If ever there was reason to believe that feminism has lost its way, then it is found in the current debate about bottoms. It all began with twerking – the sexualized dance that no one had heard of until popstar Miley Cyrus squeezed into some PVC underwear, and twerked to Robin Thicke’s song Blurred Lines. The term entered the Oxford Dictionary of English in August.
Bottoms are now all over the place. Last night was the annual Victoria’s Secret show – and, much to the delight of news desks, there were bottoms aplenty. It has become increasingly difficult to open a paper without seeing news about belfies (bum-selfies), bum implants and of course, twerking.
In response to this, singer Lily Allen has released a song. It is called ‘Hard Out Here’, and is being hailed as a feminist anthem — the perfect song to smash glass ceilings to. The first verse goes:
I suppose I should tell you what this bitch is thinking
You’ll find me in the studio and not in the kitchen
I won’t be bragging ’bout my cars or talking ’bout my chains
Don’t need to shake my ass for you ’cause I’ve got a brain
If I told you ’bout my sex life, you’d call me a slut
When boys be talking about their bitches, no one’s making a fuss
There’s a glass ceiling to break, uh-huh, there’s money to make
And now it’s time to speed it up ’cause I can’t move at this pace
Watch the music video, and you will notice plenty of near-naked women alongside Allen. They are experts at twerking. What they did for employment before 2013, who knows. But they put Cyrus’s efforts to shame.
The video is clearly meant in jest, the lyrics less so. It supposedly parodies the misogynistic music industry. But, let’s be honest: it doesn’t really. Because it’s just as sexual as anything Cyrus has done, arguably more so. The male gaze is going to latch onto both options.
Combating commercialised sex with more commercialised sex ensures media attention, but it results in stalemate. No one takes either position seriously, and the women involved end up looking silly. But if this is how feminism chooses to fight its battles, then it cannot demand to be taken seriously. Brains, not bums, will keep the movement alive.