Fifteen years ago, Destiny's Child told all the women who were independent to "throw your hands up at me." They celebrated women who buy their own diamonds and buy their own rings. Today's iteration is Chrisete Michelle's new song "Indy Girl." Another ode to being self-made, you assume. Until she sings, "She got this and oh, she got that / She's got red and black Chanel bags / Must be cool to be independent / Yeah, I'm cute but girls need a man."
Excuse me? "Girls need a man"? With this one line, Michele betrayed strong black women everywhere. Or maybe she portrayed strong black women everywhere.
The Independent Woman™ is a fallacy. Never does this phrase conjure the image of a white woman; it is an extension of the black woman as superhuman. The Independent Woman™ must operate at the highest levels of efficiency in her education, career, and appearance. She must have her own house (bad), drive her own car (bad), two jobs, work hard, be a bad broad. "When you call her on her cellular, she tell you she don't need not a gotdamn thang," Webbie explained in 2008. She lacks nothing that she can't materialize of her own volition, and in the event something is actually missing from her life, she must never admit it, even to her closest friends...who, likely, are in the same situation.
See, part of "having your shit together" means appearing self-contained. This is why Michele sings, "I've been tryna smile on the carpet scene, tryna look like I be loving being free / I want somebody waiting for me when I get back home tonight (to hold me)." Vulnerability is a luxury not afforded to the Independent Woman™.
To be "a bad bitch" is a badge of honor. Would you deny Michele this status, a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter who has started her own label, Rich Hipster, and is five albums into her career? Does it detract from her success that she sings, "I been out here by myself for a really long time. (It's wack, it's lonely.)"? I applaud her for taking off the suit of armor. This honesty is exactly what has made BET's show Being Mary Jane a hit. Entering its fourth season, BMJ has averaged 2.6 million weekly viewers since its premiere. Clearly, the story of a rich, beautiful thirtysomething struggling to balance her family, career and love life has struck a nerve.
One night in Los Angeles, my best friend and I had dinner at a nice restaurant. We sat outside on the patio, drinking cocktails and taking in the breeze. It was serene until she blurted, "Bitch, this supposed to be a date!" I understood. Sometimes we collect our girlfriends and hit that new place we've been meaning to try because if we wait for a man to take us we'll never go. We sit at the table and swipe right, trying to line up a warm body to collide with after the bill is paid. When that fails, we send feeler texts to the same bums we traded stories about hours earlier, because, we wouldn't do this under normal circumstances, but our reservoir is dry.
Companionship is among the five levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. People have an innate desire for connection, which manifests as a yearning for belonging, love and affection. How dare we shame each other for wanting to satisfy a basic human need? We internalize the rhetoric of men who don't date us anyway, no matter how respectable we strive to be, and oppress each other under the labels "thirsty" and "thot."
Michele emancipates herself by singing, "Indy girls need love, indy girls need love too." By owning her feelings and refuting the stereotype that wanting a man makes you weak, Michele becomes the most independent of us all.