Twerk on sisters, twerk on
The first time I saw the video of Miley Cyrus twerking with Robin Thicke…
Let’s start over.
I can’t bring myself even to go there again. Doddering old feminist that I am, I think a woman should save her groin-grinding for the guy who loves her, and I don’t need to be a witness to the tryst.
Even if I were in my 20s, I wouldn’t be twerking. To me, feminism has always meant that any guy who wanted to be that close to me was going to have to work for it. At the very least, he was not going to be dressed like an umpire and singing about a predatory version of love.
It was this attitude, by the way, that bought me a lot of lonely nights in college and beyond, but I have to tell you, I’ve never regretted that. Party girl that I wasn’t, I did teach human sexuality right out of college through the women’s studies department. I made students craft the reproductive system of the opposite sex. Wish I’d kept some of those masterpieces of fiction.
Anyway, back to twerking, which legendary singer Annie Lennox recently harpooned in an interview to promote her new album, “Nostalgia.”
In September, Lennox responded to a question about fellow singer Beyonce’s performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, during which Beyonce stood in front of the giant illuminated word “FEMINIST.”
“I would call that feminist lite,” Lennox said.
Except here is the rest of her response:
“I’m sorry. It’s tokenistic to me. I mean, I think she’s a phenomenal artist – I just love her performances – but I’d like to sit down (with her). I think I’d like to sit down with quite a few artists and talk to them. I’d like to listen to them; I’d like to hear what they truly think.”
She kept going.
“I see a lot of it as them taking the word hostage and using it to promote themselves, but I don’t think they necessarily represent wholeheartedly the depths of feminism — no, I don’t. I think for many it’s very convenient and it looks great and it looks radical, but I have some issues with it. I have issues with it. Of course I do. I think it’s a cheap shot. I think what they do with it is cheap and … yeah. What can I tell you? Sex always (sells). And there’s nothing wrong with sex selling, but it depends on your audience. If they’re 7-year-old kids, I have issues with it.”
A lot more thoughtful, not to mention open to a discussion, which makes for a lousy sound bite. Headline shorthand: Annie Hates Beyonce.
Earlier this week, Lennox was at it again, if by “it” we mean expressing her opinion about what feminism means to her. The nerve of this woman to insist on defining who she is.
“Listen,” she told Steve Inskeep. “Twerking is not feminism.”
I should have mentioned this sooner: If you don’t know what twerking is, well, God bless you. I hope you’re recovering from whatever has kept you in isolation all these months. If you’re curious, skip right past Miley Cyrus and head straight to Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” music video, which has more than 263 million hits on YouTube. You won’t need caffeine for days.
More of Lennox’s interview with Inskeep: “The reason why I’ve commented is because I think that this overt sexuality thrust — literally — at particular audiences, when very often performers have a very, very young audience, like 7 years old, I find it disturbing, and I think its exploitative. It’s troubling. I’m coming from a perspective of a woman that’s had children. … It’s not liberating. It’s not empowering. It’s a sexual thing that you’re doing on a stage. It doesn’t empower you. That’s my feeling about it.”
When I heard Lennox’s interview Monday morning, I breathed a sigh of relief. Until she said it out loud, I’d never even considered sharing how twerking makes me wince. It’s not that I don’t want young women to feel sexy and in charge of their lives. It’s just not my definition of power or how I would ever have wanted to express it. My grown children are glad to know that, I’m sure, which makes me want to write an entire column titled “How Do You Think You Got Here?” – but let’s move on.
After showing my solidarity with Lennox online, I’ve gotten an earful from bright young women who want me to know they don’t care what I think about twerking or Beyonce or anything else.
This thrills me.
It does, I swear, because it confirms that 80-year-old Gloria Steinem is right when she insists we don’t need any one person to replace her after she’s gone.
They’re everywhere, these strong women, and they’re right to define feminism for themselves.
Time to retire “You go, girl.”
Editor’s note: Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist.