Is ‘Twerk’ Leading A New Feminist Movement?
Cardi B + City Girls latest song and the redefinition of feminism.
“People think that being a feminist is a b***h that, like, went to school. They wear skirts all the way to their motherf*****g ankles like a godd**n First Lady. That’s not being a feminist.” — Cardi B, E News
When I first saw the Cardi B and City Girls video for their song “Twerk,” I felt a mix of excitement (for obvious reasons) that was accompanied with a large dose of empowerment.
There’s something special about seeing women take hold of their sexuality and turning it into an anthem. “Twerk” serves as an ode to women who know their power. The opening scenes of the video show Cardi and City Girls member, Yung Miami, rocking leopard and panda body paint while twerking in unison.
This imagery coupled with the overall theme of the video — a twerk contest — takes hold of the typical male rap music video narrative. It’s as if the video is reclaiming the way toxic masculinity has shown objectified images of women without excluding high levels of sexy.
The Original Bad B****es
As a strip club anthem, “Twerk” is the song you get ready to when Beyonce isn’t enough. However, what is the song saying about the status of today’s feminist movement? There’s clearly a shift happening and this song, along with the music video, is proof. Other songs, like Nicki Minaj’s “Good Form,” make the same statement. It would actually be a disservice to Nicki to not mention her in this piece (unlike the Grammy’s…but that’s a different conversation) because she’s paved the way for women in the rap game by redefining femininity.
If we journey back a little further, Black female rappers – such as Foxy Brown, Lil Kim, and Trina – were the original boss b****es fearlessly, flipping the machismo male rap sphere on its head. The “Ill Na Na” by Foxy, Kim’s Hard Core, or “The Baddest B***h” herself Trina were all pivotal to telling a different story for women; one that included brash language, in your face outfits, and lyrics that put men in their place.
What is a Feminist?
There hasn’t been a phrase coined for it yet, but we can agree that there is a “something” in the mist. Feminism is defined by Britannica as: “the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes.” Historically, the movement developed in two waves. The first wave focused on a woman’s right to vote, and the second wave of the `60s and `70s covered multiple levels of inclusion, involving family, work, and sexuality.
Nonetheless, when the movement first started it was largely led by White women, who at the time, had more social equity to White men than any other ethnic group. Over the years, the tide changed, creating space for other groups to fight for equality. In the last decade, we’ve seen women of color (WOC) use their voices in order to create awareness and increase visibility for their own issues. LGTBQ communities within their subgroups have also helped open doors.
With years of tremendous improvement under our belt as a society and new subgroups existing within the feminist umbrella, it’s fair and time to start rethinking the term.
Rebranding the Term
The song “Twerk” tells older feminist, “hey we exist,” and let’s this group of women (who started the demand for inclusion) be aware. Today, there are women asking to be recognized for their abilities to take sexuality by its reins. When we hear songs by Cardi, Nicki, or City Girls, it sounds like pure entertainment on the surface, but it’s more than that. There is something magical about seeing Black women and other women of color use their voices to show that they can do both— be mothers and be sexy or talk slick, but also get money.
While we can’t necessarily say that City Girls and Cardi B are single-handedly changing the feminist game, we can say that their latest video invokes a new conversation around the term. With rising stars like Maliibu Miitch and Dreezy hitting the scene that are creating more exposure for female rappers, is it possible that ownership of feminism can change in its entirety?
If strippers and milf’s are twerking their way to high levels of confidence, then being a “feminist” may be a concept that will constantly change over the next decade or so.
— Charmaine Griffin