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This place matters

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Socially redeeming value

While writing a recent post, I had occasion to view some of the music videos the kids are watching these days and I have to admit, I'm still trying to bleach my eyeballs. 
Now I'll admit that feminists don't have a great track record when it comes to sexuality. Our feminist foremothers often condemned women for expressing their sexuality, claiming the fact that they were allowing themselves to be "objectified" was bad for women. Women who enjoyed sex were embracing their own subjugation, with some feminists going so far as to claim that any heterosexual sex constituted violence toward women. 
Those were the bad old days, and those attitudes are as outdated as a lady mullet. 
In recent years, feminists have largely shed that ideology, and rightfully so. Some feminists used to say that women who dressed sexy were encouraging men to be pigs, but now we recognize that as victim blaming and slut shaming. Women's clothing aren't responsible for men's behavior, men are. They are our bodies, after all, and dressing as we wish is empowering.

But... music videos for Nicki Minaj's Anaconda and Rihanna's Bitch Better Have My Money, are simply not empowering. They're not. I've read tons of editorials insisting that the women are exercising their "free agency" as women, demonstrating "ownership" of their bodies. I've read editorials crying racism at feminists who express dislike for the videos and I just don't buy it.
Let's start with Anaconda. It is essentially five minutes of Minaj's ass in various positions, sometimes rubbing against the asses of other women. 
The girl-on-girl thing is the first issue here. In the past several decades, lesbian sexuality has become a fetish for straight men, who have come to the conclusion that lesbian sexuality exists for their consumption. It's a huge problem for a lot of lesbians who would rather not be invited to perform every time they choose to hold hands with a partner in public. Yes, men are responsible for their own behavior. But Minaj choosing to grease herself up and rub her ass all over another woman for the benefit of a male audience does reinforce the notion that lesbian sexuality is all about men. It wasn't okay when Katy Perry did it in I Kissed a Girl, it isn't okay when Minaj does it.  
This video screams "I am my body; I am nothing but my body." It begs people to buy her records and watch her videos because of her body and not because she's an extremely talented musician, which she is. She's got a gorgeous body and she has the absolute right to show off just as much of it as she wants; but in this video, she is reducing herself to just a body and that's not feminism.
And then there's Bitch Better Have My Money. In this video, Rihanna kidnaps a woman, beats her bloody, sexually tortures her - with rape very strongly implied - and then appears to murder her. Rebecca Carroll at The Guardian says "what really has white feminists upset is that in the video Rihanna, a black woman, puts her own needs before a white woman’s needs." Sorry lady, but a woman's need to not be raped pretty much always trumps another person's need to rape her regardless of the skin color in the equation. This isn't empowerment, it's a god damn snuff film. And looking past that, it portrays an apparently innocent woman being raped and tortured because her husband owes Rihanna's character; it reinforces that notion that women are responsible for men's behavior. This isn't the playful kink of her earlier S&M video; it's not even the compartmentalized fantasy of a porn flick. This video is nothing more or less than a glorification of rape culture and that is. not. feminism. It's decidedly the opposite. 


...damn, why does that song have to be so catchy?

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