I thought I’d publish a post tangentially related to Erykah Badu’s recent music video. This is not a post about: if she should have taken off her clothes; or whether she was trying to get attention; or even if she was copying Matt and Kim (they did the nude walk first on the streets on NYC).
Nope this post is about something else.
Tale of the Tape
I am more than certain you have heard about if not seen the video for ‘Window Seat’. In the video Ms. Badu removes her clothing piece by piece as she walks through Dealey Plaza (yes, there are others present - the video was shot without prior approval of, well, anyone). At the end of the video Badu is nude.
I was not horrified or irreparably damaged by watching the video. In point of fact, Ms. Badu breasts and genitals are purposely pixilated. We don’t see her fully nude. What we do see is a woman with a rounded belly, womanly hips, and full buttocks.
I will be honest; I did not manage to catch my knee before it hit me in my forehead. My first reaction was why is she naked when her body looks like that?
Looks. Like. That.
Looks like what?
Badu does not have the curve-less body of a thirteen year-old with D-cup sized breasts stuck on the front; which, btw, is only shape desirable in a woman at least according to the Beauty Industrial Complex.
Luckily, my knee-jerk reaction was strong enough to kick me out of autopilot mindset and force me to contemplate just how narrowly I was defining what is beautiful and what is not.
And then I began to see something I had not in my initial rush to judgment about Ms. Badu’s body.
I recalled the various female figurines I’d seen in Art Appreciation class. The female figurines tend to be fleshy, curvy, distinctly and unmistakably feminine. The figurines were believed to have been used to ensure fertility and/or used in goddess worship in the ancient in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
And then I realized how subversive this video could be.
The Big Picture
There is nude and there is naked. There is power and there is oppression. There is control and there is objectification. There is expression and there is titillation. There is beauty and there is crass commercialism.
Pick a rap video, almost any rap video and what do you see? Don’t guess, I’ll tell you. Women’s body parts on display for men. I am not even going to touch on the hue-ism, stereotyping, and other destructive elements in most of these videos. Let’s be clear. The women in those videos are not in control of their image. They are sexualized objects. What’s sad is the same thread seems to run through a lot of the videos by woman rappers too.
Okay, in the interest of full disclosure I haven’t really watched a rap video (or any music video) for a number of years now but I remember how foul and unwatchable BET became. I don’t imagine the quality has been upgraded.
To me the difference between Badu’s nudity and the crass commercialism of most rap videos is power, control, beauty and expression. ‘Window Seat’ isn’t selling sex. Badu isn’t removing her clothes for the attention of a man or in competition with some other woman for a man. Badu isn’t gyrating or flashing her crotch or getting drunk and having sex she doesn’t remember. Her body is her body.
Is the video provocative? Definitely! But not for the reasons that automatically jump to mind. From what little I’ve read (not because there was so little written, but because I didn’t need to read a lot to get the gist of the reaction in the media) people are talking about her big butt and her cellulite and why did she take her clothes off when her body doesn’t look like what we’ve been programmed to think is beautiful?
I’m not talking about the overt message either; her short discourse on groupthink. I’m talking about the subtle, subversion of her nudity. I’m talking about how if one moves past the Jedi mind trick of the Beauty Industrial Complex; you begin to see how one nude woman owning her femininity can start to change things.
I’m talking about how one woman accepting her body as it is, womanly, fleshy, fertile, life giving, child birthing, nourishing, nurturing…can alter the groupthink about what is beautiful and feminine and acceptable.
Lest you think I am talking about unhealthy (seriously over-weight, obese) think again. I’m talking about women loving their curves. There is nothing healthy about being five feet tall and weighing 160 pounds. Similarly, there is nothing healthy about being five feet seven inches tall and weighing 105 pounds (word to the wise; after forty skinny is not cute…..you just look old).
If you haven’t done so yet, contemplate the beauty myth you are being spoon fed by the mass media. Whether it’s sitcoms, movies, videos, magazines, online, whatever! Women don’t come in just one size, neither should beauty.
Don’t just consume! Think! Resist! Challenge the status quo!