rarely does it become apparent that things are more complicated than “naked female body” = sexism, but it should be quite recognizable when you see it [text under “later edit”] just like it is obvious when it’s the common variety of misogynist imagery; it has to do with the way the gaze is engaged, with context and attitude and agency and message and history:
So I finally got around to seeing the much-discussed music video for Erykah Badu’s single “Window Seat,” from her new album New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh), which came out yesterday. In it, she is featured walking around a Dallas street, stripping before a gaggle of pedestrians before being shot. The video concludes with the word “GROUPTHINK” oozing in blue letters from her head and a spoken outro. I’ve since seen it several times and can now trail behind the tweets. If you haven’t seen it already, you can check it out here.
First off, I’ll come out and say that I like this music video. I’ve liked the song since I heard Badu perform it with longtime collaborators The Roots on Jimmy Fallon a few weeks back. I’m also really glad people are talking about it. As a long-time fan of her work, it’s about time people acknowledge that she has consistently been at the center of some of the most interesting, challenging, and readable music videos since the start of her career. “Honey” (which she co-directed) is my favorite video of the past few years — it’s overtly political, visually compelling, dense with references, takes a revisionist’s attitude toward music history, and is funny as hell. But she’s had me as a supporter since the first time I saw “On & On” back in 1997.
It’s a little disheartening that people are only now starting to talk about one of her music videos, as I think some of why Badu has been overlooked has to do with our culture’s racialized conceptions of how female musicians are supposed to comport themselves as video subjects across musical genres. White ladies like Björk or Madonna can “elevate” the medium to ”art,” but black women — usually packaged as R&B, hip hop, or pop stars — need to be commercially viable. If they’re down with glamour, spectacle, and easy objectification, so much the better.
Badu’s never played that game, and has perhaps been under the radar as a result. …
from “My thoughts on Erykah Badu’s “Window Seat”” @ Feminist Music Geek
(read the whole thing)
also read: “Freeing the Black Woman’s Body” @ The Root
and “Erykah Badu ‘Window Seat’: What Do Nude Bodies Mean?” @ Womanist Musings