Dark misty woods, an echoing shrieking voice and an ominous abandoned van. The first 15 seconds of FKA twigs’ Glass & Patron music video depicts the classic horror narrative of a woman captured in the back of a van, awaiting horrible crimes and violence. A narrative of often sexualized violence against in this case a black, female, and pregnant body. However, under the sound of a frightening distortion, this woman pulls a multi-coloured, powerful, magic cloth out of her body. In this story, she is not pregnant with a baby and victimized by male violence, rather she is the strong authoritative hero. Under dreamy and spiritual sounds, the scarf turns the ominous woods into a magical forest; with its queer vogueing inhabitants and feminine power. I believe that through its magical character this song gives voice to female revolt.
Both the music and visuals of Glass & Patron are inspired by the musical genre Witch House: supernatural and mystical themes, dreamy melodies, and distorted noises. To analyse the power of this music it is interesting to elaborate on the Witch and the symbolism this music carries with it. Historically, women accused of witchcraft were wise women. They possessed a broad knowledge of nature providing them with control and power over their own bodies (Federici 2004, 172/183). However, threatened by this female power-knowledge, the state hunted and persecuted these women. This as an instrument to reconstruct a patriarchal control over female bodies, their labour, and their sexual and reproductive powers (2004, 170). Men were taught to fear the wise woman and her power (165).
Within the music video of Glass & Patron, FKA twigs can be seen as a contemporary representation of the witch. She is portrayed as pregnant without the presence of a male figure, which symbolizes the authority of her own body and reproductive power. This power is taken further when she decides to give birth to a magic scarf by pulling it out of her vagina: she dominates this natural process. The control and authority over nature traditionally connected to the witch now come forward through the control FKA twigs has over her own pregnant body. The scarf changes the forest and places the female out of the white van and on a silver thrown: from vulnerable to powerful. It is especially interesting that the pregnant body is black since black motherhood is often negatively associated with irresponsible mothers. However, in this video, the black pregnant body is portrayed positively and associated with knowledge and power. A black pregnant woman creates a place where all bodies are liberated: we see bodies dancing, posing, and dressing freely like nobody is watching.
Simultaneously, the feeling of fear is just as present within the music itself. Especially, at the beginning of the song, FKA twigs sings with a brilliant tensive voice while the music itself is full of distant creepy tones and big sudden distorted noises. In the first 15 seconds, this is a fear of male violence. We see a female alone in a white van in an abandoned forest and unfortunately, it is present in our consciousness that female nomadism is often the occasion of sexual violence (Gago 2020, 73). However, as the video continues, we see that this song is not a portrayal of sexual violence; the witch is not hunted down but overthrowing the system. I believe that the still present fearful sounds throughout the song can now be read as the male anxiety towards the knowledge-powerful black female.
In conclusion, FKA twigs uses the figure of the witch in both the visuals and the music to symbolize female knowledge, power, and revolt. The wise black female might frighten the patriarchy, but can create a new liberated world instead of awake sexual violence. In this way, FKA twigs’ song is a piece of art that in Federici’s words stands as proof of other possibilities: no sexual violence, but female empowerment. (Austin 2018, 138).
Vera de Wit
Austin, Arlen. 2018. “Times of dispossession and (Re)possession: An Interview with Silvia Federici”. In The Drama Review 62, no 1: 131-142. Project Muse.
Federici, Silvia. 2004. Caliban and the Witch. Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia.
FKA twigs. “Glass & Patron.” Directed by FKA twigs. 23/03/2014. Music video, 4:51. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNbFc-fa-ww.
Gago, Veronica. 2020. “Violence: Is There a War on and against Women’s Bodies?” In Feminist International: How to Change Everything, 56–84. Verso Books.