Twerk! Twerk! Twerk!
February 9, 2015
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Is Twerking Sexist?
Everyone remembers Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance in 2013 with Robin Thicke; this performance marks the start of a trend that continues til this day. After that performance it seemed like everywhere you turned there was someone “popping their booty.” Many celebrities quickly followed including Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, and Beyonce; yes Beyonce the celebrity that has recently come out as a feminist. How can a feminist do something that is often labeled as slutty, obscene, and sexual; this is where the debate, “is twerking sexist?” was born.
In order to answer this question we must look at the history of twerking. Twerking first was put on record in 1993 in New Orleans bounce scene. However, twerking didn’t start in New Orleans, it didn’t even start in America; the origins of twerking are embedded deep into the West African Culture and spread around the world due to the African diaspora. Examples of dances from which twerking is influenced by are: El Mapale dance from Columbia, Gouyad from Haiti, and Mapouka from the Ivory Coast. Twerking’s original intent was to express celebration or worship.
But in America things are different. Black women’s bodies are often hyper sexualized; they are labeled as ghetto and vulgar. Is twerking taking a part in reinforcing these stereotypes? Possibly. Some performances of twerking definitely only serve the purpose of objectifying women, making them seem as pieces of meat who only serve the purpose of satisfying the eyes of men or as accessories that make the men seem more masculine.
However not everything about twerking is bad, it is a way of our society celebrating African culture instead of celebrating European ones, like we see much too often. Twerking is an excellent way for women to take ownership of their body to express their sexuality. Female sexuality is often frowned upon; labeled with words like “slut, hoe, and thot.” Sexuality is often times denied to women in the media, yet the goal is to not be seen as a sexual object but a sexual subject. The difference between the two is that an object is inanimate: has no thoughts or emotions; whereas a subject, is an individual with their own set of experiences, their own character, and interests.
If the roots of twerking are kept in mind and the dance is accepted by all for what it is, a form of having fun, letting loose, and a way of women to express their sexuality; then only positive externalities can come from twerking.