Would you ask those questions like me?
Jaclyn alerted me to this gutsy new video from Ciara, entitled “Like A Boy.” My initial reaction (Whoa! Ciara knows whats up!) has given way to deeper thoughts, many still inconclusive:
First, is this video radically questioning gender roles or actually just reinforcing them? Ciara dawns the stereotypical trappings of gender, such as baby-doll dress, man’s suit, male “thug” attire, and she does so with a powerful attitude. Her aggressive crotch grabs reinforce the message - what if a woman acted this way: masculine, careless, unapologetic?
But let’s not forget, even in the baggiest jeans, even staring down the camera with her legs unapologetically spread, Ciara’s also lookin’ like a hot lady. She’s sporting glossy lips. Her long, sleek hair is blowing in the wind, and her bellybutton peeks out from her trim waist. Of course, this video wouldn’t sell in pop culture otherwise… but that’s exactly why “Like A Boy” remains important and troublesome - isn’t now the time to break down the stereotypes in real ways? Ciara herself opens the video with a call to action: “2007 - Ladies, I think it’s time to switch roles.”
Now, what do we make of these lyrics?
If I act like you,
Walk a mile in your shoes,
Mess with your head again,
A dose of your own medicine
If I played you, would you like that?
Have friends, would you like that?
If I call, would you like that?
No, no, you wouldn’t like that, no.
What, you mad? Can’t handle that?
What if I had a thing on the side,
Would you like that?
Made you cry, would you like that?
Would the rules change up or would they still apply?
What if I played you like a toy,
Sometimes I wish I could act like a boy.
What, you mad? Can’t handle that?
Her words obviously point to male power in relationships. Ciara blatantly - refreshingly - says that men treat women like objects (“What if I played you like a toy”). But there’s also an affirmation of female strength, as Ciara insinuates that, in a role reversal, men “Can’t handle that” - so, yes, we might be considered the weaker sex, but we are stronger, fellas, than you know. You’d only know it from living our life for a second or two (after all, navigating a life under oppression and control breads a different kind of brawn). And, of course, there’s the idea of the “healthy” relationship: a “good” relationship wouldn’t need role reversal… right?
Another interesting piece of the Ciara puzzle: near the close of the video, there is an odd dance interlude, during which Ciara balances backward in an gravity-defying backbend, and stares down the camera. Seems to me that this bit is meant to play at the flexibility of gender and roles in society; the video overall encompasses that idea - the changeability of women, our keen sense of adaptation under the male influence (for better and for worse).
Nonetheless, the ending leaves me confused: a final clip of Ciara, quite literally standing behind her man, who is seated in a comfy leather chair (very throne-esque). She leans over him, arms around his shoulders, and kisses his cheek. Hmmm. Is Ciara saying that change is possible (gender-bending interlude) but that women choose their roles (end kiss) or that we, simply, can be all in one - carelessly grabbing our crotches like men and tenderly kissing cheeks like women?
Maybe she’s getting at something else entirely?
Help me out… what’s your interpretation of this thought-provoking video?