Chaka Khan needs no introduction. The woman is a powerhouse, a former Black Panther, she can play the drums, has struggled with substance abuse and come out victorious, is 63 years old and still looks and sounds amazing… shall I go on? Chaka is known for female empowerment songs, with 1978’s “I’m Every Woman” being the obvious and most well-known. But, personally, I’m more partial to her earlier work with the Chicago funk band Rufus. 1974’s “I’m a Woman (I’m a Backbone)” has a similar lyrical theme to “I’m Every Woman,” but with a much funkier bassline.
With lyrics that glorify women’s domestic prowess, it could be interpreted through today’s contemporary feminist lens that “I’m a Woman” is a misguided anthem. The first verse, “I am a species born to die / Understanding this, I hardly cry / Growin’ up and out, I’ll marry you / I’ll bear your kids and be your mama too,” sounds an awful lot like an admission that the pinnacle of womanhood is to please men.
I, however, view the song more as a celebration of the domestic role women are relegated to, but also shamed and belittled for. Women are certainly capable of more than being homemakers, but for most women that remains an integral part of our experience, and the roles of both mother and wife continue to be undervalued even as they are idealized. “I’m a Woman” is thus less of an example of how women should be than it is a study of women’s current place in society, and how our inherent strength inside and in spite of this role goes unrecognized. The stereotype of the housewife sitting around eating bonbons is still very prevalent.
Speaking of, Chaka Khan had a line of specialty chocolates a few years ago, which are described like this: “A gourmet delight for the heart and soul, Chaka Khan’s recipe for antioxidant-rich dark chocolate with velvety bass notes is a quiet storm of flavors and textures remixed with vitamins and minerals garnered from the four corners of Chaka’s world.” Damn.
“Chakalates” are regrettably no longer available, but Chaka, if you’re reading this: please bring them back. I will eat the fuck out of anything that tastes like your voice. Thank you in advance.
See you tomorrow for another day of Women’s History Month. Playlists below: