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Posts tagged ‘this matters to me’

Cultural Wiggle Room

So I’m coming out of the feminist closet yet again.

I haven’t written feminist stuff for a while. I don’t like to complain. Positivity is something of a new religion to me – not complaining, focusing on happy sides etc., this stuff adds to my quality of life. But it’s easy to confuse that happy focus with the cultural imperative to Be Nice. To risk the tautology, it’s nice to be nice, and others can be nice to you too, often in response to your niceness. But sometimes in an effort to be nice, to not be a party pooper, you lose yourself, you risk your opinion, your values and your heart.

In writing this, I am not only complaining. I’m not only venting and letting steam off. I am attempting to change your mind. Or at least change the discourse. Or at least not stay silent while the mainstream machine rolls by, claiming all that is interesting in this life and changing it in its own image.

What is it about? THIS SONG.

Recently I was at a work party. I’ll write about the party itself separately. I heard that song being put on and just walked off. People think I’m crazy. Context: I teach children and regularly dance to this song, because that’s what children like and, limited as the interaction is, I have no chance to overturn their entire education and worldview by saying that it’s stupid.

But I do find it rude and demeaning, and if I’m off work? I don’t want to listen to this shit.

Because, as a musician, I TAKE SONGS SERIOUSLY.

I should put it on a t-shirt perhaps.

To me, a song is something to live for – and if not to die for, then at least to argue about, to chisel away at until it’s good. People will say I am making a mountain out of a molehill, that it’s just a stupid song at a party, not a big deal – just entertainment, just fun. But those very same people will be very vocal and passionate about their musical interests; those same people will express views that are in line with this song; and they will likely claim that advertisement and entertainment business have no influence on the way they view the world. Funny that.

A popular song constitutes cultural content. In various spiritual or psychological practices, the effect of repeating something regularly is very well known – heck, we all know that this is how you learn things. Not going into detail of how this works, but let’s just agree that engaging with a sentence or poem or an affirmation in a regular way influences a person, or at least the direction of their thinking. A song is a perfect vehicle for a worldview change – it has rhythm, often rhymes, engages the body and therefore enhances the memory by the performative aspect (kinesthetic learning). Still think songs are unimportant? Window dressing? Background noise? It’s not all elevator music. SONGS HAVE WORLDVIEWS. SONGS ARE POLITICAL. SONGS MATTER.

“Wiggle” is patriarchy having fun. I’m not always against being crude or even sexual (separate topic – who wants to be tagged as a “prude”, sex negative feminist?). But this is a song about street harassment, featuring a chorus of whistling and dudes pretty pleased with themselves (“Holla at her!”) and asking personal questions (“How do you fit all that in them jeans” is beat only by the infamous classic “What’s your favourite position”. That’s CEO, FYI, mofo). “Oh baby, let me come and change your life” (hahahahaha, he said “come”! #ohwait). “Got me in this club making wedding plans” (oh, a wedding, that makes it legit). And then the final piece of wit:

“Oh baby, you’ve got a bright future behind you”.

Whole lyrics perpetuate the idea of a woman who exists specifically as an object of man’s needs and attentions. She doesn’t speak (interaction strictly one-sided); her life can be changed by the male protagonist, either in terms of sex or career (she can become “a star”), and her sexual wiggle is aaaaall for him. And she knows how to do it, ’cause that’s what she’s FOR. Even the bubble bath is thrown in as something done to her, not for her. And what frustrates me is that we are so very used to this, that it barely registers, this insidious propaganda. Can you imagine a woman being lazily “serviced” by a “wiggling” man, with the implication that that’s his only purpose in life? If you’ve seen something like that, post some links, please, I’d love to expand my horizons…. though even if you miraculously found content that had exactly the same implications, mirrored with reversed gender, I’m still not sure it is something to aspire to. Is that what sex positivity means? Often it seems like one can’t criticise the sexual aspects of popculture, because it automatically makes you sex-negative, in alliance with conservative (wait for it) prudishness. Where’s my door number three?! And I don’t mean a middle option between sex-negativity and free-for-all availability which still somehow pertains more to women, and is cunningly exploited by capitalism. I mean a third perspective.

If I can cut out some effing WIGGLE ROOM for myself to live and breathe, I’ll be happy.

Because if I don’t speak up, patriarchy will go on as planned.

Revolution will not be televised.

So I protest, best as I know how. I protest against girls hearing this stuff from young age with absolutely no alternatives (it’s twerking and wiggling everywhere), and then being slut-shamed as having no self-respect – just because they engage with the prevalent culture, and, you know, want to be attractive. I protest against the cultural climate that doesn’t allow women to own their body or sexuality, ’cause there’s always somebody happy and entitled to comment and shame them for it. You can’t walk down the street sometimes, whether you’re wearing a mini or a hoodie, without getting picked on. You can’t dance without feeling like you’re asking for it. For the record, I love to dance, I love to be sexual in dance, hips and all. But these are my choices to make. I know I don’t have to. I’m frustrated by how tight the boxes are though. So frustrated by the assumptions that whatever I do, I do for the male gaze, or against the male gaze. If I dress up, it’s to be noticed, if I dress down – as I tend to – it’s to be left alone.

I’m frustrated, because so many of us don’t question the dominant message, aren’t ever taught to look underneath. Of course, we, as women/female identifying people, cannot – will not – ever be ALLOWED to be free. The very thought is preposterous. You have to assume your freedom like the air you breathe – but to get there, you have to TAKE it.

Yeah, songs like these make my teeth clench. But I am done taking shit from culture – from now I will be making my own message. Even if I’m leaving it on the cultural answering machine. Pick up, goddamn it. Pick up!


EDIT: Here I have previously included the entire lyrics. But you can Google them easily enough. I’d rather include this:


Madiha Bhatti about popular songs


…. and the documentary that changed my understanding of media: