So I had to chime in on this ongoing hoopla over Erykah’s Badu’s new video, “Window Seat,” where she gradually disrobes as she walks down the street, with a tattoo of the word “evolving” on her back (see the video). I wasn’t going to comment, but was moved to when I heard that a mother was supposedly suing Badu for “exposing” her 9-year old daughter to nudity. I then logged onto facebook and read a female user’s comments that there were “innocent bystanders” on the sidewalk when Badu proceeded to undress.
“Innocent bystanders?” Really? Are you kidding me? I laughed really hard when I read that, but felt I needed to address this. Why are folks referring to Erykah’s Badu’s nudity as some sort of dirty, dangerous act, like they would a mid-day shooting or stabbing? It’s as if one woman’s naked body has defiled and polluted the minds and hearts of the nation. As if a woman’s bare breasts, legs, thighs, and butt have ruined our children. Will they ever be the same again?
NO. And it isn’t Erykah Badu’s fault. OR her body parts, which weren’t even fully exposed in the video, but blotted out by the TV censors (the same censors that block out nudity on the reality TV shows that families watch nightly). There is nothing innately “sexy” or untasteful about the video or Erykah Badu’s process of disrobing. Many kids grow up seeing their parents in their underwear, be it by accident or not. And many more are exposed to nudity in overt and not so overt ways through their family, friends, and our media.
Instead of suing Erykah, sue the system that demonized Janet Jackson for a nipple exposure, then let Justin Timberlake, a willing white male participant in the debacle, walk away scot free with career in tact. Sue Nelly and his management company, whose “Tip Drill” video has him swiping credit cards down girl’s buttocks and almost made me vomit in my mouth. Sue the system and record companies that make it a requirement for just about every mainstream hip hop video to feature half-naked women as nothing but mere ornaments for so-called rappers. Don’t blame Erykah or her body parts for making you or your kids “innocent bystanders,” blame the schizophrenic nature of the media who’s one minute telling young girls to take diet pills and erase their muffin tops, and the next minute advertising Mcdonalds burgers with singing black people, in order to appeal to them. Sue the pill- pushers and Seventeen magazines that help young girls and women hate their bodies, while selling them unrealistic body images.
It is NOT Erykah Badu’s fault if your kid appears to be a little confused. Leave that to the media that makes women’s bodies a bad thing when the women themselves control them, as Erykah does in the video, but then goes on to to blast glossy butts, cleavage, and silicone breasts all over print advertisements, TV commercials, and Hollywood films. Where are the angry parents then? Where are they when women’s bodies are continually made into commodities for wholesale consumption?
So, instead of demonizing Erykah for exercising her artistic freedom, let’s confront a system that makes women’s bodies a “dirty” word when not used to further a mainstream agenda, like selling beers for Bud Light or pushing the latest male-directed Hollywood suspense thriller. When our bodies are used in a way that challenges those systems, they become “dirty” words. So please, don’t blame it on the body parts. Blame it on unabated patriarchy. Blame it on the ways that we have been influenced to view bare breasts, butts, thighs, arms, legs, and necks as consumable parts. As bad things. That, in essence, is the problem. Not Erykah.
*For more discussion on this topic, including the ways that President JFK and his assassination are used in the video, go here: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/comments_blog/2010/04/erykah-badus-window-seat-video-too-far-or-artistic-expression.html