Like a bedraggled feral feline presenting a mangled carcass to a would-be master, Twitter will sometimes drops thing on my timeline and looks at me expectedly after I’ve perused its contents. This week, the little blue bird brought me this:
*Vulgarity alert for all my religious readers!*
Now that you’ve been “offended” (or not) by the video, it is at this point that I am supposed to pepper my conversation with words like “subjugation”, and “misogyny”, and “intersectionality” and, “misandry”, and “archetypes” and a whole host of other words that I’ve had to look up in the dictionary ever since this video came out. These words are foreign to me, because I speak Feminish just about as well as I speak Christianese. If I tried to pepper this post with any of these adjectives I’d quickly be revealed as a fraud.
I wouldn’t do that to you MOM Squad. We like to keep it real in these parts, and I’d really like your opinion on this topic: Are Black women too stupid to know when they are being taken advantage of?
Prior to this week, I have never heard of Lily Allen. And until Miley Cyrus’ woeful twerkfest on the VMAs, she never showed up on my pop culture radar. Now you can’t pass a newsstand without Miley’s tongue gracing the cover. Over the last few days, Lily Allen has come under fire for the same crime that Miley committed, i.e. using Black women’s bodies for their own empowerment and advantage.
Something about that accusation doesn’t sit right with me; because in that accusation itself, the complainants premise is that Black women have no agency over their bodies, whatsoever, and that they have no opinion about how their bodies are portrayed. I find that hard to believe in this post-Emancipation, post-Civil Rights era. Black women may not have a lot of creature comforts, but as sentient beings, we DO have the right and wherewithal to decide how to dress ourselves in the morning.
Now, I will admit that I am probably looking at this whole thing through Pollyanna’s rose colored glasses in that I have no music industry experience to speak of, but I would imagine certain things have to take place before a dancer goes from a walk-in to the finished product on the small screen. I image that there is an audition process. I would think that the director would convey the intent of the video. I would think the artist would talk to the women (in this case) about what her vision is. I would think there would be some discussion amongst the back-up dancers in between takes to see how each woman was feeling about the shoot, its progress, or what happened on Jerry this week. And if in the midst of ALL that, none of them felt exploited, who are we to say that they are?
My problem with Lily Allen’s video isn’t that her back-up dancers were primarily Black (or non-white. I believe there is an Asian girl in the cast), it’s that gawd-awful crotch shot in the first minute of the video. Like really? Was that necessary? I could virtually smell poon-tang wafting through my laptop. Did the fact that all her dancers share facets of my skin tone? Not in the slightest; Because I don’t belong to that social group. I don’t hang out with b-bop dancers, or in strip clubs, or in any of the places where the generally fit/athletic congregate. When I look at those girls, I don’t see “Black women”… I see “a couple of Black women”, and therein lies the difference. These women do not represent every Black woman everywhere, and I’d wager that if you’d ask them, they’d say the same.
But then I wonder, has anyone asked THEM? I’ve seen a cornucopia of quotes from Lily Allen herself but I haven’t seen a semi-colon attributed to the feelings or imagination of the Black back-up dancers that everyone professes to be so indignant about.
We have to stop doing this: and I’m looking at you, the Black genteel elite whose voices direct society’s suppositions about our race/community. This is the same thing you did to Rachel Jeantel during the Zimmerman trial. You savaged her for lack of eloquence and berated her for her appearance. How long did it take you as a group to pause and ask HOW she came to be this way? Weren’t you ashamed when you discovered she was Haitian and that English was not her first language? That’s what it took for you to put down your broad stroking brush that you seek to paint all Black women with? What a horrible thing to be guilty of… to be just as subjugating as the person you seek to castigate.
What I’d be more interested in is discovering WHY these women were so comfortable with their portrayal in this video. For instance, one of that back-up dancers in Miley’s VMA performance said she felt very uncomfortable with the way she was treated on stage – but guess what? She performed anyway. And remember how we were all asking where Paula Patton was during Robin Thicke’s performance and wondering why she hadn’t leapt on stage to smack the “smile” off of Miley? How shocked were you to discover that she was sitting in every rehearsal, and that come the time of the live show, this performance was of no surprise to her!
My final thoughts are this: the dollar is louder and mightier than your outrage, and as long as Lily Allen is paying, you might as well get good and comfortable with Black bottom smacking and jiggling. Besides, it just translates better on film.