All of my marginalized identities are frequently pushed aside to accommodate the default narrative— by people who hold power. At times, I can become so critical of my positionality that I forget that I am allowed to find joy in this world, too. There are few things in life that feel as powerful as seeing representation through the art and labor of women of color, and Mitski’s live performance in Des Moines, Iowa on July 17, 2017 was one of them.
In her book, Citizen, Claudia Rankine talks about the way that women of color as willed invisible by society, but used frequently as vessels of entertainment. I frequently spend days passing through glances on the street, and prolonged looks, but it is not often that I feel Seen— that I am gently and consistently reminded that I am real and validated. I am even willed invisible by men who enjoy the music of women of color but press their desires into them. They wish Mitski would be more silent about her pain, smile more in photos, and talk more about her life during her performances. They say this as if we already aren’t receiving gifts from her labor and vulnerability— like these gifts should be molded just for them and their emotional intelligence.
I can only wonder how it feels to listen to someone else’s truth, and demand inclusion of my own narrative.
But even through the sold-out crowd, I stood three rows away from the spotlight she was flooded in, and for a whole hour, Mitski made me feel Seen. As she played, I felt a changing, a rushing, a smallness, and a largeness all inside of me. One part of me beat so strongly and the other stood still to let the perfectly crafted moments happen to me and to take in how she was giving it to all of us.
Sometimes watching Mitski feels like the golden hour — the way the heavens move through your memory when you’re drifting to sleep. Sometimes it can feel too loud in your head— to be you, to be invisible, but seeing Mitski live let me glimpse at her focused and poised performance that I can hold around with me whenever I start to feel like the world is making me disappear.
Originally written in 2017 and self-published on Medium.com