A West Indian “Bad gal” became an icon, seemingly overnight – a star that shines bright like a diamond. Neither delicate nor timid, her self-tagged “bad bitch” persona commands attention and is a statement of intent of her ambition for galactic domination… but this is not about Robyn Rihanna Fenty, it is about women like her. The Bad Girl Club is a fellowship of the ‘gentle sex’ who are pioneers of their time – feisty warriors who persevered, survived, crisscrossed lines, challenged social order, and escaped unthinkable conditions to accomplish dreams, missions and ambitions. Tooled-up with an arsenal of intellect, sexuality and the art of manipulation they changed the world around them, making history as bad girl revolutionaries.
Bad Girl Club
For the average teen whose anthropology is referenced by BET and MTV, Bad Girls are those whom Usher ‘wanna take to the restroom’ – this is not about them. For Bad Girls who are brats with too much access – this is also not about them. The Bad Girl Club is no new revelation, and is certainly not Oxygen network’s reality television series featuring women with big mouths, questionable sized minds and gold-digging ambitions.
This Bad Girl league of champions are women who, by design, desire or DNA surveyed their circumstances and rather than accept certain demise, be quieted, marginalised or misrepresented, step up to the mark and played the life game by their own rules. Bad Girls reigned through the ages, from BC to the Noughties. Today’s booty shaking prima donna may characterize a dumbed down version of these sacred women, yet is akin to the Amazons and as a collective, forged a blueprint of leading women – iconic heroines who as a tour de force defined their era, and impacted generation, after generation. The Bad Girl Club is a social order by which society, and pop culture defines itself.
If indeed “well behaved bitches seldom make history” [Rihanna requoting Lauren Thatcher Ulrich’s famous “well-behaved women seldom make history”], is there a ‘DNA of separation’ that distinguishes the good girls from the bad?
Whether by intent or accident, a Bad Girl is an activist of courage and consciousness. While we may be complicit in joining the media in slagging off Bad Girl protagonists, their choices and voices are integral to the critical role of women in shaping modern communities and nations. All hell broke loose when women demanded the right to vote, let that sink in! In Saudi Arabia, women are still not permitted to drive cars – let that really sink in!
Bad Girl: Miss-Representation
Long before the world heard of Rihanna, another Bajan beauty ruled Bridgetown. Madam “Rachel Pringle” Polgreen was an hotelier and shrewd entrepreneur in the late 1800s. Her mother was a slave and her father, her mother’s master. Voluptuous in her magnificence, frank and robust in character, Rachel Pringle was a “trollop” by staunch Christian standards – the religion introduced as an institution of control for West Indian slaves. Her Royal Naval Hotel brought her notoriety and was a hotspot brothel favoured by British Naval personnel. Prince William Henry and his troop of chauvinist naval, alpha males rampaged through the brothel one debaucherous night, wrecked it, then departed. Shrewdly and fearlessly, this feisty daughter of a slave presented the prince with the bill for damages – he paid up!
This single act of fierceness brought Rachel Pringle greater recognition and her business portfolio expanded to ownership of ten hotels in the city of Bridgetown. Rachel Pringle is an original Caribbean Bad Girl – she dared to choose a controversial line of business in an age when men ran things; defying the odds as a freed slave, she achieved unprecedented success and was an ‘unlikely’ champion, unapologetic and headstrong. Yet, Rachel Pringle is an iconic caricature more for her tits, rather than her wits.
Bad Girl: Transcending Reality
The Bad Girl persona transcends reality, and emerges in contemporary, pop culture. The “Olivia Pope” character in Shonda Rhimes’ political thriller, “Scandal” set on Capitol Hill – based on Judy Smith, former press aide in the George Bush administration – is a recent example. Kerry Washington, as Pope, is a crisis-management fixer. A Bad Girl who is a cool-tempered, sharp-witted vixen and apathetic to the man’s world in which she functions. With audacity, Pope shuts down anyone remotely contrary to her solutions to the USA’s biggest scandals. She fiercely dominates her environment meriting her inauguration as a bad girl revolutionary, pop culture icon.
Bad Girl Strategy: Art of Manipulation
Long before the Real Housewives mumbo-jumbo, Cleopatra VII Philopator, or simply Cleopatra, was a prototypical woman in command. Scaling the pinnacle of epic empire politics to wield power and influence, in a world of warriors and mercenaries, she seduced, manipulated and killed for a throne. Sexuality was her weapon, beauty her asset and the art of manipulation the linchpin of the strategy. Cleopatra was famed for her many consorts, and an assertive woman for whom men were objets j’art – she was matriarch of manipulation. There are similarities between Cleopatra and Bad Girls, Eve and Delila – one disobeyed her God, luring her hubby and dooming mankind to mortality; the other betrayed her lover’s power – if you are a believer.
To some, a true “Bad Bitch” is a mélange of high class, explicit seduction; dexterity in manipulation; and capability of the unthinkable. These are not qualities mommy instills as she braids her little princess’ hair, yet they are skill-sets in demand – the ghetto super star Bad Girl might want to sit this one out. The Bad Girls Temptress is ever present in field of espionage, conscripting her full artillery as a woman – intelligence, passion, sex appeal, ambition, thrill for excitement, and disregard for conventions.
Salt, starring Angelina Jolie and Colombiana, with Zoe Saldana are both aggressive ass-kicking women out to draw blood. What about Pam Grier’s “Jackie Brown” – one of the pivotal game changers for black female characters and actors? These screen characters are not pure creative brilliance of Hollywood script writers, producers and directors. The Bad Girl Club can conjure real living-breathing-dying heroes from its fellowship. Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, famously Mata Hari was a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan. Accused of spying for Germany during the First Great War, she was executed by firing squad in France in 1917. The beauty and allure of this femme fatale gave her access and opportunity during war time Europe, and her active service attributed to the deaths of over 50,000 soldiers.
Bad Girl: Power and Prejudice in Caribbean
Powerful Caribbean women are often feared, revered and criticised. Barbadian Mia Amour Mottley is an eloquent, feisty political figure, and sharp as a tack. Mia Mottley, QCMP hails from family of strong individuals, and aged 29 became the youngest appointee to a ministerial post in Barbados, as Minister of Education. Should you ever witness or be the unfortunate recipient of a tongue thrashing from Ms Motley one would understand her power. She became Attorney General, Minister of Home Affairs and the first female opposition leader. With every achievement, she broke gender barriers of expectation with her tenacity.
Yet, in Caribbean nation-state politics, where prominent, powerful women are too often adjudged as gaining leverage off the shoulders of husbands, Ms Mottley living out her dream and ambitions as a single woman drew speculation of her sexuality. Such are the prejudices, antics and imbalances that may drive a good woman to join the Bad Girl Club.
It is lazy to think of a Bad Girl as a woman who has made poor choices. See her instead as a woman unapologetic about the decisions she makes. By default or design the Bad Girl is is an activist who through perseverance develops characteristics that set her apart. Her life is never shy of controversy, and in living out her ambitions she is either admired or revered, but never ignored. Trying to contain a Bad Girl is like trying to silence an activist. Attempting to chain a confident, self-assured woman who looks to no one to define her, is a bridge one should never try to cross. Stop and think for moment: Who do you suggest is worthy of recognition by the Real Bad Girl Club?