From ‘Fast Cars’ to Self-Gifted ‘Flowers’: What Pop Music Reveals about the Status of Women

The narrator of “Fast Car,” who finally finds the strength at song’s end to tell her no-count trifling lover to “take your fast car and keep on driving,” is an earlier version of Sza’s narrator on the heartbreak and revenge-fantasy songs that comprise her Grammy-nominated album SOS—a worthy project that many had hoped would break the 25-year-drought of a Black woman winning the Album of the Year Grammy, since Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

Still, we have come a long way from passively waiting for someone else’s “fast car” to move us out of poverty—and failing to doing so—while the latest songs imagine us killing our exes or shimmering like diamonds once we move on. We have arrived at that moment in which we are more than eager to celebrate the women who can drive in their own fast cars—accrued debts and generational poverty be damned.

2023’s Top Feminist Moments in Pop Culture

In a year when women seemed to dominate both culturally and economically, it was not hard to find many feminist moments in pop culture that defined 2023.

Here are our top 10 favorites—including Rihanna’s historic Super Bowl performance; breakthroughs for women in TV, film and music; iconic moments in women’s leadership, and more.

Shine Your Light: Reflections on ‘Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé’

Renaissance—Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s fifth self-directed film—is about how to shine your light, how to give others shine, and how to sit in darkness until the light comes again.

In this season of light, we have a tremendous opportunity to observe a Black woman in her prime at 42 years old making art, working at her craft, raising her children, and surrounded by a strong network.

Listen to Black Women! A Review of ‘The Exorcist: Believer’

The Exorcist: Believer employs its Caribbean-based opening scene not to locate an “origin” for demonic possession, but to follow an actual blessing in the form of a protection spell over an unborn child. Given how Haiti has been traditionally demonized in Western culture, this representation already elevates this film as a counter-narrative.

In the end, the latest installment of The Exorcist does much to alter Black representations in the horror genre, giving them due reverence and centrality in a mainstream movie while also allowing them to survive.

Surviving Hip-Hop: The Ms. Q&A with Drew Dixon

Our hip-hop series “Turning 50” concludes this week just as the official anniversary of hip-hop’s 50th birthday kicks off the weekend.

Ms.’ final conversation is with Drew Dixon—a producer, writer, activist, entrepreneur and former A&R executive. She’s been featured in multiple documentaries, including Max’s On the Record in 2020 and Ladies First this year on Netflix. The conversation featured here honors her role in U.S. culture: as a survivor of sexual harassment and assault, an activist, a truth-teller and a musical pioneer.

Southern Hip-Hop Feminists Got Something to Say: The Ms. Q&A on Hip-Hop’s Reverse Migration

Aisha Durham and Regina Bradley are both hip-hop feminist scholars who focus on the South. Both spoke with Ms. contributing editor Janell Hobson to discuss the upcoming 50th anniversary of hip-hop, the origins of Southern hip-hop, how women continue to shape the genre—and, of course, their favorite feminist hip-hop anthems. (This article is part of “Turning 50,” which recognizes the women who shaped hip-hop.)

“Hip-hop started in New York but it didn’t end there,” said Bradley. “You probably wouldn’t have a robust hip-hop scene today without the Southern sound.”

Women Are Hip-Hop’s Culture Bearers: The Ms. Q&A With Elaine Richardson and Kyra Gaunt

Elaine Richardson—or Dr. E—a professor of literacy studies at the Ohio State University, founded the Hip-Hop Literacies Conference. Kyra Gaunt, an assistant professor of music and women’s, gender and sexuality Studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York, is the author of the groundbreaking The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop (2006). She is currently writing a book on the impact of YouTube and music technologies on the sexualization of young Black girls. Richardson and Gaunt spoke with Ms. contributing editor Janell Hobson to discuss the upcoming 50th anniversary of hip-hop.

(This series is part of “Turning 50,” which recognizes the women who shaped hip-hop.)

Summer at the Movies: On the Successes and Failures of Imagination

Despite our collective love for larger-than-life motion pictures, I must lament the dearth of images of Black women in heroic, star-turning roles.

But in Barbieland, a topsy-turvy world where women run things—in contrast to the “real world” of patriarchy—we can imagine women in every possible role. Let’s hope Barbie’s commercial success encourages more support for films that feature diverse women as big-screen heroes. There are so many more stories to be told.

Developing Hip-Hop Feminist Scholarship: The Ms. Q&A With Tricia Rose and Gwendolyn Pough

In our continued coverage of hip-hop feminists for our “Turning 50” series, we highlight two important voices and pioneers in hip-hop feminist studies.Tricia Rose, a professor of Africana Studies at Brown University, was born and raised in Harlem and the Bronx in New York City. Her groundbreaking book, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America (1994), explored the emerging culture of hip-hop and helped to establish the birth of hip-hop studies. Her work addresses Black feminisms, Black women’s sexualities, and systemic racism. 

Gwendolyn D. Pough, a professor of women’s studies and rhetoric at Syracuse University, is renowned for her scholarship on hip-hop feminism, begun with her seminal work, Check it While I Wreck it: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere (2004).

(This series is part of “Turning 50,” which recognizes the women who shaped hip-hop.)