You know what, Usher? You’re cute as hell with that dog. And when it comes to feminism, I give you points for effort. You seem to be trying to respect women, which I genuinely appreciate. But in terms of actually being feminist, you get, like, a C+. Barely a passing grade. Close, but no cigar, Usher!
Everyone else: Have you heard Usher’s song with Juicy J, “I Don’t Mind”? It’s a fun track. I sing along to it in the car:
“Shawty I don’t mind
if you dance on a pole;
that don’t make you a ho.
Shawty, I don’t mind
when you work until three,
if you’re leaving with me.”
The plot of the song is that Usher’s girlfriend is a stripper. It’s practically a sequel to “I’m N Luv (Wit A Stripper)” by T-Pain. (By the way, strippers are great. I’m bisexual; I like hot naked girls. If I could spend $100 every day, I’d be at Hustler alllll the time.)
Usher is romancing a stripper, but he insists that her job doesn’t bother him as long as she’s not sleeping with anybody else. In fact, this song is relatively progressive, because Usher encourages his lady love to “go make that money, money, money” and approves of her ass-shakin’ hustle. Get it, girl!
Unfortunately, there’s more to the song. In chronological order, here are the parts that piss me off:
1) “If you dance on a pole, that don’t make you a ho.”
Let’s be real: “Ho” is short for “whore”. It’s not quite as offensive, but it’s still an awful word to use. “Whore” is a slur against full-service sex workers. (“Prostitute” is another word that many sex workers object to, although not all of them.) This is a problem because sex workers are at risk of violence and abuse. They are targeted by police, intimate partners, and clients. Because their work is against the law and regarded as shameful, sex workers are marginalized and vulnerable, pushed out of mainstream society. They are also disproportionately queer, trans, and/or non-white; many of them already face discrimination.
Furthermore, strippers tend to think they’re better than full-service sex workers because they don’t actually sleep with clients, just dance for them. It’s bullshit. To learn more about that, read “Tearing Down the Whorearchy From the Inside” by Belle Knox, and basically everything on Tits and Sass, which is an awesome website.
2) “Your body rock, and your booty poppin’. I’m proud to call you my bitch.”
I listen to a lot of popular hip-hop and rap (“Trap Queen” is my jam right now), so I’ve had to get used to hearing artists say “bitch” all the time. Except, actually, I can’t get used to it! Hearing Rihanna and Nicki Minaj say “bitch” makes me kind of uncomfortable, but I get it, because there’s power in reclaiming a word that was used against you. But when men say “bitch”, I want to full-on cringe. Or explode with rage. If someone called me a bitch to my face, this is how I’d react:
Tyra Banks goes hard.
And yet I keep listening to Drake, The Weeknd, Yeezy, etc. I guess I’m a masochist when it comes to misogyny?
3) Juicy J says, “I’m just tryna cut her up; tryna bust a nut. Tryna take somebody bitch, turn her to a slut.”
I mean, do I even need to say anything? All of the previous criticisms apply.
Sometimes the music I listen to gives me a headache. I’m a body-positive feminist and I have serious issues with capitalism, but I love all these songs about bitches and gettin’ scrilla. Rappers are just talkin’, right? But it’s never just talk, because talk is important. Language shapes thought, and thought determines action. I know this, and yet… I still have a crush on Drake. Who can resist? Look at this cutie:
Photo credits: Usher’s Instagram, Maggie McMuffin’s Instagram, Turn Off The Blue Light poster via Tits and Sass, and the headache photo by [3/4 of zer0]. I searched “tyra banks demon gif” but couldn’t find the source. Featured photo credit: Flickr user Marco via Creative Commons