The Barbs take Jessie J; on “Doing It Like A Dude”
February 3, 2011, 3:08 am
Filed under: REBECCA, SARAH | Tags: , , ,

Today we shall be discussing British rapper Jessie J’s video “Do It Like A Dude.” Rebecca shall be writing in red, the color of passion and Sarah in purple, the color of overelaborate prose (j/k).

Rebecca’s Preliminary Statement: Hi! My name’s Rebecca and I represent the Rebecca half of the Barbarism duo. In regards to this video: It’s not the kind of visual representation of self that I would make, but the desire that Jessie J expresses (to be taken seriously as a human–interpreted here as a ‘dude’) is one I understand and respect.

Sarah’s Preliminary Statement:


I want to appreciate the steps that people take. I want to appreciate what this video is attempting despite my own personal differences. I’m not Jessie J so I can’t tell Jessie J how to overcome the same things I’m trying to overcome—if this works for this variant of Jessie J at age 22, more power to her. I want to tell myself that I applaud her. There are things that I would have done differently, but I’m not her. They could have sexualized it a lot more than they did. I’m conflicted. I’m torn about the idea of sexuality here (and everywhere). There are times where she’s gyrating her upper torso, or the sweat’s on her breasts and that shouldn’t be a weakness because we’re all sexual, but men don’t express sexuality like this in mainstream music videos.

Are men ever being sexy in videos? Or is all they’re doing talking about sexy?

Everyone in the video is a woman. I kept thinking that someone in the audience might be a man. I kept thinking I saw men, but it was all women. I think that too speaks effectively to how socially constructed these male/female physical affectations are. I watch this video and I come away energized. I’m happy. I want to fight for her. The things that I don’t like I don’t like because they weaken her argument which is that she’s a capable human being and is just as worthy as a dude. The frequent visual iterations of cutting the pig’s foot was cheesy. It made her look stupid. I liked the funhouse quality of this video. I’m always thinking about things that are going to hurt her. I don’t want her to be hurt. The jerkiness of her mouth is like CGI. I don’t want people to see this and say “all woman are crazy!” and “anything a woman does with her mouth that doesn’t involve my dick is just crazy!” True, it wasn’t very surprising past the premise. The women fighting each other, fighting in front of an intimidating band of judges to show their manly fighting skills… It could have been weirder and realer but then the detractors would just have more ammunition to say “Women are crazy! Because they’re weird and unorthodox! And that makes me think they’re CRAZY!” Because women that don’t stay still and have sex with you are crazy!

I don’t want to be a ragger, but this looks to me like Lady Gaga lite. And I don’t like Lady Gaga. I appreciate the idea, as it might have existed at some point. You’re saying that you appreciate the sentiment. By that do you mean, the video? The sentiment of the video?

I like the idea. Do I think it’s a great video, no.

Here’s where I have problems. Do it like a dude? it reinforces these notions. Don’t you think to see the way we want to go, we have to see what we hope will happen? But it’s not the way things are. I mean, this isn’t the way the majority of human beings believe that they can behave. Everything about this is sexualized. They’re saying one thing, dressing it up with supposedly masculine-looking women, or women supposedly masculine garb and with supposedly masculine body language—and yet, they are all sweating profusely, they are all gyrating typically. Everyone in this video is playing to the male eyes they assume will be watching this video. I see no one looking relaxed in her body, no one being unaware of herself as a sex object. As always, it’s I’m playing to you, don’t ya think I’m hot when I’m tough like this?

I like the idea of playing devil’s advocate. Not to be unkind or needlessly provocative but it does come naturally to me with you sometimes and I do have… this idea of protection…. of supporting her… I don’t know. To me it seems like you’re saying that acknowledging the status quo reinforces the status quo but I just want to ground us in the reality of how things unfortunately are according to SOME people/by mass media/pop culture/patriarchy in general, etc because I think we have to establish where we are in order to go forward. What’s that terrible quote I think I’m misinterpreting? “Men look at women; women watch themselves being watched.” What irked me about that quote is the old idea that women have no desire or that men desire women and women desire the abstract, lofty, non-sexual idea of being desired, being in control. Women are terrible controlling harpies, men are just good ol’ boys who can’t help their libidinal energies. Yuck! So I suppose I like that this video–which doesn’t aesthetically please me or surprise me–shows women as sexual and lively and angry and I didn’t make the assumption that they were playacting for men. To acknowledge that men are the socially acceptably dominant force and then claiming that you are as good as them doesn’t seem to me to be defeatist. I don’t think admitting to the culturally perceived “truth” implies weakness. It’s a cheesy video that yes, doesn’t cover the full spectrum of what women as people are but I admire the effort.

The way she’s writhing is stripper writhe. It’s “you’re watching me” writhe. Dancing, there are things I want to do but am afraid to do. I like the way my hips go back and forth. I agree about the hips. I’m looking at this as a piece of pop culture and one in which I don’t see her doing any so-to-speak unattractive moves.

I think a lot of men would be freaked out by a lot of the abrupt moves with her face but then again I always think there are men (and women) who are freaked out by anything that scares/upsets/confuses them. People who aren’t very flexible and make you pay for not aligning to their fantasies. Okay apparently I’ve totally aligned myself with her! I don’t know how that happened. I like that she can be sexy.

What is sexy?

She’s got nice lips. I like the movement she makes when she scrunches them up because it seems tough to me. I like how that’s transposed with the crazy unnatural moves of the face. The men I always have in my head who are telling me that everything I’m doing is wrong, they’d make fun of her for this. So I respect her guts.

I think she’s being presented like a sex toy with the lie that she is doing something out of the norm. She isn’t. This is Lady Gaga territory.

I don’t see her as sexy so much as indignant, and wearing the clothes that women are supposed to wear. I mean she’s not that pretty to me, but she’s a female, and she’s got nice lips. I’m not drawn to her.

Indignation. What does my indignation look like? It ain’t pouty. It ain’t “aren’t you thinking I’m pretty?” It ain’t playing to the camera to find me sexy. She’s playing sexy-angry. I don’t expect more from pop. I’m not disappointed by this, because I can’t expect anything surprising. Anything other than this would not sell because it would not be promoted.

I think that I’m approaching/understanding her in a way similar to the way I understand Lady Gaga—they both push the boundaries within the constraints of what is socially permissible (which isn’t what we do.. but we’re not her). I note that she’s maybe hurting her own cause by the points that you’ve brought up, but she’s a kid.

(You mentioned) what she wants? I have no idea what she wants. The nature of the music industry—she’s a product, she’s not a person, and I don’t see anything of her in this because this is such a manufactured product it’s like a ready-made off the assembly line.

I think where I’m coming from is an emotional place. I’m sad for her and I want to help her, which is just another way of my saying that I want to help myself. I feel like it’s inviting too much scrutiny. My fear of always getting teased. Of always doing something wrong and having to pay for it. It’s not a very good song and I hate the repetition of the word crotch because it’s an ugly word. It’s silly, but I appreciate the effort. I feel like it’s a small step.

I don’t expect more, because I consider this not to be a personal expression. It is a manufactured piece of pop, and pop manufactured according to the supposed desires and dictates of a male gaze. What penis is said to desire. Everything about this video is about being found attractive when you’re like a dude. Is it not possible to have a female pop star whose pop personality is not about being found attractive or being a sex symbol. Manufactured sex symbols. It’s not about sexiness. They come wrapped with a sex symbol bow. The whole premise is false. Do it like a dude? Like it’s inherent? These behaviors. Like men are like A, women are like B. But hey, look I can pretend to be A too! Instead of recognizing that if I choose to get a tattoo, or to kiss another woman, or to cut up meat in what is apparently not a genteel way, that this is opposite to what it is to have a vagina. That’s bullshit. I can be very unattractive. I can look weird. I can eat food in a way that many would find gross—and I do! This ain’t acting like a dude. This is being a person.

But I feel like… how do I explain? To the extent that you’re aware might be construed as masculine in its quality, — acknowledging what is. The way the culture is.

I would agree.

Calling attention to it doesn’t mean that you’re agreeing with it.

What are they calling attention to?

That big brusque motions that are quick, like the thrust, are masculine. That softness and sweetness is female.

How is this video countering that?

It’s not countering. She’s taking on that which a certain kind of person associates with masculinity, and still being herself to the extent that that’s permitted, being a 22-year-old pop star.

Those writhing moves, Rebecca calls being sexual. If you watch an Amanda Palmer video, she does moves you would consider (wrongly) “female” and she does moves that you would consider (wrongly) male. She doesn’t isolate them. She moves as someone who moves according to how her limbs desire. and she snarls and sneers and smiles and all of that—all of that—is what makes her attractive. Her hair is a mess in those videos. She playing at the piano in a baggy fucking shirt and looking deliciously comfortable and that’s hot. It’s not about restricting movement. It’s not about denying my hips. Fucking love to shake my ass. But that’s not female either. And that’s not necessarily sexy.

I just feel bad for her (but I don’t mean for my pity/stab at solicitude to be condescending!) She’s a person who’s in a position to do something, and I appreciate what she did.

It’s that belief that is worn on the body, in your comfort within your body, as I see Palmer move, that’s the sexiness. It’s not doing this or that, and it’s not moving in relation to the lens and hoping that it will confirm: I am sexy. If no one were watching me, she would not believe herself to be attractive.

Well, I’m just impressed that she has a voice and that people are watching. I’m in a live-and-let-live kind of mood.

I want people to show new possibilities. What’s so great about being allowed by the master to have a voice if it is so circumscribed?


Rebecca’s Big Fat Final Statement: I want to have compassion. When I watch this video I feel for the plight of 22-year-old Jessie J. This bigness, this sort of silly stab at violence, the big thrusting motions and energetic dance moves; all these childish (male) rapper affectations like crotch grabs are what she associates with masculinity. Masculinity is often–by some–associated with power. She wants this. I don’t think this undermines her. She’s young! She feels inferior! Before she–or more accurately: we–can transcend the gender binary I think it necessary to go through the raw, blunt, embarrassingly angry covetousness that I think Jessie J is undergoing. I don’t fault her for that. It’s a step, not a destination. I think she wants agency, selfhood, to be powerful, to be herself, regardless of what is deemed acceptable for females. Another thing I wanted to touch upon was the idea of whether or not we’re talking about Jessie J herself or the “machine” of the music industry. I don’t know if she’s a pawn or a product of men trying to make her sexy in that adorable ‘angry’ way for other men. Maybe it’s just that I’m put off by the IDEA of calling her a puppet because that belittles her! I fear that when we blame the system or the machine or the industry, we ignore the woman.  I think we all have different ways of dealing with the same goal… We should respect separate methodologies! I think I’m wary of holding absolute opinions. I don’t fully know what I think and I want to be flexible.

Sarah’s’s Big Fat Final Statement:


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