I was not created to be any man or woman’s sexual fantasy.
I have been thinking about women, and black women’s sexuality, quite a bit this week after seeing Rihanna’s latest video, Pour It Up. Never mind the fact that the song was playing all the time last year and there’s just now a video.
I wish it stayed that way…just a song on the radio and in the club, video-less and never officially a single.
Yes, the song mentions visiting strip clubs, but even I was surprised when I saw full-on shots of Rihanna’s derriere and her…moves in water and a royal chair.
After I closed my mouth and stopped saying “Rihanna!” the way I would to a friend who just did something stupid while out in public, I couldn’t help but think “How is this ground-breaking?”
What else is new about the image of a hyper-sexualized black woman and why do people consider videos like this pushing the envelope, “real,” or even relevant enough to be watched 24 million times on YouTube (my IP address helped that ticker go up by one…or maybe two!)?
That oh-so special “envelope” has been pushed all around the world ever since slavery went trans-continental.
And, quite frankly, I’m tired of it.
If there’s one narrative that’s been told, recorded, or broadcast again and again it’s this one: black women’s bodies are easily accessible for you (the viewer, preferably male) to enact your sexual fantasies. It’s what the master used to justify raping the black women whose bodies he owned and it’s what being used now to sell records, to be attention-grabbing, to be anything but creative.
Quite frankly, as someone who’s slowly getting comfortable with calling herself an artist (though not musically, please), I find it cheap and easy. Not cheap and easy in the sense where I think it’s tacky.
Cheap and easy in the sense that as a black, female artist you’re using a widespread, virulently destructive narrative to entertain and then when the criticism arises—which it always will—turn around and use quasi-feminist arguments of sexual liberation, “I’m just doing my thing,” and/or “it’s all an act” as a defense.
Some of us know it’s a performance, but too many don’t and point to videos such as these to justify certain stereotypes surrounding black females. It would be a blog in and of itself to address, analyze, and discuss the media’s portrayals of black female sexuality and connections between sexual violence against black women.
And “sexual liberation of the black woman?” I have a feeling that people have gotten that message way before 2013. I heard that message loud and clear right here in Venezuela when a drunk (white, non-Venezuelan) person grabbed my arm and told me to “get my Nigerian self out there [on the dance floor]!” when a certain style of music (native to Venny) that required a whole bunch of hip-popping and (preferably) a butt that could move when the rest of my body stopped was played. Yet I digress.
I can’t remember the last music video centered around a strip club I saw that had non-black females dangling from a pole. Maybe in the two months since I left the US I’ve forgotten that only black females strip to make ends meet. Or maybe I’ve forgotten that our bodies are the ones used to give a certain credibility to an artist’s “realness” or “grittiness” or just plain stupidity.
Let me be clear, I’m not trying to make a moral argument here that videos such as these corrupt the youth or that people who strip for a living are depraved. They are people who are trying to make money to pay bills. That sounds like the same thing I’m doing.
And corrupting the youth? Bless parents right now is all I have to say.
As I previously stated, I simply think it’s cheap for black female artists who actually have some semblance of talent to plug themselves into a particular discourse because that’s what’s the most easily digestible for their target audience. It’s what has been shown. Over. And over. And over again. It’s performing for the male gaze, it’s singing the same song, and after about three minutes and seventeen seconds, it’s boring because it’s already been done.
We don’t all have to be India.Arie, but I like to think we’re more than jiggling booties, breasts, and thighs too.
If you can show me that much with your art, I may just call you an artist who’s actually trying to have a new kind of conversation. Then, I wouldn’t mind pouring a glass (of the alcohol of your choice) with you.