A Gender Observation of the Dynamics of Femininity in Doja Cat’s ‘Planet Her’ – Mouna Chatt

Image of Doja Cat singing surrounded by a crowd.

Doja Cat performing at the release party of her second album, Hot Pink. LavishRuby, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

This blog series showcases the student winners of the Yuan Changying Prize, sponsored by GENDER.ED and SPS’s Gender Politics Research Group. The prize recognises outstanding ‘gender observations’ written by students (and nominated by tutors) in the pre-Honours course Understanding Gender in the Contemporary World, convened by Dr. Meryl Kenny and Dr. Sarah Liu. Gender observations require students to link material from the course to their own day-to-day experiences and observations of ‘doing gender’. The prize is named after Yuan Changying in consultation with students, in recognition of the first female Chinese graduate in the University of Edinburgh’s history. 

A Gender Observation of the Dynamics of Femininity in Doja Cat’s ‘Planet Her‘ – Mouna Chatt

With 27.6 million streams, Doja Cat’s 2021 album, Planet Her, became the greatest opening day debut for a female rapper in Spotify chart history (Kayla, 2021; Denis, 2021). Critics have continuously highlighted the album’s depiction of femininity and its creation of a ‘feminist world’, but Doja Cat, herself, has negated the album as a ‘political statement’ (Paige, 2021; Sanchez, 2021). Through the songs, ‘Woman’ and ‘Need to Know’, this essay analyzes Planet Her’s construction of femininities and masculinities. I argue that Planet Her constructs postfemininity through a simultaneous reinforcement and subversion of traditional notions of femininity. For this essay, the definition of postfemininity used is a modern femininity characterized by ‘hybrid qualities’ that include both orthodox notions of femininity and ‘progressive scripts of feminine agency’ (Genz, 2009, p. 7, 17). Moreover, the essay highlights that the album reinforces hegemonic masculinities through the relational construction of postfemininity. I extend my argument to state that the album’s presentations of femininities are paradoxical, as they both liberate women from and serve to reinforce the subordination of women to men. Thus, the album challenges general dichotomous perceptions within gender studies.

Emphasized Femininity and Hegemonic Masculinities:

In its construction of postfemininity, Planet Her starts by reinforcing elements of emphasized femininity. Emphasized femininity is defined by Connell (1987) as the compliance with the subordination of women to men and the acceptance of accommodating the needs of men. To exemplify, Doja Cat’s depiction of ‘divine femininity’ in ‘Woman’ centers around women’s reproductive powers and an inherent will to meet the needs of a male partner – both characteristics of emphasized femininity (Doja Cat, 2021b; Connell, 1987). Doja Cat (2021b) sings, ‘What you need? / She give tenfold, come here, papa, plant your seed / She can grow it from her womb, a family’. ‘Woman’ reproduces a traditionally feminine woman, whose qualities are ‘reduced’ to her womb and ability to care for a man and family. This recreates a notion of a natural sexual difference between men and women, where women cater to external needs, whilst, as Doja Cat (2021b) sings, men are responsible to ‘protect her and keep her safe’ (Connell, 1987). This highlights the relational construction of emphasized femininities and hegemonic masculinities (Connell and Messerschmidt, 2005). In other words, by reinforcing elements of emphasized femininity, the album simultaneously reproduces elements of hegemonic masculinities. Connell (1995) defines hegemonic masculinities as the gender practice that embodies the ideal characteristics of masculinity and continues to legitimize men’s hegemonic position in society alongside the subordination of women. It is most clearly exhibited in the album through the continuous reinforcement of the male figure as a strong and composed ‘protector’ of a gentle and nurturing woman (Doja Cat, 2021b).  As such, the embrace of emphasized femininity in Planet Her, ultimately maintains hierarchic, hegemonically masculine structures.

‘Individualism, Choice, and Empowerment’: A postfeminine girl, in a neoliberal world

Although Planet Her reinforces elements of emphasized femininities, it simultaneously subverts these in its construction of postfemininity. This is done through the emphasis on ‘individualism, choice, and empowerment’, which is an inherent characteristic of postfemininity (Butler, 2013, p. 44). To exemplify, in ‘Woman’, Doja Cat (2021b) highlights that she ‘could be on everything / I could be the leader, head of all the states / I could smile and jiggle it ‘til his pockets empty / I could be the CEO, just look at Robyn Fenty’. Through this, Doja Cat shows that women can assume political, social, and financial power. Essentially, the song embraces a modern femininity where women can have it all, be it all, and do it all through claiming their individual agency. This rejects the traditional notion of femininity as powerless and passive (Genz, 2009).

This, in alignment with Planet Her’s aforementioned embrace of traditionally feminine norms, shows that the model of femininity Doja Cat presents, is one that allows typical dichotomies of ‘power and powerlessness’ or passivity and activity to co-exist, rather than mutually exclude the other (Genz, 2009, p.7). In other words, Doja Cat’s simultaneous reinforcement and subversion of traditionally feminine norms, shows that one approach does not negate the other. Ultimately, a postfeminine icon can assume any position of power they desire, whilst, paradoxically, reinforcing emphasized feminine notions that cater to the needs of men. However, it is worth noting that Doja Cat’s embrace of traditionally feminine norms cannot, solely, be understood as an acceptance of the subordination of women to men. Rather, the embrace is also an extension of this re-claimed feminine agency. Essentially, Doja Cat presents herself as a feminine subject that carries the postfeminine responsibility of doing as she wants when constructing her own femininity (Beauvoir, 1953, cited in Genz, 2009, p. 85).

Whilst the endowment of feminine agency is liberating, it is simultaneously problematic when interrogated within the neoliberal world order, using an intersectional lens. To specify, Doja Cat’s presentation of postfemininity that focuses on women being able to have it all and do it all, reflects the neoliberal idea that you can become anything you want, if you work hard enough (Gonick, 2006; Butler, 2013). Intersectional feminists criticize the simplicity of this view, as it neglects society’s underlying power dynamics and continues to reinforce hegemonic perceptions of gender alongside other intersections of identity (Butler, 2013).  As such, Projansky (2001, p. 12) argues, that the construction of postfemininity, puts the ‘white, heterosexual, middle-class woman’ at the center. It is necessary to acknowledge that Doja Cat, herself, is a biracial woman and LGBTQ+ minority, who has managed to construct a postfeminine icon and assume power, despite the intersections of her multiple marginalized identities. Springer (2007) explains this phenomenon by arguing that it is possible for women of color to present postfemininity so long they conform to normative understandings of race, gender, sexuality, and class. One way these normative perceptions ensue in Planet Her, is through an embrace of heteronormativity. Doja Cat (2021b) continues to emphasize the notion that a ‘God cannot exist without his Goddess’ and a man ‘needs a woman’s touch’ (Doja Cat, 2021b). Thus, whilst Doja Cat, a non-white woman and LGBTQ+ minority does present postfemininity in Planet Her, she does so through a narrowly defined hegemonic framework (Butler, 2013). As such, Doja Cat’s construction of postfemininity in the neoliberal world, paradoxically, helps maintain the same forces that oppress her.

From Sexual Objectification to Sexual Subjectification:

Another way Planet Her subverts traditional femininities and constructs postfemininity is through depicting Doja Cat with sexual agency and strong sexual desires. This is particularly represented in ‘Need to Know’, where Doja Cat (2021a) emphasizes how she ‘Wanna know what it’s like’ and proudly exclaims that she ‘just wanna fuck all night’. By articulating her own sexual desires through deploying the language of hegemonic masculinity, and therefore of domination, Doja Cat rejects the emphasized feminine notions of being a ‘passive receiver of male prowess’ and dismissing her own sexual pleasure (Skeggs, 2003, p. 113). Moreover, the use of masculine language to address her sexual desires allows Doja Cat to challenge patriarchal practices that enforce femininity to please men’s sexual fantasies. In this light, Doja Cat’s subversion of traditional femininities, through reclaiming her sexuality, is empowering, by liberating women from the patriarchal notion of femininity as sexually passive.

However, throughout the song, we witness a shift in the subversion of traditional femininities. Whilst Doja Cat continues to deploy the hyper-sexual language of masculinity and domination, the lyrics subtly shifts the focus from her own sexual desires, to how she can meet the needs of her male sexual partner. This is exemplified in the lines, ‘I do what I can to get you off’ and ‘We could do it to your favorite song’ (Doja Cat, 2021a). The ‘you’ and ‘your’ become crucial to Doja Cat’s presentation of her postfemininity (Doja Cat, 2021a). To emphasize, the album conceals the traditionally feminine focus on the needs of the man behind the postfeminine notion of women doing as they please for their own sexual pleasure and liberated interests (Gill, 2003). What we witness is a change from ‘sexual objectification to sexual subjectification’, which is core to postfemininity (Gill, 2003, p.103). Gill defines this as a shift in the operation of power dynamics, where the external male gaze becomes an internalized, self-monitoring gaze hidden behind the idea that women are just presenting themselves hyper-sexually, because it serves their liberated interests (Gill, 2007). Thus, the construction of a ‘liberated’ and ‘empowered’ postfeminine Doja Cat in Planet Her becomes ever more ironic. Suddenly, we no longer talk about pure objectification from external forces of patriarchy or hegemonic masculinities, but rather about a choice to embody male sexual fantasies and justify it with wanting to ‘know what it’s like’ (Doja Cat, 2021a). Hence, the hegemonic forces of patriarchy ensue through the album, and become more difficult to dismantle, as they remain concealed behind the postfeminine idea that women do whatever they want to when presenting their feminine sexuality.


Ultimately, multiple paradoxes arise from Planet Her’s presentation of postfemininity, characterized by the simultaneous reinforcement and subversion of traditional femininity. This model of femininity transcends dichotomies, as it both liberates women from oppressive patriarchal forces and reproduces hegemonically masculine conceptions of gender and sexuality that reinforce the subordination of women to men. Planet Her’s presentations of femininities and masculinities continue to bear significance, as the album’s wide outreach influences contemporary pop-culture. As such, it remains important to extend an academic analysis of the album’s portrayal of femininities and masculinities. Particularly, a thorough intersectional analysis of the album, interrogating the intersections between race and postfemininity and the paradoxes undergirding Doja Cat’s postfeminine persona would serve well.



Butler, J. (2013). ‘For White Girls Only? Postfeminism and the Politics of Inclusion,’ Feminist Formations, 25(1), pp. 35-58.

Connell, R. W. (1987). Gender and Power. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Connell, R. W. (1995). Masculinities. California: University of California Press.

Connell, R. W., Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept. Gender and Society. 19 (6), pp. 829–859.

Denis, K. (2021). Doja Cat Is Becoming the Quintessential Gen Z Pop Star. Available at: https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/pop/9617060/doja-cat-gen-z-pop-star. Accessed: 31 October 2021.

Doja Cat (2021a). Need to Know. Los Angeles: Kemosabe and RCA Records.

Doja Cat (2021b). Woman. Los Angeles: Kemosabe and RCA Records.

Genz, S. (2009). Postfemininities in Popular Culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gill, R. (2003). ’From sexual objectification to sexual subjectification: The resexualisation of women’s Bodies in the media,’ Feminist Media Studies, 3(1), pp. 100-106.

Gill, R. (2007). ‘Postfeminist media culture: Elements of a sensibility,’ European Journal of Cultural Studies, 10(2), pp. 147-166.

Gonick, M. (2006). Between ‘girl power’ and ‘reviving Ophelia’: Constituting the neoliberal girl subject. NWSA Journal. 18 (2), pp. 1-22.

Kayla. (2021). Doja Cat Releases Deluxe Edition of New Album ‘Planet Her’. Available at: https://www.kiss925.com/2021/06/28/doja-cats-releases-deluxe-version-of-planet-her/. Accessed: 31 October 2021.

Paige, D. (2021) “Planet Her” Cements Doja Cat’s Pop Reign. Available at: https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/planet-her-cements-doja-cat-pop-reign. Accessed: 31 October 2021.

Projansky, S. (2001). Watching Rape: Film and Television in Postfeminist Culture. New York and London: New York University Press.

Sanchez, G. (2021). Aliens abduct Doja Cat during her iHeartRadio Music Awards performance. Available at: https://www.avclub.com/aliens-abduct-doja-cat-during-her-iheartradio-music-awa-1846990650. Accessed: 31 October 2021.

Skeggs, B. (2003). ‘Refusing to be Civilized: ‘Race’, Sexuality and Power,’ in (ed.) Afshar, H. and Maynard, M. The Dynamics of ‘Race’ and Gender: Some Feminist Interventions. London: Taylor and Francis, pp. 106-126.

Springer, K. (2007). ‘Divas, Evil Black Bitches, and Bitter Black Women: African American Women Postfeminism and Post-Civil-Rights Popular Culture,’ in Tasker, Y. and Negra, D. Interrogating Postfeminism: Gender and the Politics of Popular Culture. New York: Duke University Press, pp. 249-276.