Wednesday, October 1, 2014

To Twerk or Not To Twerk?

Boy is this a confusing time to be a feminist. I've got all sorts of people arguing either in favor or in hatred of twerking, and here I am wondering when having a big butt suddenly became a style and not something I was cursed with.

Let me start by saying that having a big butt is not easy to deal with, especially when you're 5' tall. Sir Mix A Lot's song is a great source of pride, until he starts doling out measurements and you realize that all the girls in his video have pretty small butts compared to the average American woman. Plenty of men are legit into big butts, and they're having their day right now because girls are becoming more confident and less afraid to show them. A great example of this is Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass", which basically became an overnight sensation and an anthem for girls who don't measure up to society's standards.

Hell, even I like the song!

I've seen some wacky things all week from the world in regards to femininity and music, one of them being a big rant from Jill Janus in regards to a poll she referred to as a “Vote for the Hottest Female Metal Vocalist” contest. Since Metalholic's Vote Top 25 Women in Metal poll was released, people (myself included) believe she was referring to that, which is kind of annoying because Metalholic goes out of it's way to say that this is not a "hot" contest. And while I can understand being annoyed by online polls, I can't see myself getting pissed when one of the top contenders being voted on is a singer from Baby Metal.

I mean really, how can girls like me compete with cute teenage girls in tutus?

Which brings me to my original topic; to twerk or not to twerk.

You see, Mastadon released a new music video that involves a lot of twerking. Some people say they're making fun of Nikki Minaj, but that's not true. Mastadon's Brann Dailor claims they "didn’t know about the Nicki Minaj video until after." 

Some people say the video is extremely sexist, which isn't hard to imagine considering the music (which does include metal) industry doesn't often see women as more than bodies. Objects. Things the obtain or admire, visually. Can they be called sexist if that wasn't their intention? I'd like to say no, but this is a product of our society. Our culture is inherently sexist, so when people use women as decorations, it's not because they're saying "women are here to decorate my music video", it's because they've been trained to think that this is how women should be depicted and that's okay.Watching this video, you could come to many conclusions. "They're making fun of rap videos" is one of them, and I'll admit that there's something a little annoying about the idea of three white guys making fun of rap videos and black culture in general. Then again, making fun of objectification could be a noble stance, but they've already said they're not doing that. So what are they doing? It's become normal for a lot of men to see women dancing like this and think it's funny, it's fun, the women are "empowered" and they don't have a problem, so it must be okay. And to be honest, I don't necessarily argue with that. If women choose to use their bodies in this way, who are we to judge their choices? It's a free country, we should be free to show or not show our bodies as much as we want, correct?

Then you could say that the more women allow people to treat us this way, the more they expect us to stay this way. But to blame this on women would be akin to victim blaming, wouldn't it? Just because I wear a bikini doesn't mean you have the right to discriminate against me or how you perceive my intelligence. So lets put this in another perspective; if I twerk and you think I'm stupid, is this my fault or yours? And why should I care about your opinion?

Because we're entertainers, that's why. And while I've accepted that the only way to make a living with music is to give the listening public exactly what they want, sometimes that includes twerking. And enormous surgically enhanced boobs or butts. Sex in lyrics. All the things I just can't bring myself to do.


Kayode Kendall said...

I'm gonna admit, I liked the twerking Mastodon video. I guess the fact that it was unexpected just caught me off guard, then at a certain point, they went psychadelic and I was just kind of at a loss. I understand it's not for everyone, and I've heared from a lot of women with a lot of different opinions on the subject, so every new opinion that's presented in a constructive manner such as this is always appreciated.

And there are definitely times where I'm like, "Why did you need to do that?"

Kayode Kendall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew Lee Keith said...

At first glance, I was a little disappointed with the video simply because it has so much sexist imagery in it. They've always been so much more intellectual than this.

But after thinking on the video after a while I realize that while their intentions for the video and intended message might be lost under lbs of cellulite, the idea is still very clear. Sexism exists. How we each view it becomes our response to the video. It simply gets the mind moving on a topic that is at the front of everyone's mind. Good, bad or indifferent thinking about the topic is good because progress is made when things are thought about by the masses.

We may each either agree or disagree with the vehicle by which the means is reached, it's the ultimate outcome that matters. We've still got a ways to go, but by bringing these things up, shining a light on them, making people uncomfortable so they have to deal with unfamiliar feelings is how the day is won. said...

Although Mastadon said they threw something together to be fun and different and unexpected for a Mastadon video, I think there is a an unconscious theme still, missed by most observers. Note that there is a quick depiction of Adam and Eve taking the apple in a Garden of Eden theme, snake imagery included. The theme carried throughout is temptation. Heavy metal has more often than not taken religious themes with a twist. St. Augustine was infamously a womanizer, and then, universalizing his own experience, went on to claim that the Garden of Eden sin was really about sex instead of a literal fruit. The video is Augustinian temptation minus guilt.

Attractive women can tempt/influence/control hetero-males and the debate of giving them free reign to dance how they want is either empowering or self-objectifying. We aren't going to change people's minds, when raunchy is always the next level of seductive dancing just above our tolerance.

Regarding self perception issues on figures: IMO, what should be respected/loved is a fit/healthy body...not overweight or underweight for women and men. Athletic bodies would be a good example, except that many sports become unfortunately representative, and as competitive, require otherwise. Football requires heavier/larger than fit. Basketball requires taller than average but still fit. Bodybuilding is too subjective but weightlifting and running sports are not subjective. Non-subjective Olympian sports are often a good example of healthy ideal role model for natural body size/shape not altered by unnatural implants. Although female gymnasts must be shorter than average but still super fit. What is really annoying is that so much of the "body positive" movement is anti-thin and anti-fitness like the Meghan Trainor pretends to believe "every inch of you is perfect" in her lyrics until she gets to anti-"stick figure silicone barbie doll" and attacks, at the least, the underweight, if not the fit/healthy ideal too.