In and around 1997, my favorite song was “I’m A Player” by Too Short. CLASSIC feminist track. No. Stop. Please don’t look it up. From “Me and My Bitch”, to “Blowjob Betty” and on to the many, many sensuous lyrics of Slick Rick and the commitment-phobic prose of NWA, I learned young how to rhyme ‘perm in her’ with ‘sperm in her’ and ‘hoes’ with ‘clothes’, chanting ‘wonder why they call you bitch’ over and over again, thinking ‘ oh gosh, how I wish Easy would rather fuck me!’ I was very, very busy trying, at the same time, not to defend these tracks, because, truly, they are hard to defend and I just didn’t want to go that deep, afraid I would have to acknowledge the hypocrisy of my own ethics vs the music I loved. That said, I knew that “I just like it, OK”, wasn’t so much cutting it. Even just inside my own head. While I imagine that the whole Too Short issue, in particular, had something to do with ye old “I wanna be one of the boys and to do that I must pretend to be totally into my own oppression yeah no don’t worry about it I can take it and yeah it’s not me it’s those other women who are bitches and hoes” thing, many of those songs are ones I continue to enjoy today, and ‘I Ain’t the 1’ rocks my world every time. So, not being eighteen anymore, and still working on my ass shaking abilities with ‘Get Low’, ‘Da Bitchez’, and all those super progressive R Kelly tracks as my soundtrack, I fear, makes a feminist like me look a bit a like a jerk. And now this:
SIGH. Stop torturing me, Cee Lo. With all it’s stereotypes and painting all women as superficial golddiggers without mentioning that it is perfectly acceptable for men to be completely shallow, I, just like the rest of the world, it would seem, LOVE this track. Right away I reverted back to my 18 year old self and thought: “oh god, do I have to talk about this? No, no. I won’t. I won’t do it. I’m just going to LIKE it. And leave it at that. I’m just going to pretend I can’t hear all those voices in my head saying: ‘Ok, but you know this is problematic, right?” But then Jay Smooth and Amanda Marcotte talked about it and I thought yesok. I can do this. I can like this song, and have fun dance parties to it, AND talk about it. I can still be critical about it’s message. And sing ‘Fuck you toooooo.” In fact, Jay Smooth said, in an interview with NPR, exactly what I was beginning to acknowledge, which is that I too was “torn between loving the song, hating it, and hating to love it.” adding that he “could live without yet another pop song demonizing women for daring to have standards, and guys are already latching onto the song as a blow for their side in the battle of the sexes.”
So while most folks seem most concerned about the fact that this song has the words ‘fuck you’ in it, over and over again, and actually is the title of the track, I think the other part of the ‘problematic’ conversation needs to be around the fact that, perhaps what is most problematic isn’t the swear words, but perhaps that, as Amanda Marcotte pointed out: “The men who trot out the belief that women are morally obligated to date broke men never turn around and put the moral obligation on men to date ugly women,” and that tracks like this take for granted that women are valued solely for their looks whereas men are valued for their powerful positions in society (i.e. money and assets) AND that women are bitches for wanting security and financial stability. The sad truth is that, really, most of my very favorite hip hop tracks are ones that I love, but feel like I shouldn’t. Guilty dance parties. Fun! So I suppose the moral of the story could be be: we can dance and we can talk? I’m not ready to reject an entire genre OR lose the joy that I get in listening to Cee Lo so I think that what I can do is to talk. What would be problematic, I think, would probably be to keep not talking, or to cater to my lazy side and just put up ‘I just like it OK’ walls? Conscious dance parties. Still fun! Dance now, talk later. Maybe we make change, ya?