Ain’t I a Princess? Including Black Women and Girls in Fantasy and Play

It is only fitting that Netflix chose Juneteenth to debut the Shondaland-produced documentary film, Black Barbie. The film tells the story of Black women who worked at Mattel and gave us the titular doll, showcasing the joy of freedom through play. And yet, while the film shows that today’s Black children may no longer have feelings of being “ugly” or “bad,” as demonstrated during Clark’s doll experiment, they clearly understood Black Barbie wasn’t the “real Barbie,” wasn’t the “hero” of her own story. 

To that end, are we needing to ask a similar question about other fantasies: “Ain’t I a princess?”

It is not enough for Black women and girls to enter fantasy and play as “corrective” heroes. While we are as indebted to the Black women imagineers who worked on the new Disney ride, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, as we are to the Black women at Mattel for giving us Black Barbie, we are equally in need of imaginations that transcend our limited realities and revel in our most whimsical dreams.

The Abolitionist Aesthetics of Patrisse Cullors, Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter

“Imagine if culturally we understood that protecting Black women meant protecting all of us,” said Patrisse Cullors, renowned for her activist work with Black Lives Matter, a global network she co-founded in 2013 with Alicia Garza and Ayo Tometi. “I think that’s what this show means to me.”

The show referenced here, “dedicated to all Black women and femmes around the world,” is the exhibit Between the Warp and Weft: Weaving Shields of Strength and Spirituality—an introduction to Cullors as an artist wielding her protection spell over Black women. The exhibit opens Saturday, June 15, at the Charlie James Gallery in downtown Los Angeles.

Beyoncé Banned From the Classroom? The Race and Gender Debates Continue

Pop star Beyoncé Knowles-Carter continues to be a catalyst for cultural provocation. She dares to suggest that African Americans are vital to U.S. culture and are equally worthy subjects that require our attention and recognition of their value through their inclusion in our cultural heritage. if Kimberlè Crenshaw is the theory, Beyoncé is the practice. Our laws emerge from our culture, and those we hold up as culture bearers – including our pop stars – have the power to elevate the status of those most marginalized and to make visible our different political struggles.

Black Women Caught in the Digital Crosshairs

Black women are often in the crosshairs of abusive discourse driven by social media. That recent targets are often public figures suggests that social media abusers find it profitable to attack high-profile Black women who have become symbolic avatars for the group as a whole.

(This article originally appears in the Spring 2024 issue of Ms. Join the Ms. community today and you’ll get issues delivered straight to your mailbox!)

Beyoncé’s Country Accent in ‘Cowboy Carter’

Beyoncé’s voice of discontent resonates strongly, as does her once-considered “too country” accent, on Cowboy Carter. This, her eighth studio solo album, is a brilliant and genre-bending album rooted in country music that transcends the genre through its audacious, boundary-pushing and aggressive remixes and interpolations that have honored the hybrid space that is Southern culture. 

‘Riding Barbie’s Coattails’: Race, Gender and Inclusivity at the 2024 Oscars

It’s time to place more women of color at the center of our film narratives—and, as Cord Jefferson implored in his acceptance speech, it’s time for the cultural gatekeepers to fund and support more opportunities for diverse stories and talents.

I congratulate all Oscar winners this year, but it’s much too soon to pat Academy members on the back for doing the bare minimum of race and gender inclusivity.

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.