‘You’ve Sold Out’: Janelle Monae Faces Criticism Over Sexy “Yoga” Video

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When I watched Janelle Monáe’s new video for “Yoga,” featuring Jidenna, it absolutely brightened my day. I thought that Janelle did a great job embracing her own sexual being AND maintaining ownership of it, something that I think can get very blurry in the music industry. While I love artists like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, I sometimes wonder if they cross the line from women’s empowerment over to existing for male consumption. After all, we can only twerk so much for fun until men think that we are only doing it for them and it’s a very fine line. But then again, whatever a woman chooses to do with her body is none of my/our business.

That’s why I was so surprised to see some people commenting on “Yoga” and declaring that Janelle has “sold out” to the oversexualization of women that is often criticized in the music industry. On the YouTube comments, some viewers suggested that she was forced to do the video or she let down black women as our spirit soul sister. I was also disappointed in TIME’s description of the video, which made it sound way more raunchy than it actually is, citing “private lessons” and referencing the traditional yoga closing “namaste” as “nama-nasty.” What makes this even more ironic is that in the same week, Monáe was criticized by a Twitter user for being too soulful and not sexy enough and her response was gold:

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Shut him down, Ms. Monáe! And with “Yoga,” I don’t think that anything has changed. While the video takes on a sexier approach than we are used to from Janelle and her signature suit, the vibe I caught was more of Janet Jackson’s “You Want This” rather than Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda.” She’s her “own private dancer” instead of a man’s. Watching the video, I feel like this is a song I would play while having a dance party with my girlfriends, not at the strip club while bands make her dance.

I think it’s also important to note that there isn’t one flavor of women’s empowerment or feminism – policing a woman towards either side of the spectrum is equally damaging. Some seem to have the perception that to be respected, especially as a black woman, you need to cover up and are only allowed to talk about building up the self esteem of black women (which also is very important). But we can also have a little bit of fun with it. Empowerment is about being comfortable in your own skin and knowing your worth, which Monáe clearly lets us know as she levitates in all white and a gold crown. Excuse me while I get my entire life (and look at that BRAID!).

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I think Ms. Monáe actually said it best – “You cannot police me, so get off my areola.” True story. Peep the video in full:

What do you think of Janelle Monáe’s new “Yoga” video? Are you on the fence or all for it?

**This post also appears on Black Girl with Long Hair**

11 comments

  1. I used to be a dancer and did quite a bit of African and Afro-diasporic (my made up term) dance and you wouldn’t believe the sexualized comments I would sometimes get…and yes, predominately from men. My response would often include suggestions that they open an African history/cosmology book because the nature of movement in many Eastern cultures is to celebrate the earth and the body as well as the spirit. And yes, one’s sexuality is a part of nature and of the spirit. It is not dirty, not in my mind and perception. I’m very much in celebration of what the body can do, how resilient it is and how strong it can be when it is cared for and challenged. I find the video very entertaining and fun.

    And not for nothing, that song would be perfect for my next warmup before my workout!
    Like your previous post, Elle, this just provides pure MOTIVATION!

  2. I don’t understand the criticism! I thought it was an entertaining video and it made we wanna dance (and do yoga). Get it J!

  3. I thought the video was great!! While you are hanging out with your girlfriends, why don’t you do some yoga and then you’ll be an even better dancer!!!

  4. I believe she took the idea of yoga and made it entertaining and more interesting. Perception is the key to all opinions. Those who believe she is selling out or being too sexual must look within themselves, and maybe ask themselves a few deep questions. She has not stepped outside herself, she is just having fun. There is an underlying message, she wants to live a long life and party all night. These are the benefits that yoga may provide.

  5. Either I saw a different video or people have lost their minds. It’s a cute video. She’s owning herself without overt sexuality. Are they pissed because she’s not donning a suit? I’m so sick of these one-note black folks thinking we’re supposed to do, think, and say the same thing over and over again. It’s boring.

  6. This song is freakin’ hot, and I think it still embodies Janelle Monae’s style and who she authentically is. I mean, heck, can we NOT have a little bit of fun and freedom with ourselves without being called sell outs??

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