Janelle Monáe’s Queer “Pynk” Music Video Is Here To Wreak More Havoc On Your Heart and Body

When Janelle Monáe dropped the new bisexual national anthem, “Make Me Feel,” back in February, I was ready to call it in for the rest of the year. There was certainly no way that anyone would be able to top that.

Then Janelle decided that she wasn’t done wreaking havoc on my heart just yet. Today she dropped her third single off of the soon to be released Dirty Computer. It’s called “Pynk” and it’s a black queer feminist love letter to springtime, being femme, black and brown women’s bodies, and vaginas — all divorced from the male gaze, male interests, and the way those topics are generally treated in popular music created by men.

Once again, Monáe and her maybe-probably-girlfriend Tessa Thompson are center stage. The video starts off in homage to another famous pop culture feminist twosome, Thelma and Louise. Tessa and Janelle have exchanged the movie’s iconic blue Thunderbird convertible for a pink one as they cruse through the desert, pulling up to the “Pynk Restaurant and Motel” during a rose painted sunset.

With a chorus of snapping black women dancers around them, Janelle changes into pants that are symbolically designed to look like the lips of a vagina, as Tessa Thompson literally COMES OUT FROM BETWEEN HER LEGS! This is a very sexual moment for us all. Tessa Thompsons’s face winks while sandwiched between Janelle’s thighs, and Janelle sweetly sings about the “Pink like the lips around your, maybe”, “Pink where the tongue goes down, maybe”. She reminds the listeners grooving to her music that “Pink is the paradise found”. I’m no expert or anything, but I’m going to say that we have a lot of loving each other’s pink going on. In a knowing nod to their maybe-possible relationship, Janelle switches tactics, singing “Pink is the truth you can’t hide” as Tessa disappears back between Monáe’s vagina clad legs.

Later, the video’s dancers change into underwear briefs with exaggerations their natural pubic hair visible on the sides. The camera zooms in on the underwear’s hot pink dripped slogan, “I Bite Back”. Fuck yes. And there are literally a thousand other symbolic imagery that I want to talk about with you all! PLUS Janelle and Tessa end the video gently holding each other as they watch the pink sunset on the beach! As if it’s the softest end to the perfect romantic comedy, and not the beginning of the revolution. Maybe it’s both? Who knows?

In the description of the video on Youtube, Monáe tells us that “PYNK is a brash celebration of creation. self love. sexuality. and pussy power! PYNK is the color that unites us all, for pink is the color found in the deepest and darkest nooks and crannies of humans everywhere.” Monáe is celebrating her own body, as well as those of people around the world who are subject to similar stigmas and oppressions. (It’s important to note, however, that not all women have vaginas, and not everyone who has a vagina is a woman, a fact Tessa has been nodding to on Twitter today; and Janelle mentioned specifically on Twitter tonight.)

All that said, I’m ready to dance at Janelle Monáe’s sleepover together as we prepare to celebrate the Dirty Computer drop date (April 27!) as a national holiday.


Before you go! It takes funding to keep this publication by and for queer women and trans people of all genders running every day. We will never put our site behind a paywall because we know how important it is to keep Autostraddle free. But that means we rely on the support of our A+ Members. Still, 99.9% of our readers are not members. A+ membership starts at just $4/month. If you’re able to, will you join A+ and keep Autostraddle here and working for everyone?

Join A+

Carmen is Autostraddle's interim Editor-in-Chief and a black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 316 articles for us.

74 Comments

  1. Bex

    i am extremely impressed at the speed at which you wrote an ENTIRE ARTICLE about this! and a really good one at that

    also, this video? yes. yes yes yes. the best. can’t wait to see what she does next!

  2. YES IVE BEEN REFRESHING WAITING FOR THIS i thought janelle monae was the pinnacle of blessing but honestly, carmen, having you on her beat is truly the miracle we deserve

    • Sam

      Okay but same?! After watching the video, I kept refreshing AS to see if an article would drop.

      Also, thanks Carmen!

  3. I too have been hanging on waiting for your analysis of this video to enhance my viewing pleasure ♥

  4. GM

    i am wrecked. that is all i can say. i’ll proceed to spend the rest of the day just staring off into space, because this just melted my brain.

  5. “Let’s count the ways we could make this last forever”

    Um yes this times a million.

  6. Sex cells!!
    The pussy on the oyster book!!
    Pynk like your fingers in my…maybe!!!
    Pynk like the folds in your brain!!

  7. Birthing, huh?

    Y’all are really going to say birthing when Tessa’s head is in the exact position a clitoris might be on Janelle’s vulva pants? And she’s *stroking* Tessa’s head?

    Alright then.

      • I mean, I don’t want to make guesses on anyone’s sexual orientation, but anyone who saw “birthing” and not “masturbating” and/or “playing with some pink parts” probably isn’t sapphically inclined.

  8. Who else’s first reaction after watching was coming to see what Autostraddle had to say??

    But also, can I get a “girls eat free and never leave” door mat?

  9. Janelle is truly a queen, and I straight-up gasped multiple times during this video. Especially loved the visual reference to Trump with the “I grab back” panties. Also, as always, 1000% here for playful/tender Janessa love. Thanks for writing this up *so* fast, Carmen.

    Wondering how trans women felt about this vid, though. I’m sort of mixed — listening to the lyrics, the song itself seems to be very specific (how she feels about a specific woman’s…pynk bits), and also to have a sort of inclusive message of like, we are all pink inside (tongue, organs, whatever, not just about vaginas). But then the vid does sort of have an “all women have vaginas” feel? And/but it sort of reads to me as her claiming the pink pussy hat aesthetic of the women’s march, and making it explicitly black and queer/making a counterargument to people who claimed that the hats weren’t inclusive of all women. Which is v cool! But then does that also shut down the valid claims of people who felt excluded by pussy hats for super legitimate reasons? I don’t feel at all qualified to form an opinion on this (as a cis white woman), but/and I’d love to hear what others thought.

    • Well tessa said “new vid for PYNK by @JanelleMonae x @Grimezsz featuring me playing both a woman and a special part of some women” so there’s that.

      • I just saw that tweet and was gonna come back here and mention/link to it also! I really liked that specific and careful wording. They both seem like such great people and I want to hang out with them!!! Ah sorry, back to trying to be analytical etc.

        • check out @theorygurl on twitter who breaks it down really well

          • Thank you!! Her pussyhat thread is fascinating and so smart (too smart for me?? Not sure I even really know what semiotics is, much less understand it). I think I will have to revisit this many times to fully soak it in. (Let me know if that’s not what you were referring to/there’s something else I should read.)

          • Ha, I also appreciate her snarky tweet about “how long until cis people start saying Janelle’s new video is transphobic,” and feel appropriately chastened. That’s also why I didn’t want to jump straight to “transphobia!” (also because I don’t necessarily get that from the video, and because I hate how we, the internet, are always quickest to jump on queer women of color for being even *potentially* imperfect in their feminism; this also relates to the wonderful essay on this very site about call-out culture and the dangerous push for ideological purity in social justice movements). Anyway, thanks again for pointing me in the direction of Andrea’s tweets.

    • this was a thing I noticed – the lyrics are very careful not to be exclusionary, and there’s actually also a bit of pink visual imagery that that’s not vulva-centric (the baseball bat). I think there’s an intention to be inclusive, though how successful it is is not for me to say.

    • I agree with @diaknm, I thought there was an attempt to be inclusive…or at least that’s how I read the fact that two of the women weren’t wearing those pants.

      I’ll be interested to hear from more trans women about it, though.

    • I was very torn but I’ve heard the interpretation that dancers not wearing the vagina pants were supposed to represent those who don’t have vaginas. But arguably there’s still the argument that its one of two very subtle references in an otherwise bold and explicit video

  10. What a time to be alive.

    This is a clam jam.
    A clit hit.
    A beaver bop.
    A finger banger.

  11. Suddenly, pink is my favorite color!
    Could you imagine what a wonderful cinematography world it would be if we always had this female gaze?

  12. I can’t watch this right now because it sounds most definitely NSFW, but wow am I looking forward to getting home tonight !

  13. i am deceased goodbye

    (also side note feeling v v v smug that my fave color has always and will always be pink just sayin)

  14. OH. MY. GODDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

    When I kick the bucket (which will happen sooner rather than later if Janelle keeps 20gayteening like this), please project this video onto my headstone on a loop forever.

  15. I am having the best 30 minutes of this month since I spit out my drink upon seeing Tessa and Janelle in this article’s cover image. And I haven’t even watched the video yet!

  16. I’ve waited all my life for this moment. Put off getting tattoos so it could culminate to this point in time. My skin is a blank canvas for “Pink, like the tongue that goes down. Pink, like the paradise found.”

    • fuck yes! cause I need another tattoo … knew I was saving the precious real estate between my pussy and navel for something important!

  17. I literally cannot imagine what the rest of this album is going to be. Will any of us still be alive on April 28th? I’m legitimately scared about this.

  18. JW, why are we using the word “vagina” to describe a vulva?

    • It is annoying when people use ‘vagina’ when they mean vulva, but in this case, I think it’s apt since vaginas are always pink, while vulvas are not.

  19. I’m just getting to replay this video again and again and I thought, “oh, shit, is that Michaela Coel?”

    And, yes…YES…it is!

  20. Ava

    I still cannot believe that this is a thing I have seen with my own two eyes. What a time to be alive.

  21. Is it ridiculous that this made me cry? I’m still emotional. A whole song. About vaginas. About how beautiful they are. legitimately i’m overwhelmed. i somehow feel really really validated right now.

  22. Is it just me, but aren’t there a lot of shout outs to the videos from Peaches’ last album too? The desert, the hotel room, the diner, the empty pool? Could be that it’s just LA, but seems so close but her own.

  23. Never going to get over this! My girlfriend showed it to me with the smuggest look on her face and now I definitely understand why!

  24. This. It’s almost like the first time I walked into a lesbian bar … tectonic plates shifting. Except I’m alone in my office. But mind still blown.

    Janelle and Hayley, changing the game.

  25. It’s a beautiful thing to be proud of something that has been used against you for centuries, something that has been shamed, abused, mutilated, something that made you a target for violence.
    Thank you Janelle!

  26. These are the songs that are meant to create shock waves round the world. I mean for real. These are songs for us women whether we be queer or not.
    But the songs that will make waves are the ones where men will sing that they can’t wait to f**k us and set our p*ssy on fire and all that crap.

    Janelle Monae is the hero we always knew we needed.

  27. Hello, I would like to report a death. I am dead. This video has killed me. My brain is just static now.

    • I’d say “Rest in peace” but with this video, _you_ may be dead, but some parts are still beating.

  28. After watching this, I feel very naive right now for thinking that Make Me Feel was “the” coming out song from the album.

    20gayteen continues to raise the bar higher than I have ever thought possible and it’s only April.

  29. Wow this is such a love song.

    They are both so, so cute together. Tessa just slays me, she looks like the cat that got the cream. Did she ever !

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!