The Sexist

Erykah Badu—for Genital Waxing?

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The video for Erykah Badu's latest single, "Window Seat," is a stunning recrimination of the policing and exploitation of black women's bodies in America. Hey, what a great opportunity to sell a bikini wax!

In the video, Badu walks through the city of Dallas, removing her clothes piece by piece as she passes the city's confused, gawking tourists. Badu's stage is not far from the site of the JFK assassination; the video is shot in the faded colors of the Zapruder film. After she strips down to naked skin—with only blurring pixelation covering her breasts, genitals, and eyes—Badu falls to the ground, and a blue substance reading "GROUPTHINK" oozes from her head.

District beauty salon D'Brows, which offers eyebrow design, eyelash extensions, and a $68 Brazilian bikini wax, decided to capitalize off of the buzz around Badu's video with a promotional press release. "Erykah Badu must have read this before shooting this video," the release said. "Erykah Badu has the confidence that comes with a good waxing and so can you. . . .  Watch this Erykah Badu video [VIDEO] and then arrange your waxing at D'Brows today!!"

A few thoughts:

(a) How could Badu have read this e-mail before shooting her video? This e-mail is about her video.

(b) Since Badu's genitals are obscured by pixels in the video, you really can't tell what's going on down there.

(c) To my knowledge, Badu hasn't delivered her opinions on genital waxing, but she has said this: "I love my natural hair, I love my skin the way it is, I love my breasts the way they are . . . I don't want to be augmented in any way."

(d) Badu hasn't said much about the intent of her video, beyond clarifying that JFK "was one of my heroes, one of the nations heroes . . . He was not afraid to butt heads with America, and I was not afraid to show America my butt-naked truth." But I'll go out on a limb here and say that Badu's message has little to do with razing your pubic mound in order to achieve a socially acceptable vulva, and more to do with defying a social order that exploits black women's bodies as dangerously sexual. Badu's point was confirmed when Dallas police stuck her with a charge of disorderly conduct for performing the shoot in public. John Cheney-Lippold, writing on the differing cultural responses to Badu's video and the similar Matt & Kim video on which "Window Seat" was based, notes that Badu's strip was seen as a disturbing erotic display, while Matt and Kim's disrobing in Times Square was regarded as a childlike and lighthearted stunt:

So is it that our society still reads sexuality through blackness, providing an eroticization of Badu that Matt and Kim’s video doesn’t have? (Yes). Is it that two scrawny naked white musicians can appear to us as childish in Times Square, while one naked black musician can appear dangerous and disorderly in Dallas, Texas? (Yes). And is it that race still matters in our society—that we should constantly think not just of how we personally understand race and racism but how race itself is constructed to mean things other than a group of people with a certain skin color? (Of course). Here’s to hoping Badu fights the disorderly conduct charge.

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(e) In an unrelated note, Wanda Sykes is hilarious:

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  • Manor

    Ummm, laws are a bit different between NYC and Dallas, you idiot. (yes I know you didn't write that particular critique but you're an idiot for repeating it.)

    But go ahead, stir up a faux racist pot if you like. This is DC after all...

  • dp

    why don't you tell us about those laws, manor.

  • http://www.welovedc.com Don

    I'm not gonna say there was no racial component to deciding to charge Badu but I think you're being disingenuous if you don't acknowledge the difference in (a) attitudes in NYC and Houston and (b) a street in Manhattan and the site where a President was assassinated.

  • Joe Horn

    Why do you hope she fights the charge?? If you break it all down to its most simpliest form, you have an adult female, in a public place, stripping naked with around ten children within feet of her. That in itself makes this offense a greater offense and could land her as a sex offender in some states. Saying you hope she beats the charge is like saying you are all for sex offenders. And you cant argue it because Badu admitted it as much when she made the statement , that when she glanced at the people and saw all the children, at that moment she prayed to God that none of them would be traumatized for what she was about to do and they were about to see. So she even admits it was bad for kids to do which is an admission of guilt which makes your arguement and her arguement a moot point.

  • kza

    Where do you even see music videos? M.T.V. at 5 a.m.?

  • Liz

    I think the more important point is that a woman can't even make a video protesting the sexualization of women without being sexualized. Badu should sue D'Brows for using her name in their advertisement without her consent. She can use the settlement money to pay her disorderly conduct fine.

  • Liz

    kza, you watch music vidoes online, of course!

  • K

    Joe, you've put your finger on the cultural hang-up this story encapsulates: The bizarre belief that the human body, especially the female body, is inherently sexual. It is only "bad for kids" to see naked people in as much as being naked and being seen naked are considered culturally shameful.

    I am not at all saying that nudity can't or shouldn't be erotic; I am saying it is not, in and of itself, a sexual state of being. Strip clubs, pornography, sex work, BDSM & role-play dress up all eroticize various states of undress. But being in a state of undress as part of an artistic message is *not* by nature a sexual act, and should not been seen as one. It could be a statement about taboos,vulnerability, honesty, emotional fragility, any of a thousand interpretations but it does not have to be sexual just because someone doesn't have any clothes on.

  • dwayne

    If you freeze the frame around 5:29 when she has the Rick james look,you can't clearly see a very hairy pubic area. WOW!

  • dwayne

    I'm sorry. I was trying to say that at 5:29,5:30 you CAN see Erykah Badu's very hairy pubic area.

  • Mitch4

    Are the police in "Lessons Learned" just actors? If real police, doesn't that reduce the difference of the two cases?

  • Rachel

    Anyone who strips in public is breaking the law, regardless of race, gender, or whether they are musicians or ordinary people. Badu, Matt and Kim may be artists, but they all need to face the consequences, especially when they KNOW they are breaking laws. That being said, breaking a law to make a statement does not make them bad people.

  • http://bikegroggery.blogspot.com groggette

    but they all need to face the consequences, especially when they KNOW they are breaking laws.

    Not necessarily. Sometimes laws are unjust and breaking them shouldn't bear any consequence (to be clear, I'm not saying that's what's happening with Badu or Matt & Kim, I just immediately thought of the laws (thankfully no longer on the books) in Texas about gay sex and dildo ownership.)

  • Sarah

    I watched this video a week ago and it's very powerful.

  • Flutterby

    Joe: Really? God forbid the children see a naked body! That's why they have to walk around with those little cones around their necks so they can't see those dangerous, traumatizing parts of them they're not supposed to see until they're 18, and why they're banned from museums lest careless parents allow the sight of a nude figure to burn into the retinas of their innocent eyes!

    Good grief. As K said, the naked human body isn't inherently sexual. Many people in Western culture seem to have such difficulty distinguishing between nudity and sexuality that it's just sickening how they allow their fetishized views to cloud common sense.

  • twin

    why make a big deal on erykah getting naked nobody said anything when tommie lee got naked for mtv cribs. At least her body wasn't tattooed everywhere.

  • http://guyinism.com DirkJohanson

    Amanda writes, "Badu’s message has ... more to do with defying a social order that exploits black women’s bodies as dangerously sexual"?

    No offense, but the vast majority of guys I know - of all races - find few black womens' bodies very sexual at all.
    Amanda may be reading too much into it - perhaps the reason Badu hasn't said much about her intent with respect to the video is that she was just out there trying to get laid.

  • joe horn

    Wow, it amazes me how people can say one thing and then directly say the opposite in the very next sentence. A person on here commented that Badu had the right to do what she did and made fun of traumatizing part. But the fact is, it was Badu who made that comment about praying the children that saw her would not be traumztized by seeing her do what she did. IF she can make that statement, then that shows she knew some people might not only be offended but could suffer long term affects such as children and thats from the woman who stripped. As far as art meaning you can break the law, sorry, that doesnt fly. Next we will have the same situation but the person will pull out a gun and kill several people. Charges? Oh no, I was only doing a video, it is art. You cant charge me. It is art. Folks break it down to its simpliest form. Adult got naked in public in front of children and that is illegal. No a museum, not an art function, not a theatre, but in public-without warning. And we all know she would be the first to call the cops if someone did the same thing on her street while her three children were in their yard playing.

  • bellacoker

    I love the guy in the red hoodie near the beginning who starts picking up Badu's clothes to take back to her, then he sees she's doing something and stops. That is good old Texas friendliness right there.

  • rebekah manning

    I would like to point out that the supreme court has allowed women to strip their shirts off in protest. If that is what she is doing than it is technically allowed. Also, you do not have the right to not be offended. Also, I don't care what she said. Children should not be traumatized by naked people. If it is members of the same sex than they have the same parts and if they are the opposite sex they will see them anyway, so I don't see what the big deal is

  • noodlez

    YO DirkJohanson YOU AND YOUR MICROPENIS FRIENDS MUST BE BOOTYLICIOUS CHALLENGED FOR YOU PIZZLEDICKS TO EVEN FATHOM THAT BLACK WOMEN ARE NOT SEXUAL.

    AFTER AN EXPLETIVE LADEN OUTBURST THAT WAS OVERHEARD BY MY WIFE SHE ACTUALLY GAVE YOUR COMMENT A VOICE OF REASON.
    THE ONLY REASON YOU DONT VIEW THEM SEXUAL IS BECAUSE YOU KNOW IN YOUR MIND THAT YOU CANT SATISFY THEM SEXUALLY. SO YOU MAKE EXCUSES THAT YOU DONT FIND THEM SEXUAL. I WOULD BE THANKING HER FINE BLACK ASS LATER BECAUSE IF SHE DIDNT INTERVENE MS. MANDY WOULD HAVE DEFINITELY FLAGGED MY COMMENT.

    LET ME GIVE YOU A QUICK LESSON SEXUAL DUMMY-IF YOU WATCH THE VIDEO AND SEE THE WAY HER ASS SWALLOWED UP DEM DRAWWSS THEN YOU KNOW THAT IS A PHAT ASS. PHAT ASSES HAVE A TENDENCY TO GIVE MORE SEXUAL PLEASURE(ESPECIALLY IF SHE KNOWS HOW TO WORK IT). MOST ETHNIC WOMEN HAVE PHAT ASSES(MY WHITE SISTAS ARE FINALLY START TO CATCH ON-SEE BOOTY POPS AND KIM KARDASHIAN) THAT USUALLY GETS PHATTER AS SHE MATURES. MY GOD HAS ERYKAH BADU MATURED!

    SLIM, GET UP AND STEP AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD AND TRY A DIFFERENT BEACH THIS YEAR. YOU SO CAUGHT UP IN THE VIRTUAL WORLD OF HOW A WOMAN SHOULD LOOK THAT MAYBE YOU NEED TO TAKE THIS SUMMER AND EXPLORE DIFFERENT WOMEN BODIES LITERALLY AS OPPOSED TO EXPLORING YOURSELF WITH YOUR DICK BETWEEN YOUR THUMB AND FOREFINGER AND THE MOUSE IN THE OTHER HAND AS YOU GAWK AT YOUR SCREEN!

    **********************************************************

    dwayne IF WHAT WE SAW AT THE 5:30 MARK WAS TRUE THEN DBROWS MARKETING PLOY IS FLAWED. THAT WAS A 1970 BUSH BLOWOUT ACTION NOT A 2K WAXING. BESIDES ERYKAH BADU DOESNT STRIKE ME AS THE TYPE WHO WOULD GET HER ILL NA NA WAXED BY A STRANGER. SHE PRACTICES AU NATURALE!

    IF SHE DID DECIDE TO TRIM HER BUSH SHE SEEMS LIKE THE TYPE WHO WOULD GRAB ONE OF THOSE LAVENDER SCENTED PINK DISPOSABLES, LIGHT UP SOME CANDLES AROUND THE TUB, FIRE UP A DOOB AND COMMENCE HER SELF-MAINTENENCE.

    **********************************************************
    @ Manor ITS WHITE FOLK LIKE YOU THAT CONTINUE TO IGNORE RACISM IN THIS COUNTRY BECAUSE OUR PREZ IS BLACK. BY CONTINUING TO IGNORE THIS IMPORTANT ISSUE WILL DO NOTHING BUT FURTHER DIVIDE THIS COUNTRY. DONT BE SCARED! ITS OKAY TO TALK ABOUT RACISM. ITS NOT OKAY TO BE A RACIST!

    **********************************************************
    GOOD POINT Liz IN COMMENT #6.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Thank you noodlez.

  • http://guyinism.com DirkJohanson

    Noodlez,

    I don't like big asses and I have a 9 1/2" cock, which is readily visible at toward the bottom of the post at http://guyinism.com/dirksxploits/gay-guyinist-goofs/

    As for my cocksmanship, I'll let my work in "Snatch'd Stolen Home Videos 23" speak for itself. Its available for viewing by the minute on the V9 Video website, though with my ability to last, its much cheaper to buy the DVD.

  • fjeibrutha

    AH thanking noodlez = desperation for validation.

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