So I watched this music video, and this is in fact completely untrue. There are many scenes in which black/brown girls are casted.
One could conceivably argue that any white star who features twerking in a music video is automatically being exploitative.
However, that was not my perception of this video in particular. It actually appeared to me the director took pains to portray a variety of dance styles (ballet, interpretive dance, rhythmic gymnastics, break dancing, twerking, cheerleading, etc.) all as equally valid art forms. Every performing group in the video includes a variety of ethnicities. I think I did actually see a black/brown dancer in the ballet troupe, though it’s difficult to tell. Look in the rear left of this gif:
We don’t know if they cast individual dancers or hired a dance troupe, so if black women are underrepresented that might say more about the dance troupe’s selection practices than the video director’s casting practices.
All the styles of dance, ballet or otherwise are presented in the same fashion — talented professionals being brilliant + Taylor Swift being endearingly incompetent. The black women in the video aren’t portrayed as Taylor’s dancing accessories, but rather as experts in their style:
Moreover, at the end of the video there’s a sequence showing all the different professionals being silly and dancing in a non-choreographed manner, thereby humanizing them, showing they exist outside of their role as dancers in Taylor’s video:
I think if we interpret the twerking scenes in this video as demeaning, that says more about our cultural perception of black women than it does about this particular video’s specific portrayal of black women.
Okay, as the author of the above deconstruction, there are some things I need to clarify.
First off, I am an sjw, so if you’re going to reblog my post as “proof” that sjws “overreact to everything” like please go fuck yourself.
Secondly, when I said these dance forms are all treated equally, I meant that in the sense that they’re all being equally exploited by western capitalism. It’s not that I don’t think this music video is culturally appropriative. It’s just that I don’t think it’s culturally appropriative specifically in a way that denigrates women.
Because this music video is essentially constructed on the premise that “culture belongs to everyone!” which is in turn constructed on an “I don’t see race/people are people” mentality. That mentality is problematic and racist. The only people who don’t see race are the people who are not oppressed/exploited because of their race. The only people who think culture belongs to everyone are colonizers.
The fact is, twerking belongs to poor black people. Break dancing belongs to poor black people. They come from poor black American culture. And while I don’t necessarily think this video portrays any dance form as lesser than another, I do think this video tries to divorce dance forms from their cultural roots, by presenting them all without context, in the same gray room, and I do think that is a kind of cultural appropriation, and that it’s problematic.
I wrote the above post because I think a lot of people look at women twerking, particularly black women, automatically judge them without even realizing it. I think if people call these women “faceless accessories” it is not because the video refuses to show their faces, or because the video accessorizes them, but rather, because patriarchal media has trained and conditioned us, as viewers, to automatically objectify and dismiss WoC the moment their scantily clad, twitching butts come into frame.
A black man tweeted that the only black women in this music video were twerking. That’s terrifying. That’s the power of patriarchy. One sexually titillating shot of a black woman’s ass and he became blind to every other portrayal of black women in the video. This is what white patriarchal media has trained us to do. We’ve internalized the habit of objectifying and dismissing black women, to the point that music videos don’t even have to objectify black women — the viewers will do it for them.
And we need to unpack that. We need to work on that. Because having internalized misogyny hobbles us in fighting externalized misogyny. Because having internalized racism hobbles us in fighting externalized racism.