Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Baby got back (and front)

When dancer and actress Claudia Aderotimi died two months ago, she inadvertently reignited the debate about the portrayal of women in R&B and hip hop videos. She'd travelled to the US in search of bargain basement plastic surgery and ultimately got her wish. Not to mention an arse full of the kind of industrial grade silicon a window fitter might use to seal around a set of patio doors.

The tabloid response was predictably apoplectic. But they seemed less concerned with the tragic death of a 22 year-old, than they were with pinning the blame on an increasingly sexualised music genre. In covering the story, they quoted Claudia's associates verbatim, printing comments like "The problem was she didn't have no butt, and she wanted a butt. She went to audition for one video shoot wearing fake booty pants and she got all the attention. But when they found out it was fake she didn't get asked back." I don't know about you, but seeing words like 'booty' in the Daily Mail is a little like hearing your Grandma talk about felching. Much like the act itself, it just leaves an unpleasant taste in your mouth.

Concerns about the sexualisation of popular music are as old as the music itself. It's just that in the 1950s people were getting all worked up about the man from Memphis and his over-expressive pelvis. These days, they're more concerned with the endless parade of barely dressed women in urban music videos, strutting around in heels so sharp they should be surrendered in the next weapons amnesty. The girls in question aren't so much treated as sex objects, as items of occasional furniture - "Don't bother with a bra, just grab a couple of coasters so I've got somewhere to set down my bottle of Hennessy."

According to the foaming-at-the-mouth columnists, our kiddies are now foaming-at-the-crotch, thanks to the music videos that occasionally squeeze into the TV schedule, in-between back-to-back screenings of Jersey Shore or My Super Sweet 16. But although these commentators purport to be condemning the objectification of women, it's still the girls who bear the brunt. Sadly, there's still a gender double standard at play, one that apes the old sluts vs studs paradox that has dogged sexually independent women for decades.

It's bad enough that some women allow themselves to be exploited in order to showcase the extraordinary virility of male hip hop stars. But the real crime is committed by the female music artists who express themselves in similar terms. In the last twelve months, everyone from Shakira and Beyonce to Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj have been attacked for their overt sexuality and suggestive iconography - even though they're fully in control of their own image.

Unfortunately, all those arguments about post-feminism, gender identity and self-expression fly out of the window like a philandering boyfriend's wardrobe, when applied to the new video by rising star Lady. Displaying more arse cheeks than a proctology convention, this three and half minute masterpiece shows off a bevy of curvalicious hotties, all fresh from the midweek lunchtime line-up of your local strip club. They try on shoes, they drink blue pop from champagne flutes, and show off g-strings pulled high enough to give them a centre-parting.

And in the eye of this perfect storm, our magnificent heroine - a woman so confident in the potency of her own libido, that she feels compelled to warn the world that "this pussy be yankin'". Thankfully, we have Urban Dictionary on hand to explain that this means she's experiencing an "exceptional level of excitement and enjoyment." But then, why wouldn't she be excited? Especially since it looks as though her mates have splashed out on four bags of Cheetos for their big girls' night in. 

If you've ever watched an old Jerry Springer episode and wished one of those screeching women would put down a chair and pick up a lyric sheet, you're in luck. To paraphrase the jewel of Rochdale, Lisa Stansfield, Lady may not be a lady, but she's all woman. And that's enough to make anyone start yankin'. 

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