Erykah Badu is well-known for saying exactly what she’s thinking and, staying true to her no-filter trademark, she didn’t disappoint in her acceptance speech at the 25th-anniversary party for Bust magazine.
After winning the publication’s Golden Bra Award for her work as a singer-songwriter, DJ, actress and long-time activist, Badu began with a striking dedication – an ode to her bloody vagina.
“I’m on my period,” she began, with characteristic frankness. “Right now, I got a fuckin’ pouch full of blood, and I’m so very, very honoured and happy to be here.” Her announcement was met with rapturous applause.
Though she doesn’t identify as a feminist, Badu is undoubtedly upheld as a feminist icon by many for her fearlessness and unapologetic love for the female form. This isn’t the first time she has embraced vagina-centric discourse, doling out Twitter tips on keeping your nether regions fragrant, unprompted (“For a SWEET vagina I drink raw cranberries often… Also promotes healthy, strong WOMB & bladder”).
The mother of three is also a certified doula – someone trained to provide continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth. Since 2001, Badu has assisted in 40 births and she says she keeps in contact with all her babies, who affectionately call her their “Badoula”. 21-year-old modelling sensation Slick Woods, who is expecting a baby boy with fellow model Adonis Bosso in September, revealed during an interview with Elle UK that the singer will serve as her doula. “She’s a mommy role model,” she said, “a mother I look up to, who kills her shit and is a boss-ass bitch.”
Since 2001, Badu has assisted in 40 births and she says she keeps in contact with all her babies, who affectionately call her their 'Badoula'
Later on in Badu’s speech, she went on to pay tribute to her 91-year-old grandmothers, Viola Wilson and Thelma Gipson, who helped foster her free spirit from a young age:
“I would like to thank my grandmothers for letting me go outside with no shirt on, when everybody said that it could not be done,” she told the crowd. “They let me do it. I always wondered why the boys could do shit the girls couldn’t do. And my grandmother said, ‘Fuck that! You do whatever you want to do. You be whatever you want to be. And you better encourage other people. You better make sure that when you say something, it means something… And if you can’t say something nice, come sit by me.’ Y’all get it? ’Cause my grandma liked to talk shit.”
Her praise of her grandmothers’ approach perhaps (and hopefully) shows a deviation from some of her more problematic views. In 2016, she received backlash for coming out in support of a New Zealand school that told teenage girls to lower their skirts to knee level so as not to “distract” male students and teachers. The musician argued that men are attracted to teenagers from “child-bearing age”: “If I had a school I would make sure that the uniform skirt length was a nice knee length,” she tweeted. “It is fair to everyone.” She continued it was necessary to protect them from the "natural" desires of men, and was then accused of victim blaming.
When Badu gets it wrong, she gets it seriously wrong – but, in a world where the mere sight of period blood in a picture is enough for Instagram to ban it or enough for a blogger to lose 1,000 followers in 24 hours, she certainly has the right idea by speaking so freely about hers.