"Independent woman" is a term explored by various sources in popular culture. Rapper Roxanne Shanté’s 1989 rendition of “Independent Woman” highlighted relationships and asked women not to dote on partners who do not reciprocate. Similarly, the definition of an “Independent Woman” in the Urban Dictionary is “A woman who pays her own bills, buys her own things, and does not allow a man to affect her stability or self-confidence. She supports herself entirely on her own and is proud to be able to do so.”
Pop and R&B
Kelly Clarkson takes a different stance on the subject in her song “Miss Independent.” She links independence to relationships and the idea that it is very difficult for one to be independent and be in a relationship at the same time. She expresses a fear that many adults-both men and women-have:the loss of independence in exchange for a relationship and family life. Some relationships might warrant this fear because giving up independence can be a natural part of the life cycle. However, independence is often lost as they develop a relationship with a significant other, and they must work together. While her lyrics do a great job of defining independence and exploring the affect it can have on a relationship, she does not present a solution.
Girl group Destiny's Child’s 2000 song, “Independent Women”, encourages women to be strong and independent for the sake of their dignity and not for the sake of impressing men. Destiny's Child frowns upon the idea of depending on anyone: “If you’re gonna brag, make sure it’s your money you flaunt/depend on no one else to give you what you want”. The singers claim their independence through their financial stability.
The archetype of the "independent woman" is particularly emphasized today in the hip- hop genre in which male and female rappers discuss it frequently. Moody, Professor of Journalism at Baylor University described the "independent black woman" phenomenon in two 2011 articles titled "A rhetorical analysis of the meaning of the 'independent woman'" and the "The meaning of 'Independent Woman' in music".
The articles indicated that the lyrics and videos of male and female rappers portrayed "independent women" differently. Using the concept of intersectionality, Moody's rhetorical analysis combined feminist and critical cultural theories to explore the meanings of the 'independent woman' in the lyrics and respective videos of male and female rappers. She concluded that songs by various artists, corresponding music videos, and viewer comments contained four main messages: wealth equals independence, beauty and independence are connected, average men deserve perfect women, and sexual prowess equals independence. Male rappers were more likely to include messages of beautiful, overachieving women paired with average men, while female rappers focus on their own sexual prowess.
Popular rap and R&B songs that depict the "independent woman" in the 2000s
- Lil’ Webbie's "Independent" from his album, Savage Life.
- Yo Gotti's "5 5tar Chick" or "5 Star B---- on his fifth studio album, Live from the Kitchen.
- Drake's "Fancy"
- Ne-Yo '/Jamie Foxx's "Miss Independent"
- Trina's "I‘m Single Again" from her fourth Album Still da Baddest.
- Nicki Minaj ft. Ne-Yo's “Miss Independent (Remix)”
- Presenting a different viewpoint, Darryl James, a blogger and author of “Bridging The Black Gender Gap,” asserts that the phrase “independent woman” has gone excessively far and its meaning is inconsistent and in many ways “cartoonish, mannish and just plain unattractive.” He adds that in the quest for so-called “independence,” some women have given up substantial portions of their womanhood, which has been detrimental to fostering meaningful relationships in the black community.
- Tina Portis, an entrepreneur and former single mother of three, depicted independence as a natural part of adulthood. Her 2010 video clip posted to YouTube has more than 15,387 views and hundreds of comments. In the video, she asserts that independent women do not need a pat on the back for doing what grownups are supposed to do: pay their bills; buy houses and cars, etc. (Portis, 2010).
- PBS weighed in with its interpretation in "The Independent Woman", episode 1 of its 2011 documentary series America in Primetime. It reveals how women have transformed from model housewives to complex, and sometimes controversial, characters.
- Moody, Mia. The meaning of "Independent Woman" in Music". April 2011.
- Moody, M. "A rhetorical analysis of the meaning of the “independent woman'". American Communication Journal. Spring 2011.
- James, Darrell. "Black in LA". August 21, 2004. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
- Portis, T. (2010). The Deception of the Independent Woman. YouTube. Accessed February 1, 2010 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbUkGILIu5c
- The Independent Woman, PBS Video. October 30, 2011.