Skepticism

Booty, Sex, Black and White

I don’t tend to keep up on popular music much, but there are two videos that have popped up in my newsfeed recently that are similar in many ways and different in one key way. Both of these songs are sung by women, include a variety of female backup dancers, celebrate female sexuality and bodies, and focus heavily on butts (particularly big butts). But there has been remarkably different response to the two videos: one of them has been censored in a number of places, derided as disgusting and objectifying, and has provoked a great deal of controversy among some who believe that it’s inappropriate. The other (at least in all of the responses that I’ve seen) has been lauded as a feminist anthem that celebrates a variety of body types.

I’m going to leave the two videos here, and we’ll play “see if you can spot the difference”.

Now I can see some of you saying that one is more explicit than the other, that women have more clothes on in one, blah blah blah. Let’s be honest. Race is at play here. A white woman who proudly proclaims that she likes to shake her booty is treated significantly differently than a black woman who does. No woman is exactly encouraged to embrace her sexuality, but the coy, modest version of white sexuality that is on display in All About That Bass is clearly far more palatable to our society than a black woman who is oozing joy in her own body. Don’t get me wrong: I love both of these videos. I love the self-love that shows in both of them. I love the celebration of women and women’s bodies. But it’s no surprise that I like All About That Bass better. I’ve been trained to do so.

Time to start questioning.

Cross posted from We Got So Far To Go

Olivia

Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at www.taikonenfea.wordpress.com

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5 Comments

  1. Personally I like Nicki’s better, I guess as a child of the 80s SMA is straight up nostalgia while doowop/girl group is sort of second-hand nostalgia having been back the first time in the 80s. Plus I love Ms. Minaj’s style, pure class don’t let anyone tell you different.

    Plus, I had to clear the steam off my monitor twice during her video, someone needs to call Drake to see if he’s okay. For real.

  2. “Now I can see some of you saying that one is more explicit than the other, that women have more clothes on in one, blah blah blah. Let’s be honest. Race is at play here.”

    Thing is, Skepchick, you’re all smart enough to know that you’re not actually making an argument. There is a huge, HUGE difference in how explicit these two videos are. Obviously there are big differences in how culture accepts or otherwise deals with women’s sexuality according to what race they are. But this stupid bit of handwaving you’ve done here? You know the bit where you just minimise every other possible factor? Blah blah blah. Let’s be honest. It’s not that simple and you know it.

  3. Great points and I agree. Thanks for your honesty about the “All About That Bass” song. I don’t like it because it’s so saccharine. I like “Anaconda” much better because I appreciate Nicki Minaj’s lack of fucks to give, I like hip-hop exponentially more than I like whatever is going on with that Meghan Trainor song, and I was 14 when Sir-Mix-A-Lot hit it big, making nostalgia for that song nigh impossible to avoid. So I don’t know that it would have occurred to me to compare the two, and you did a good job here. And it’s super helpful to be reminded that, as you said, there’s a lot of “training” to steer women more in the direction of the first, even if the second is just straight up a better song and better video.

  4. My girlfriend recently turned me on to “All About That Bass”. I didn’t really care of it at first but, I have to admit it’s growing on me. You can’t help but getting it stuck in your head! When I saw the video a couple days ago I concede I was not expecting it to being a white woman, in much the same way I was surprised the song “Thrift Shop” being performed by a white guy.

    That being said, based solely on the song I have to say I prefer AATB, even before I knew the “race” of the performers. The song is catchy, subtle and I think has an overall positive message. “Anaconda” is just not as clever. From the song name to the use of the “Baby Got Back” sample, it’s just too on the nose.

    I noticed too that both songs give the business to “skinny bitches” but AATB pulls the punch and says “I know you think you’re fat” to turn it around into a positive.

    It’s all about that hook…

    ~Mal

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