Nowadays the concept of "Metrosexual" is taking off, but back in the 80s there were no such distinctions. I not only loved the music of folks like Prince and Duran Duran, but also their images. They were blatantly heterosexual, yet wore clothing and makeup more traditionally associated with women and gay men (at the time, being gay was still pretty much taboo, so to be a straight man embracing such things was unheard of).

I never liked sports, and was also incredibly artsy. I had no problem with makeup (started wearing it early on for stage productions, and just didn't see why so many straights were threatened by it) although I really never wore it in school. I got teased... a whole lot. I was called "faggot", just because I didn't have any interest in football, or other such things. I wanted to perform, period. That was all that really interested me. I loved girls, and had no interest in men whatsoever. In fact, females were pretty much my consuming passion.

Along comes Prince, with his high heels and makeup. He blew my little Junior High School mind!! Here was a man wearing lace and jewels....and he's singing of having sex with women in ways I didn't even know existed!!! He was overt, explicit, and had no problem with showing his feminine side. In fact, he FLAUNTED it. Here was a man with more women in a week than I would have in a lifetime, and he was unapologetically effiminate. To say he became a hero to me would be accurate. (It didn't hurt that he was also an incredible musician. Don't think for a minute that the music wasn't the very first thing that I connected with. It was months before I actually saw a picture of P)

Anyhoo, I totally get where you are coming from. Interesting to see someone much younger who went through something so similar. (one note, I don't agree at all that "Sexy MF" was mysoginistic. That song is very much about connecting with a woman in a spiritual level, in spite of the explicit chorus. He did the same on "Pussy Control". P may be the most raunchy feminist ever).

Peace
jedi

Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended, for the taking of offense is what rests in the bosom of the stupid ones. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
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Reply #9 posted 05/12/04 8:53am

JediMaster

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shygirl said:

Actually, Prince's ears are pierced. He just doesn't wear earrings anymore. Except for those ear wrap thingys.
Prince is a pretty man, like his song says. And he's secure enough in his masculinity to flaunt it to the nth degree. One of the many things I love about him.


Are you sure? The hoop thing he wore in the early 80s and late 90s was a clip-on. Oh well, it doesn't really matter, but I've never noticed a hole in either lobe either
jedi

Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended, for the taking of offense is what rests in the bosom of the stupid ones. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
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Reply #10 posted 05/14/04 7:17am

TheBluePrince

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JediMaster said:

Very interesting. I experienced a whole lot of this myself. Nowadays the concept of "Metrosexual" is taking off, but back in the 80s there were no such distinctions. I not only loved the music of folks like Prince and Duran Duran, but also their images. They were blatantly heterosexual, yet wore clothing and makeup more traditionally associated with women and gay men (at the time, being gay was still pretty much taboo, so to be a straight man embracing such things was unheard of).

I never liked sports, and was also incredibly artsy. I had no problem with makeup (started wearing it early on for stage productions, and just didn't see why so many straights were threatened by it) although I really never wore it in school. I got teased... a whole lot. I was called "faggot", just because I didn't have any interest in football, or other such things. I wanted to perform, period. That was all that really interested me. I loved girls, and had no interest in men whatsoever. In fact, females were pretty much my consuming passion.

Along comes Prince, with his high heels and makeup. He blew my little Junior High School mind!! Here was a man wearing lace and jewels....and he's singing of having sex with women in ways I didn't even know existed!!! He was overt, explicit, and had no problem with showing his feminine side. In fact, he FLAUNTED it. Here was a man with more women in a week than I would have in a lifetime, and he was unapologetically effiminate. To say he became a hero to me would be accurate. (It didn't hurt that he was also an incredible musician. Don't think for a minute that the music wasn't the very first thing that I connected with. It was months before I actually saw a picture of P)

Anyhoo, I totally get where you are coming from. Interesting to see someone much younger who went through something so similar. (one note, I don't agree at all that "Sexy MF" was mysoginistic. That song is very much about connecting with a woman in a spiritual level, in spite of the explicit chorus. He did the same on "Pussy Control". P may be the most raunchy feminist ever).

Peace


I'm with you Master Jedi ! wink
Blue music
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Reply #11 posted 05/14/04 7:35am

LaughinAtYall

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Prince is a wonderful artist and strong for being able to be himself without worrying about how people perceive him, but let's be real. How can you guys not think that he has never had sex with a man? He is prettier than most women. He may not be gay, but he is definitely bi-sexual. He probably got his freak on with Morris, Jerome and half of the members of his band.
It's 1984 All Over Again!
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Reply #12 posted 05/14/04 7:50am

Handclapsfinga
snapz

TheBluePrince said:

Oh, didn't know that. Every close up pic I have of him, there isn't a hole in his lobe. Maybe it's the upper ear?

he got his left ear pierced in 1979...
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Reply #13 posted 05/17/04 5:43pm

TheBluePrince

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Handclapsfingasnapz said:

TheBluePrince said:

Oh, didn't know that. Every close up pic I have of him, there isn't a hole in his lobe. Maybe it's the upper ear?

he got his left ear pierced in 1979...


I hope that's all he has pierced... eek
Blue music
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Reply #14 posted 05/17/04 5:49pm

Zelaira

I am so like Tempted to Pierce My Nipples and Clit. I think well Prince got me to Try Gay Stuff. I think he got me to Dig Gay Boys. I think he got me to be ADVENTUROUS ....I have No IDEA what More I am 2 LEARN!
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Reply #15 posted 05/17/04 5:52pm

Zelaira

Yes, Prince if Anything would be a LESBIAN so He'd be Making Love to a Woman as a Lesbian..Ya know Another Female...
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Reply #16 posted 05/19/04 7:10pm

JOEYCOCO

what ya'll should have learned is that lines between gender and sexuality aren't definite.

there was a time in human history when this was understood and people were persecuted 4 being who they are.
dain-daingerous
"u've got a wonderful ass."
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Reply #17 posted 05/19/04 7:28pm

Zelaira

And Kinsey said we were All 6's ya Know Bi-Sexuals. Read the KINSEY REPORT!
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