Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Fly Girl

According to the article “Empowering Self, Making Choices, CreatingSpaces: Black Female Identity via Rap Music Performance“ by Cheryl Keyes, the song “A Fly Girl” by the Boogie Boys influenced the development of the fly girl category in the female hip-hop community. This song describes the fly girl in terms of both her appearance and her personality. The lyrics describe the fly girl’s “gold fingernails,” “big juicy thighs,” and “the voluptuous curves that sway when [she walks].” However, the song also explains how “fly girl is a name that you must earn” and how fly girls “speak their mind” and will “make you choke like you inhale smoke.” While the first set of descriptions focuses on the appearance of the fly girl, the second set seems to contradict these original descriptions by portraying the fly girl as an independent woman rather than a sexual object. In her article, Keyes describes the fly girl as “a party-goer, an independent woman, but, additionally, an erotic subject rather than an objectified one.” Keyes explains how, instead of becoming sexual objects, fly girls use their erotic nature to actually gain respect from others.

The song “Expression” by Salt ‘n’ Pepa is one example of how fly girls represent themselves as both erotic and independent figures. This can be seen in the chorus of the song:

Express yourself, you gotta be you and only you, babe
Express yourself, and let me be me
Express yourself, don’t tell me what I cannot do, baby
Come on and work your body

In the chorus, Salt ‘n’ Pepa emphasize the importance of individuality through their message “express yourself.” They portray themselves as powerful and independent women by using commands such as “let me be me” and “don’t tell me what I cannot do.” These messages show that Salt ‘n’ Pepa are in control of their own lives, and the final message of “come on and work your body” shows that they are in control of their bodies as well. Salt ‘n’ Pepa embrace their sexuality, but instead of letting it objectify them they take control of it and use it to their advantage. In my opinion, this is the main attribute that distinguishes a fly girl. Fly girls own their femininity and erotic nature, thus making them independent women rather than sexual objects.

Here are some questions to think about: How do we differentiate between “an erotic subject rather than an objectified one”? Where do we draw the line when it comes to categorizing female artists as fly girls?


  1. In Salt 'N' Pepa's song "Expression," the chorus is a statement of the women's desire for freedom. "Let me be me ... don't tell me what I cannot do," in other words, do not control me or my actions. "Come on and work your body," basically saying, let your body be free to move as it pleases like we let ours.

    I believe the notion of freedom to be the major difference between an erotic woman and an objectified one. The erotic woman does not let herself get restricted. However, the objectified subject would let herself get restrained to the point of losing her humanity. For instance, calling the erotic woman a subject (as was written in the original post "erotic subject") would not be allowed by the woman. Yet calling the objectified woman a subject, might not raise any attention because she was confined to such a great extent that the boundary between the restrainer's own possession's and this subject might seem to blur.

    Furthermore, in response to "Where do we draw the line categorizing female artists as fly girls," the Boogie Boys reply in "A fly girl." They say a fly girl is not necessarily the most beautiful woman but she tends to have the demeanor of one. She is not afraid to spend a surplus of money on brand name accessories, and she is usually remarkable with men, as they often desire her. Therefore, we can separate those who are fly girls from those who are not by identifying these traits in female artists. They must be mentally strong, economically extravagant, and generally uncontrollable. In other words, they must be erotic women, not objectified subjects.

  2. I agree with Jacob in the sense that objectified women allow the restrainers to take advantage of them and make them seem more like property than an own thinking being. However, the erotic subjects are still women, but women who are aware of their beauty, but don't let that be the only characteristic that defines them. They manage to morph their beauty and their confidence/independence in a way that demands respect. It's like the idea of "you can look, but can't touch." In class, we would discuss how strong women always seemed to be beautiful and whether that was demeaning or not. However, with the fly girls in mind, I believe that being beautiful doesn't take away from someone's power since some could argue that that is the sole reason someone is powerful. Instead, being beautiful is just a "plus" to an already powerful-personality type of person. Basically, one can be powerful and demand respect, whether male or female, and not be gorgeous, but so can gorgeous people. There is not really a significant correlation.

  3. As much as I don't want to believe it, I disagree with let.vasq92's last sentence in their comment. I'm not saying that beauty and level of attractiveness should correlate to a person's power and respect, but society has made it true. However, the idea of the "fly girl" is a good example of how self-confidence and independence can defy that ideal. This is why I believe the most defining aspects of the "fly girl" and self-confidence and independence. Also, I think the concept of eroticism comes with these two attributes because it's the ability of a woman to exhibit respect for her body while still having control over it. It allows for women to express femininity, while at the same time not succumbing to being an objected subject.

  4. I think it's definitely worth pointing out that these songs and essays are telling women to "be themselves." They suggest being strong, powerful, and independent, yet they put such a strong emphasis on being sexually attractive and alluring. I feel like this completely contradicts itself. When empowering females and trying to rise above the objectification of women, I believe it is very counterproductive to do this through encouraging them to be sexually alluring.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.