Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

Janis Joplin and the Rejection of Heteronormativism

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The fluid nature of the relationship between Celie and Shug reminded me of one of my favorite blues artists, Janis Joplin. She was one of the first famous, vocal advocates of non-heteronormativism and a member of the free love movement. In the video I have linked, the first person brought up on stage during her song, “Piece Of My Heart” is a woman that she specifically picks out. Even though her lyrics are directed at a person using “he” pronouns, she shows her rejection of the notion that only a man and woman can share romantic relations by doing this, helped make bisexuality and homosexuality more mainstream, and did wonders for the self-expression of women by brandishing tattoos on her breast and wearing wild hairstyles.

She also pushed against the objectification of women by not pandering to the typical standards of beauty or femininity that America held then and still holds today. Easily heard and seen in the video, Joplin doesn’t sound or look like what an extremely successful and popular female artist of today does, but many people could, and can still, identify with being cast outside the norm of society. She died in 1970 at age 27, but if she hadn’t, what could she have continued to do for gay rights, feminism, and the artistic expression of women?

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