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:
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!).
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**