thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Posts Tagged ‘hip hop’

Replay: Nicki Minaj and Cassie’s “The Boys”

In hip hop on November 9, 2012 at 10:15 am

Melissa S. 

From my first viewing of Nicki Minaj and Cassie’s new video for “The Boys,” I was in love – and I was pretty sure that this was the pop cultural artifact I had been waiting for in order to unload the thoughts about third wave feminism that have been building in my mind over the past few weeks.

In this case, when I say “third wave feminism,” I’m talking about the way that women now are wrestling to navigate femininity and masculinity, cultural power and identity, in a time when choices are greater and there are competing visions of what it means to be a fully actualized woman. We’re now at a point where (as this blog aptly demonstrates) women are interested in reclaiming conventional forms of femininity with pride, whether that’s crafting, sporting cute skirts, wearing makeup, or becoming moms. We believe and assert that we shouldn’t have to be tough, aggressive, and otherwise conventionally masculine in order to be taken seriously as smart and thoughtful people. At the same time, we recognize that patriarchal norms endure. The victories that second wave feminism won relied on strategic masculinization: breaking into male-dominated arenas of cultural power required women to prove that they could play by the rules and then start thinking about transforming institutions from within.

But now, should women act like tough men to succeed in a still-patriarchal world or attempt to change this world? Women live in a tension between conventional masculinities and femininities. The ideal empowered feminist today will be simultaneously tough and sexy; able to strut in high heels or suavely sport a suit; able to roll her sleeves up and duke it out or able to let her hair down and laugh with the girls. These contradictory imperatives also create tension in her relationships to others, both men and women. If she is heterosexual, she is supposed to simultaneously attract men and be their equal, existing in the resonant state between at-work pal and sex object, one-of-the-guys and bombshell. Her relationships with women are equally fraught: she is supposed to be their sister in solidarity and their competition. Somehow, she is supposed to attract every guy, even theirs, and yet remain best friends with everyone. Somehow, she is supposed to beat women at work and then listen to their secrets over drinks, to beat men at work but then soften herself at home. Impress the guys but don’t intimidate them. Beat the women but then befriend them. Such conflicting mandates!

What I love about “The Boys” is the way it playfully captures these tensions. I’ve talked before about how Nicki’s highly successful career has involved the exact kind of high-wire act I described above. She made a name for herself by out-rapping guys and girls alike, by stealing the show from rap’s biggest names (“Monster,” hello?) and by dissing the other ladies as unable to keep up. At the same time, she’s taken the hip-hop mandate for women to become super-sexualized “black Barbies” to such a parodic extreme that it breaks down, becoming its own mockery (Phoebe argued this once with me in regards to the “Starships” video that I hated, but now I have become convinced that she is right, even if I still hate that video, haha). But many of her early successes were big-name features on men’s songs. While she’s collaborated with other women, those aren’t the songs that define her as a serious artist, as more than a pop star. They’re not “Monster” (with Kanye and Jay-Z), “Hello Good Morning” (with Rick Ross and Diddy), “Turn Me On” (with David Guetta), “All I Do Is Win” (with every rapper ever making records right now), “Knockout” (with Lil Wayne). And while Pink Friday was a mega-hit, it a) featured a lot of collaborations with male artists, such as Eminem and Kanye; and b) seemed split between more tough, conventional raps and more poppy songs for radio play. This album wrestles with the gender dichotomies of the music industry: for her to be a serious rapper, she has to rap like a man, but for her to be a mega-star, she has to sing like a girl. Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Weekly Round-Up

In body politics, hip hop, race, social media, Weekly Round-Up on June 22, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Here are some super interesting reads from around the web this week. Enjoy!

An intriguing read on social media, viruses, and violence from A.J. Aronstein, “The Plague Years” at the New Inquiry.

Arturo Garcia provides provides coverage about Jonathan Wall’s racist and violent treatment at a North Carolina bar, on Racialicious: “Grad Student’s Story Leads To Protest Against North Carolina Bar.”

Cord Jefferson has a terrific essay exploring the capitalist underpinnings of “No Church In the Wild” and the Watch the Throne version of revolution.

The writers at XOJane are public personae. Does that mean they can (or should) write about each other? Tracie Egan Morrissey considers Cat Marnell at Jezebel.

A great piece from Dances With Fat, “Feeling Fat vs. Being Fat” in response to Daisy’s “I’m Fat and I’m Not Okay With It” piece at xoJane.

A Giant Anniversary

In feminism, Food Network, girl culture, Hunger Games, Teaching, teen soaps, violence on June 19, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Phoebe B. & Sarah T.

It seems like only yesterday that Girls Like Giants was a tiny blog-like twinkle in our eyes. But the calendar doesn’t lie: GLG is officially one year old.

So much has happened in the last 12 months, it’s as if we all exist in a perpetual state of hyper-reality. Titanic sailed back into our lives on the winds of romantic nostalgia and 3-D mania; Katniss slew our hearts with her hardcore, hard-up courage; Rihanna found love in a hopeless place; the whole internet world stopped to argue about Girls. And this blog became a place for sometimes-complicated, sometimes-funny, always-thoughtful conversations about media and popular culture.

That last development is thanks to GLG’s awesomely talented contributors and to our equally awesome readers. You are the smize in our eyes, the Knope in our hope, the Unique wonder that makes us feel glee. Basically, you’re the best. Without you, we’re just a blog in a big old black hole of nothing.

To celebrate our blog-o-versary, we’ve put together a short list of some of our favorite posts from the past year. We limited ourselves to picking just one post from each author. What were some of your favorite posts from the past year? And what kinds of subjects and topics would you like to see GLG take on in the future? Let us know in the comments — we’re all ears.

Sarah T. tackles literary sexism in “Jonathan Franzen, Edith Wharton, and the Problem of Personality.”

Phoebe B. reflects on a gymnastics-filled childhood, tough coaches, and her favorite show in “Post-Dance Academy Reflections on Teaching, from a Former Gymnast.”

Melissa S. considers how to reconcile her love of Kanye with hip hop’s frequent women-bashing in “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Affair with Misogyny, Hip Hop, and Post-Feminism.”

Chelsea B. explores how removing Katniss’s voice impacts The Hunger Games movie in “On Silencing Katniss and Lady-Feelings.”

Sarah S. revels in Vampire Diaries, Caroline, and second chances in “The Unique, Potentially Surprising Ethics of The Vampire Diaries.”

Chelsea H. examines the Food Network’s treatment of ethnicity, race, and cultural cuisines in “Food Network Star, Branding, and Ethnic Entrapment.”

Brian P. contemplates cross-playing gender in video games in “Gender/Play: The Problems, Promise, and Pleasures of Video Game Crossplaying” Part 1 and Part 2.

We also want to thank our other amazing contributors Narinda Heng, Taylor D., Jennifer Lynn Jones, Austin H., Jeni R, Sarah H., and Gina L. for allowing us to post their thoughts on everything from rock climbing to The Hunger Games, Torchwood, Rachel Dratch, Scored, and beyond.

Replay: Kanye and Jay-Z’s “No Church in the Wild”

In music videos, Replay on June 1, 2012 at 10:56 am

Sarah T.

From the first lingering close-ups of rebels in “No Church in the Wild,” it’s clear that Jay-Z and Kanye are on the revolutionaries’ side. Even when handkerchiefs cover the protestors’ noses and mouths, we see rage, suffering, and wariness pass through their eyes. They appear at once vulnerable— shirtless, dressed in street clothes—and heroic as they push against police lines and extend their arms out wide and slightly back, puffing their chests forward. That last pose is the universal sign for “Come at me.” The police do.

The police are the faceless apparatus of the state, their humanity buried beneath helmets and shields. They bear high-tech weapons. Their synchronized violence works like a machine. By contrast, the rebels’ tactics are chaotic—a police car on fire pushed through the barricades, a boot kicking against a hard plastic shield. The police have controlled power, which they use to control others. The rebels use their power to create disorder. Their anger burns. Everyone in the video is a man.

But what’s a revolution without specifics? That’s a real question, not a snarky rhetorical move. Without identifying details, it’s impossible to know whether “No Church” means to evoke Occupy Wall Street or Arab Spring or other recent uprisings. (The fact that the video was filmed in Prague lends it tones of the Velvet Revolution as well, although of course that revolution was nonviolent.)

Perhaps the scenes in the video are meant to stand for all revolutions.  On principle, that’s fine — I don’t have a problem with metaphors. But I do have a problem with borrowing images that conjure up heroism and radical social movements without earning the right to them. For example: those Walt Whitman commercials make me tear up, because like many people in the target demographic I’m a sucker for that expansive, youthful, hopeful, scrappy, poetic version of America. So the ads have the effect they’re supposed to have on me. But at the same time, I know that Levi’s is making a cheap move with those commercials. They’re lifting beauty and poetry to sell me some jeans.

What this video does isn’t quite so crass, because I believe that while Jay-Z and Kanye obviously have commercial agendas they’re also concerned about art. I don’t think Levi’s cares about art one way or the other as long as I plunk down some dollars for pair of dark wash. But I do think the video is lifting revolution to sell me on Watch the Throne.

The irony of which is, I’m already sold. “No Church” is an amazing song. But it’s about the dark side of opulence, as the trailer for The Great Gatsby showed to great effect. If the video had gone more for class warfare and less for de-contextualized uprisings, it would have been a perfect match between song and story. Lyrically,  Jay-Z and Kanye have both acknowledged the contrast between their current decadent lifestyles and the realities of poverty in America. How cool would it be to see a video that explored those tensions? As is, “No Church” gave me some goosebumps — but I don’t think the video deserved them.

*

For more on hip-hop in general and Kanye in particular, check out Melissa’s “My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Affair with Misogyny, Hip Hop, and Post-Feminism.”

GLG Weekly Round-up

In Uncategorized on May 18, 2012 at 11:52 am

Here are just a smattering of good reads from around the web this week. Enjoy! And if you have any links you think we should include in our weekly round-ups, e-mail us at girlslikegiants@gmail.com.

Jay Smooth on Hip Hop, Conspiracy Theories, and the Prison Industrial Complex, from Ill Doctrine.

The new F/X comedy, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, show featuring W. Kamau Bell, discussed on Racialicious, sounds amazing!

John Scalzi uses video games to explain how privilege works; the crowd goes wild (the post goes viral).

Alyssa Rosenberg at ThinkProgress on the race and gender demographics of the new fall TV lineup.

A Few Awesome Things About Being Disabled by Sarah Eyre.

On the coverage of the tragic death of Lorena Xtravaganza, by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano.

Hanna Brooks Olson explains why women’s razors (and other products ) cost more than men’s, and what to do about it (via The Beheld).

At The New York Review of Books, Elaine Blair explores how Girls “raises questions in its opening episodes about how young women are to understand and make use of their sexual freedom.”

And Sarah S. passes along a slideshow of photographs by artist Jen Davis (and an accompanying interview) that deal with body image, weight, and perception.

Replay: “Turn Me On,” David Guetta Ft. Nicki Minaj

In hip hop, music videos, Replay on May 1, 2012 at 8:09 am

Nicki Minaj never ceases to amaze and intrigue the GLG ladies, and this video is no exception. David Guetta’s “Turn Me On” plays off the Frankenstein story, with Guetta as Dr. Frankenstein and Nicki Minaj and others as the Monster, or in this case doll-like creations. Nicki Minaj becomes Barbie here, as she is literally a doll–flesh built over complex mechanics–who runs out into the night and away from Guetta’s character.

Read on for some thoughts on “Turn Me On.” And we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Read the rest of this entry »

Replay: Drake’s HYFR featuring Lil’ Wayne

In music videos, Replay on April 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Sarah T.

Jews and rapping aren’t necessarily the first pairing that comes to mind. But Drake’s new music video “HYFR,” featuring Lil’ Wayne, is proof positive that the two go together like matzoh balls and soup or wine and Passover.

Let’s start with how happy Drake looks. Mazel tov, friend! He’s so glad to be hoisted on a chair during Hava Nagila and have his best friend in attendance wearing a panda mask.  As Rembert Browne at Grantland points out, Drake has never seemed as relaxed as he does in this video, which honors his multicultural heritage and both Jewish and hip-hop cultures. He seems truly comfortable with himself, and I think that has to do not just with celebrating his background but also with coming out as an honest-to-goodness loveable dork of a rapper.

Hip-hop’s masculinity imperative is a straightjacket for artists who have range beyond guns-drugs-and-girls. It’s never been a great fit for Drake, even with his lady’s man soft sell on toughness: his voice is a bit nasal, his expressions tend toward puppyish even when he’s trying to look badass, and of course he’s also Jimmy from Degrassi, which makes him fun but not very imposing. This video is all about Drake embracing his own dorkiness, from the goofy premise to that shot of him happily chatting a pal’s ear off to his owl sweater to that amazing picture-cake to his open-mouthed beaming as he jumps around with his arm slung around various buddies.

I’m actually getting kind of emotional writing about this, because the video is hilarious but it’s also kind of a big deal, what Drake’s doing. He’s confident enough about himself and his acceptance in the hip-hop community that he doesn’t need to front; he can own this bar mitzvah. And it’s also important that his hip-hop friends—Lil’ Wayne, DJ Khaled, Trey Songz–are in attendance, supporting him and celebrating his Jewish heritage.  Historically there’s been an undercurrent of anti-Semitism in a lot of celebrated hip-hop—even my beloved Jay-Z has tossed off some problematic lines about Jewish folk. So it means a lot that Drake made this video, and that the hip-hop community turned out for it.

Also, little Drake at his first bar mitzvah is ridiculously adorable.

What are your thoughts on Drizzy’s time-honored celebration of his transition from Boy to Man? Let us know in the comments.

This post is part of a new weekly column, “Replay,” where we respond to music videos. Sometimes they’ll be new, sometimes they’ll be old, and sometimes they will just be ones we love. Drop us a line at girlslikegiants@gmail.com if you have a music video you think we should feature here.

Previously: Azealia Banks’ awesome first video “L8R.”

Swagger Going Swell: M.I.A., Nicki Minaj, and the Blurriness of Cultural Appropriation

In race on February 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Melissa Sexton

Between the infamous middle finger that flew at the Super Bowl and the culture-colliding, controversy-stirring video for “Bad Girls” that dropped in early February, M.I.A. has been back on the cultural radar in a big way. And if The New Yorker’s assertion that M.I.A. should not have apologized for her television flip-off isn’t proof enough that her “swagger’s going swell,” then just consider the  infinitely danceable “Bad Girls” video as further evidence:

If you’re looking for swagger, you’ve come to the right place. While the chorus repeats a familiar bad bitch theme (“Live fast, die young – bad girls do it well”), there is something powerful about the video that goes beyond the usual rapper assertion of being “the best bitch doing it” – something about the dancing crowds and the spinning cars that makes me feel caught up in a moment of celebration. And yet, the general Internet response has not been to put this video on repeat and dance. Instead, bloggers and journalists have launched into a discussion of whether M.I.A.’s video is an example of cultural appropriation, even Orientalism or Arab-bashing. The question, as Faisal Al Yafai articulates so clearly in his Al Bawaba article, is what thoughtful people should “make of a big budget music video that depicts Gulf Arabs as anarchic, gun-toting, stunt-driving street-dancers?” He continues to frame a number of possible interpretations: perhaps the video is “a condescending take on a misunderstood culture through an Oriental lens,” but alternatively, the video might be “an interesting cross-cultural attempt to address social norms” and an example of “encouraging cross-cultural pollination.” In her defense of the video, Dina Dabbous admits that it is “laden with crass stereotypes” ranging from “Arabian horses” to “Arab men watching women misbehaving.” But she reclaims the video’s value for two reasons: first, the video’s accurate depictions of hagwalah racing culture; and second, its “original and fresh” translation of the usual “hyper worlds of gangsta culture” to “Arabia.” In other words, at least M.I.A. is doing something new with the old tropes of excess and debauchery, and at least she gets that new world right.

East-meets-West-hip-hop-gangstas? Or stereotypes of gun-toting Arabs?

But that very translation of hip-hop culture from American to Arabic streets (the video was shot in Ouarzazate, Morocco) opens up all kinds of questions  about the differences between appropriation and translation; about the fluidity of cultural tropes in an age of globalized music and exchange; and about the authenticity of ethnic and cultural identity in pop music. Why is it that translating gangsta culture to a Middle Eastern setting is a praiseworthy re-imagination of hip-hop stereotypes, but reversing that direction of exchange and using Middle Eastern cultural tropes like hagwalah to sell hip-hop is an insult to Arab culture? M.I.A.’s video points to one of the exhilarating and troubling qualities of pop music: the way it borrows from everything it can get its hands on, with varying degrees of self-awareness and caution. In the process, appropriation can and often does happen; cultural images get mobilized in ways that are reductive and offensive. Yet such appropriation can also be radical, creative, or community-building; it can challenge existing stereotypes by pointing to the richness of sub-cultures like hagwalah.

I believe that M.I.A.’s video can show us that automatically classifying cultural borrowing as reductive “appropriation”  limits our understanding of pop culture. Looking beyond strict separations of pop cultural identity into purified, “authentic” racial categories can help us see the double-edged potential of cultural borrowing: on the one hand, the use of cultures other than one’s own can constitute a form of  imperialism, where any culture can become grist for the capitalist money mill, a simple indicator of otherness or novelty. On the other hand, such borrowings can open up a liberating potential, expanding our notions of what beauty, success, and celebration can look like.

Read the rest of this entry »

My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Affair with Misogyny, Hip-Hop, and Post-Feminism

In race, Uncategorized, violence on February 14, 2012 at 1:49 am

Melissa Sexton

In the winter of 2011, I found myself in a familiar funk. It was my birthday and I was creeping ever closer to thirty; it was winter in Oregon, and the ceaseless rain had begun in earnest; and I had just gone through yet another break-up. But as I battled through the post-break-up blues with endless evenings of YouTube surfing, I stumbled upon Kanye West’s strange, strange film Runaway. I wasn’t into hip-hop yet; I didn’t know anything about Kanye, except that I’d seen his “Gold Digger” video a few times and that Rolling Stone was declaring “Runaway” the single of the year. But I was instantly hooked by the scenes of him zooming in a sports car beneath a pink sky, snarling, “The plan was to drink until the pain over…But what’s worse? The pain or the hangover?” I was hypnotized by the sarcasm, by the strange mix of excess and self-awareness. So I dragged my sorry self onto the bus and rode to a mainstream CD store, somewhere I could snag a cheap copy of My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy for myself.

And thus began my love affair with the cultural icon that is Kanye West – that quintessentially American asshole who declared “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” and who was able to make “Let’s have a toast to the douchebags” into an anthem and an apology all mixed into one. I could not stop listening to this album. I was a poor graduate student with a strange penchant for old technology, so I was riding the bus around town with my blue Discman, listening to “Monster” on repeat, feeling the first inklings of reawakening fierceness. And while I certainly identified with the crazed, quicksilver rapping of Nicki on “Monster,” I also found myself getting some swagger and attitude by identifying with Kanye. I related to the strange world he sketched for us on Fantasy: a world of overindulgence, good intentions, bad tempers, failed relationships, loneliness, and compensatory swagger. I was having a strange, gender-bending encounter with an album that openly used women, that admitted at one moment, “I know I did damage” but that countered such self-awareness with Pusha-T’s bluff-call: “I did it – alright, alright, I admit it – Now pick your next move: you can leave or live with it.” Opening up a line of questioning that continued as I grew to love more and more hip-hop that was, at some level, misogynistic, I asked myself why I was feeling so powerful by identifying with an emotionally distant, explicitly male persona? Read the rest of this entry »

Barbie Girls: Lil’ Kim, Nicki Minaj, and Mattel

In gender, girl culture, race on February 3, 2012 at 7:26 am

Sarah Todd

Since Azealia Banks’ 2011 breakout hit  “212” captured my heart, mind, soul, and dancing feet, I’ve been reading up on the 20-year-old rapper and soon-to-be superstar. Almost every interviewer asks Banks about Nicki Minaj, which gets old fast for her, you, me, and the bourgeoisie. (With the possible addition of our lady Rye-Rye, they are the only two black female rappers currently generating major mainstream buzz. They also went to the same “Fame” high school in NYC. Ergo, endless comparisons.)

But one comment Banks made about Minaj in an interview with GQ UK stuck out to me:

It could just be that we were both inspired by Lil’ Kim. She did her thing with it, but I was kind of going to do a little bit of that same thing, with the characters, the pink and the Barbies. I wrote a song called “Barbie S***”. I was thinking “I’m going be black Barbie, that’s going to be my thing.” Then all of a sudden she [released it]! I was like, “F***! Did she have someone on my MySpace page? Is someone watching my Twitter? This is way too coincidental!”

The characters, the pink, the Barbie: was it really such a coincidence? I’m not so sure. As Banks notes, Lil’ Kim rapped about being “Black Barbie dressed in Bulgari” back in the early double-0s. There’s a French rapper who goes by the name Black Barbie. Atlanta rapper Diamond calls herself “black Barbie” too. All signs point to the fact that Barbie’s big in the hip-hop world. Read the rest of this entry »

Competition? Why Yes, She Would Love Some: Nicki Minaj in “Haterade”

In gender on July 26, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Sarah Todd

Competition? Why yes, I would love some.

- Nicki Minaj, “Check It Out”

When Nicki Minaj enters a song, it’s like all the doors of a house blow open. In Gucci Mane’s laid-back “Haterade,” she’s not going for fireworks as in “Monster” or “Roman’s Revenge”; her rapping is quick and clipped, as if she’s making an effort to keep her cool. Even before she starts rapping, she’s sucking in breaths between her teeth, because nothing is more frustrating than being underestimated.

The in-your-face-haters spirit of her opening lines–“This one goes out to all of my critics / Don’t you feel stupid? Look how I did it”–has a long history in hip-hop. Think of Biggie, dedicating Ready to Die to “all the teachers that told me I’d never amount to nothin’, all the people that lived above the buildings I was hustlin’ in front of that called the police on me when I was just trying to feed my daughter.” When everyone else expects you to fail, some swagger upon proving them wrong is more than warranted. Moreover, there’s a reason braggodocio is so fundamental to hip-hop: if no one else will tell you you’re awesome, you have to tell yourself. But Minaj’s response to her critics’ low expectations is particularly interesting given her status as the only big female star in current mainstream hip hop.

As Julianne Escobedo Shepherd wrote earlier this summer in Thirteen, there are plenty of talented female rappers out there; however, the mainstream music industry’s cards are stacked against them. Despite such commercially successful female rappers like Queen Latifah, Lil’ Kim, Missy Elliot, Foxy Brown, and Monie Love, hip hop is still perceived as a masculine genre–primarily made by men, for men. In “Haterade,” Minaj notes that her spot at the top of the Billboard Rap charts hasn’t been held by a woman in a long time: “It’s been eight years but I broke the record.” It’s an impressive accomplishment, but why did it take so long for a song by a solo female hip-hop artist to get there? Read the rest of this entry »

Hollaback: Rye Rye’s “Hardcore Girls”

In girl culture on June 18, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Hollaback: Rye Rye’s “Hardcore Girls”

Sarah Todd

Have you met young Baltimore rapper Rye Rye? She is amazing, as her single “Hardcore Girls” clearly demonstrates. While the song’s club-ready electronica sample isn’t my favorite, Rye Rye’s supertight rhythm and lyrics like “Can’t you see I’m the baddest chick / Even Superwoman couldn’t put her hands on this” put me squarely in the “Hardcore Girls” corner. But the best part about this particular song is the music video.

In “Hardcore Girls,” Rye Rye manages to be both exuberant and totally cool, breaking into brilliant smiles and casually twirling a baseball bat. The lady has star power, and the ability to persuade susceptible audiences that perhaps they too should invest in a handprint jumpsuit.

But Rye Rye isn’t the only hardcore girl in the music video; she shares the screen with ladies of a variety of ages, ethnicities, and personal styles. The lineup includes a female bodybuilder doing pull-ups on a fire escape, an older woman with some serious dance moves, a strikingly beautiful woman with a shaved head chilling by a pay phone, and an adorable yet tough little girl who crosses her arms with defiance. A big part of what makes the music video so exciting is that it shows such a multitude of diverse ladies being awesome in different ways. They’re all strong and beautiful and quite evidently hardcore. When the music video flashes through all of their faces at 2:15–and I know this sound may sound like I’m a giant cheeseball and/or overly invested in music videos, both of which are true–my heart lifted just to see them.

There are men in “Hardcore Girls” too; mostly, they’re looking at the women, with varying degrees of awe and lasciviousness. The guy half-smiling at 1:35 looks like he’s both attracted to and impressed by Rye Rye, a perfectly understandable response. Also, he is cute. On the other hand, the lecherous eyebrow-wiggle of the older man at 1:37 looks kind of creepy. While the men are looking at the women, the women don’t seem to be looking back, nor do they give any signs that they’re performing for the men’s benefit.

Since most of the video takes place on city streets (I think it’s Baltimore, but never having been there I can’t swear it), “Hardcore Girls” shows what navigating public spaces can be like for women who are the objects of unwanted attention.  At 1:16, when two women pass by two men with a pitbull, they keep their heads down and their long hair swept in curtains over their faces; the blonde woman holds her hands protectively at her collarbone. It’s clear that they’re trying to ward off any interaction. While we don’t hear cat calls, that may well be because all the women here could beat the men up.

In fact, most of the women in the music video show that they can defend themselves. There’s a reason Rye Rye carries a baseball bat. A woman pushes away a guy who’s getting in her face, while he falls to his knees in mock-worship.  The two women at 1:09 have a very protective dog who lunges, barking, at the screen. The female bodybuilder can certainly take care of herself, and even the little girl knows how to kick box.

“Hardcore Girls” isn’t saying that it’s always bad to look: after all, Rye Rye boasts of her killer moves, “All the honeys in the club keep watchin.” But the video does show that women have the right to move through the streets freely, without having anyone bother them or make them uncomfortable. Hardcore girls don’t just know how to dance; they also know how to fight.

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