Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Boom Boom: On Feminism In Modern Music

I went home from the bar two weeks ago relentlessly humming Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass", which is basically this summer's 'feel good' song, along with Iggy Azalea's "Fancy". I love both of these songs, have karaoke'd both of these things, bounce in the car with my boys to both of these songs but I have things to say about them and about feminism in music right now.

In regards to "All About That Bass", I am just not about body-shaming anyone; fat chicks or 'skinny bitches' or ladies who made silicone Barbie doll choices. I wear eyeliner and heels and that's okay. You wear fake tits? Also okay. You wear pit hair? Also okay. Any choice you make is okay because feminism is about equal opportunity and ability to choose and that means that while it's okay to criticize makeup and high heels and silicone breasts on a macro level, i.e. the systems that encourage women to go through extra effort for extra rewards in the kyriarchy, but it is not okay to criticize individual women for how they choose to participate - or not - in those systems. We all make our own deals in this world and I'm not going to knock down other women because their choices are different than my own.

Google Image Search results
for the term "Boom Boom"
Also important, this song spends half of the lyrics talking about how fat bodies are okay because they are still attractive (or even more attractive) to men than other bodies. Listen, fat bodies are okay FULL STOP. No need to go on. My body is not validated by the male gaze, period. I don't care if men want more booty to hold at night. It wouldn't matter because my fat body doesn't have more booty than skinny bodies anyway and to be straight up honest, I don't even know what a "boom boom" is, that all boys supposedly chase. (In case you didn't notice, "All About That Bass" is only about the hotness of hourglass fat bodies.)

I'm also unhappy about how black figures are appropriated in the video but Trout Nation says it better than me so go read what she says (See: I Am Not All About That Bass: Deconstructing The Summer’s Feel-Good, Body-Positive Hit)
So to transition from "All About That Bass" to "Fancy", they both feature white women appropriating dialect, which is so fucking fraught that I don't even know what to say outside of "No, Iggy, I do not 'love dat'!" and to pass you on to Britney Cooper over at Salon, who also says it better than me. (See: Iggy Azalea’s post-racial mess: America’s oldest race tale, remixed: As a white female rapper mistakes appropriation for artistry, black women remain pushed to the sidelines)

And while we're on the topic of feminism in modern music, my nephew recently posted Miss Andry: Nicki Minaj and the male gaze to my Facebook and invited my reply. At his behest, I did alot of thinking about Niki Minaj. Not about her music (practically none of which I have heard) but about why she bothers both misogynists and feminists. See, the kyriarchy wants her to behave in certain ways as a woman; to appeal to men, to be "ladylike", etc. But feminists also want women to follow certain rules to advance feminism. And to both sides, Niki is basically like, "Fuck everyone; Imma do what I want.". And then she does. So in the end, I feel like she is a feminist icon but not because she embodies feminist activism, but because she exemplifies feminisms' much-sought-after end result, in which Niki Minaj does whatever the fuck she wants because she fucking wants to do so.

I also told him that I feel the same way about Miley Cyrus. My nephew disagreed, stating that Miley's "new-found appropriative behavior is the only thing [that he] finds socially compelling about her". He went on to say that we "have intersectional feminists and black activists berating her for her misuse and accessorizing of black culture, and her sexualization of black bodies. Then you have white feminists praising her for being sexuality liberated. And then mainstream media, i.e. White America has lost all respect for her, slut-shaming her to hell. So maybe on the surface she's kinda the same because she doesn't give a fuck what everyone is saying. But at the same time she is popularizing a dangerous interpretation of black culture (not that black artists don't do that too, but...), and it is so obviously a phase. A costume. Any normalization of cultural appropriation that doesn't also advocate anti-racism is harmful as hell IMO. Nicki has her problematic shit too, but Miley is on a whole other level of awfulness."

He's not wrong, y'all. (I taught him well.) Miley and Niki both do seriously problematic things and we absolutely should be analyzing and critiquing those things. Being feminist icons does not make them above reproach. At all. Especially Miley with her 'woc as accessories' bullshit. But if punk music is a rejection of bourgeois rules and morals, then there's nothing punker in music right now than Niki and Miley. And Miley is no different than Gwen Stefani, who literally bought herself four Asian women to use as accessories, right down to naming them. Like puppies. (See: Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls) We're just more mad at Miley because we thought that she would either stay in her place (See: Disney Princess) or divebomb downhill as a morality play at which we could turn up our noses (See: Lindsay Lohan), whereas Gwen's been a rule-breaker since she busted the gender segregation of a mostly-male musical genre as the female lead singer of a male-driven band.

Anyway, I'm also upset with Iggy for her recent decision to begin picking fights with other female rappers in a bid for media attention. Divisive tactics are not okay. But I have enough to say about that for a whole 'nother post so Imma leave off for now.

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