Beyonce has some competition for most overtly feminist pop diva. In her new five minute music video for “I Luh You PaPi,” Jennifer Lopez manages to tackle every trope of the stereotypical hip hop music video. Because she is J.Lo and not a riot grrrl or women’s studies professor, she does this by turning the tables and packing her video with powerful alpha females and an army of oiled up dudes in Speedos. It’s feminism wrapped in a package of beefcake, and it’s a big, shiny dose of girl power if you listen to her message.
To make it abundantly clear that this video is a feminist statement and not just a pop song, J.Lo whacks us attention deficit millennials over the head with clear explication. The video opens on the supposed planning of the video, with J.Lo and her dancers ready to eviscerate an unsuspecting record exec. Her director wants to shoot somewhere fun and colorful like a carnival, which doesn’t sound so bad until one of her backup dancers points out the obvious: “If she was a guy we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all.”
Female R&B artists get linear narratives with a male love interest. Male artists get a dozen video hoes spread across their yacht. Maybe a tiger on a leash if they’ve been listening to Lorde.
“Why do men always objectify the women? Why can’t we objectify the men?”
Good question, dancer number 2! I’m not generally a fan of explication for music videos, but I love that J.Lo is so unabashedly proclaiming her video as a subversion of male power and female objectification. Now, when we launch into the parade of man ass, champagne, and bling, we have a clear, undeniable framework for what J.Lo is trying to do. Whether she succeeds or not is up to the viewer. But with so many female artists refusing to even touch the “f” word for fear of being branded mannish or irrelevant, It’s inspiring to see J.Lo use her sex appeal to make a very simple statement for equality.
The video doesn’t just fill the background with hot men. It places J.Lo and her backup dancers in traditional, recognizable positions of sexualized male power. In the opening shot of the actual video, J.Lo sits fully clothed on a bed, the only woman surrounded by mostly nude men. She is clearly in charge, legs spread like every man you’ve ever hated for taking up too much space on the train. While the men are merely passed out props, J.Lo stares down the camera from the center of the frame.
“I Luh You PaPi” is pure eye candy, but if you watch closely, you’ll catch every single hip hop scene you’ve seen played out with faceless video vixens, gender flipped. J.Lo putting on the chains she’s bought and paid for, while a naked man is blurred out showering behind her. A pool scene, where J.Lo and her dancers are fully clothed in one pieces and tops watching hot men climb out of the pool in slow motion. A sexy car wash, where J.Lo and Co. sit on the sidelines while men service the cars in Speedos. Male dancers that grind without making eye contact while J.Lo mean mugs in sweatpants. Shirtless men feeding women grapes. Men standing passively as J.Lo’s dancers grab ass and pour champagne over them.
It’s laughable how much sexualized servicing they can squeeze in. Laughable, but awesome.
The video is slick and shiny and explicit, and J.Lo is already getting criticism for trying (and very much succeeding) to be sexy as a 44 year old mother of two. It’s no M.I.A.‘s “Bad Girls.” You won’t find Saudi women drag racing or a single unattractive person, and J.Lo’s comparably covered up outfits still show off her enviable T&A. But “I Luh You PaPi” is revolutionary precisely because it’s so unoriginal. J.Lo made the same video countless hip hop and R&B artists have made before her. No one says that Usher (35) or Jay Z (44) are too old to be writing club bangers. But J.Lo needs to sit her fine ass down and raise those babies.
As an unmistakable girlie girl that refuses to tolerate being catcalled or harassed because I choose to wear lipstick and heels, I love role models like Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez. J.Lo has taken a lot of criticism for shacking up with backup dancers ten years younger than her, but it’s a little inspiring to see a powerful, outspoken woman refuse to be tamed. Don’t let the body bronzer fool you– J.Lo has always been on the side of powerful women. There was 2001’s anthem for financially independent ladies, “My Love Don’t Cost a Thing.” The same album had “I’m Real,” for women sick of insecure partners threatened by their success. She’s now 44, still a wildly successful triple threat brand, and she deserves to show off her body and express her sexuality however she damn well pleases.
We talk a lot about what does or does not make someone a feminist. Fighting the objectification of women by objectifying conventionally hot, buff, men will rub plenty of people the wrong way. But calling out gender bias is a step in the right direction, even if you choose to illustrate your point with an explicit video. She is very clearly saying, “I am a woman in a male dominated field. I don’t like what I see, and I’m using my creative platform as a sexy, powerful diva to talk about it.” That’s a brave statement, and I applaud her for bringing it to her fans.
All photos: Youtube.com