In an episode of self-reflection a few weeks ago Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” popped into my head without rhyme or reason, it was just there. And it’s been there constantly since then. I don’t know how to explain it, there was no personal experience that triggered it, except that I’ve been thinking about my early 20s a lot recently, and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill did feature heavily in that part of my life.
Though to be honest, another thing I think about constantly is how quickly society can build someone up just to tear them down, and how Black women and other WOC need to constantly prove and shape themselves in relation to the ridiculous standards of the cultural industries’ gatekeepers. It was not enough that Ms. Hill gave us the perfect hip-hop album, the fact that she didn’t play the game correctly was enough cause for the music industry to shut her out. Everything you might read about her nowadays focuses on her legal issues, how “unreliable” she can be, but those stories don’t touch on how unforgiving the music industry can be to musicians who don’t fit a mold, or how daunting, I imagine, the ‘celebrity’ label can feel to some artists. I think this translates to other arenas women are in, I definitely see it in academia…we’ve gotta be perfect or we can’t play, and then we have to stay perfect (flawless) to continuously prove our case, otherwise we’re tossed aside.
So, how do we fight against that? Is it just a matter of being honest about our struggles? How does that translate to macro-level change? Are we all doomed to play this game?