Let’s face it: 2017 has been a rough year. From a government that has attempted to ban people and words to a series of horrific natural disasters, life in 2017 has been overwhelming to say the least.
But, it’s also been a critical turning point in many ways. When we look back on 2017, we’ll think of it as the year we began an important national dialogue about rape culture. We’ll think of it as the year we took down sexual predators from Hollywood to Washington, D.C. We’ll think of it as the year we finally said “enough.”
I’ve been searching for the perfect song to capture the spirit of this pivotal moment and to boost my sense of queer femme-powerment. On December 15, Charli XCX delivered with her new track “Femmebot,” a high-energy anthem about cyborg femmes and destroying men. What’s not to like?
“Femmebot” appears on XCX’s new mixtape POP 2 which features a whole slew of queer artists and LGBTQIA+ favorites including CupcakKe, trans pop artist Kim Petras, Brazilian drag singer Pablo Vittar, and Carly Rae Jepsen. Although XCX doesn’t necessarily identify as queer, she’s certainly a sweetheart of the LGBTQIA+ community. POP 2 is decidedly queer, punctuating XCX’s rather queer year which included an iconic performance of her track “Boys” on The Tonight Show in which she sang the hit song surrounded by femme boys of many genders in slumber party garb.
In characteristic XCX style, “Femmebot” is an upbeat, synth-driven track, the kind of song that makes you want to simultaneously dance and fight someone; and, we’ve got plenty of people to fight this year. It opens with the line, “I’m not your prototype/I’m an upgrade of your stereotype.” An artist who is both a pop princess and badass punk femme in one, the line shows that femmes can conform to certain stereotypes but also be more than those stereotypes; an upgrade.
While the frequently repeated lyric “I’ll be your femmebot” might make it seem like she’s at the mercy of or merely a sexual object for humans, it’s clear who’s in control as the chorus ends when XCX sings, “I get what I want/Like it or not.”
“Femmebot” offers a somewhat playful vision of our cyborg future, particularly in a moment where automated vehicles, AI chatbots, and hyperreal robots like Sophia have us dangling on the edge of an uncertain future world. It seems there are a few ways our technological future could play out, and XCX’s vision is one in which the femmebot, an upgraded, technologically enhanced humanoid femme, takes the reins. She makes that point as she sings, “You’re just my human toy/And I am programmed to search and destroy.”
XCX’s femmebot is also given space to be a bit unhinged. A loving glance can cause her to short-circuit, something that’s completely out of her control. But, rather than that being a source of disempowerment, XCX’s lyrics drive home the point that femmes can be emotional and sensitive and also still retain their power.
Queer, trans femme rapper Mykki Blanco runs with the cyborg theme in her verse on the track, referencing femmebot classics including Ghost in the Shell, Ex Machina, and the Matrix. Blanco hits hard with the line, “Boy I’ll clone you/Boy I’ll swerve you/Glitch your mainframe/Now I own you,” reminding us that mascs are dispensable and sharing in XCX’s vision of a future in which technology leads to the collapse of men and the rise of femme supremacy.
Blanco’s work often touches on themes of technology, dancing between the surreal and the hyperreal. The 2016 music video for Blanco’s track “Loner” shows her in a cyborg-like outfit surrounded by people wearing VR goggles. The track and the accompanying video speak to the ways in which technology has made others more accessible, but has decreased our capacity for true connection.
Blanco has been a trailblazer as an artist, making waves as a gender non-conforming femme rapper. In addition to her unique and important music, Blanco has also been vocal about being HIV-positive and has served as an important representative for that community. Blanco’s verse is the perfect addition to the track, adding her own unique contribution to the trio of badass femmes in the song.
And, that’s where the third artist on the track, Dorian Electra, comes in. Electra is a queer pop visionary whose gender-bending, politically charged music videos have made waves this year. In October she released the video for “Control,” an intersectional feminist anthem that tackles issues from abortion to America’s racist history of forced sterilization to trans rights. Electra followed that up with “Jackpot,” a campy casino-themed music video in which she sports her trademark drawn-in pencil mustache and a uniquely masculine/feminine aesthetic.
Electra lends another queer layer to the song in her bridge, bringing girls who dig girls into the mix with her line, “Girl, I’ll be your femmebot.” The addition of Electra to the song rounds out this femme-powering collaboration between three femmes of different genders and sexualities all proving the power of robot femme magic.
The collaboration is fun, dancey, and queer, hitting right when we need it most. As we do the serious work of combating toxic masculinity and rape culture, it’s important that we also have space for fun, joy, and rage, that we have space to playfully envision a world where “masc” destruction paves the way for a world where femmes reign supreme. “Femmebot” offers just that kind of release in a beautifully queer way.
That’s why I’ll be hitting repeat on “Femmebot” as we sail out of the trash fire that was 2017 and into the future; hopefully the one where femmebots rule.
KC is a queer, non-binary writer based in Brooklyn, NY. You can find more of their work on their website www.kcclements.com or follow them @aminotfemme on Twitter and Instagram.