Feel-Good Feminism: My problem with JLO’s “I Ain’t Your Mama”

The appropriation of Feminism has exploded in mainstream media, which I argue has led to a societal (mis) representation of which feminists have fought against the social, oppressive and patriarchal ideologies since the 1800s. As a women’s studies major and a feminist, I observe the appropriation of the “feminist” label – most notably in mass media engagements such as, TV, movies, music and magazines. As such, feminism has massively transformed the ways in which women and men fight together as feminists. Over the past 20-years, the shaping of consumer packaged, feel-good feminism pushed through the media is uncritical, is without flexibility and thus sets back what real feminism was set out to do, ideologically and politically. To be clear, I’m not saying mass media ruins all feminism, I’m saying like with anything there are a few bad apples that regress the real revolution so to speak. No more clearly is the (mis) representation of  feminism showcased in today’s society than Jennifer Lopez’s new song I Ain’t Your Mama. I’m asking you to think beyond consumerist propaganda and focus on greater issues like environmental degradation, equity, violence against women and the list goes on and on. The feminism we seem to receive with grand vigor is (mis) represented and (mis) understood.feminism1

If you have heard the song and seen the video, you may ask yourself, what IS so wrong with refusing to be the stand in for a supposed ‘mans’ mama’? I bet some of you may ask yourself, ‘Isn’t being a housewife the antithesis of feminism’? I’m going to ask you to be critical and to question your visceral reaction to JLO’s catchy tune. This means going beyond the kitschy imagery, and rhythmic be-boppy-ness of the song itself. JLO’s I Ain’t Your Mama”  is problematic. Here’s why…

1. JLO asks, you want to start a revolution?


JLO uses language like, “revolution”, and implores us to “get mad”. What exactly is she asking us to be mad about? Her feminism is riddled with stereotypes, judgments, hyper-sexualization, thus providing her captive audience with a watered down version of feminism. There is a blatant assumption that all women do not and should not want to be housewives. Her portrait of the apparent housewife is riddled with judgment, mainly that if a woman is or aspires to be a housewife, there is something intrinsically wrong with this picture. I know plenty of strong, brave and intelligent women who choose (gasp, JLO) to stay home. The ways in which she depicts men is despicable. The generalization of one type of masculinity for starters, meaning a man can only be expressionless and emotionless or angry and aggressive. Finally, her video hyper-sexualizes the housewife – those women I speak of… whom choose to stay home – they ain’t wearing red lipstick, high heels and a low-cut dress at home. My feminism fights for more than the simplistic representation in this video, namely releasing women from the shackles of cooking, cleaning and ironing. It is critical and pushes the envelope against the mainstream. Feminism is a fluid ideology that casts no judgment on how one leads one’s life. Feminism must be lived every day without prejudice and disrespect. And this is exactly what JLO’s song and video does not accomplish.

2. JLO says, you gotta get mad!

girl yelling at guyHells ya, I am mad! But it’s not because of cooking and cleaning. I’m angry that JLO’s representation of feminism is at best weak. Feminism isn’t about getting angry over her watered down version of a so-called revolution. Nor is it about asserting your apparent inner-bitch just to be heard. I’m mad that she is complicit in (mis)representing a feminist politic (Let’s face it what has she really done to advance an all-inclusive and anti-oppressive feminism?) Her so-called revolution is outdated and furthermore plain rude. Feminist ideals never included disrespecting another human being – for instance dumping a roast over your partner’s head. I’m mad that she is co-opting feminism in such a way that it becomes meaningless – and all in the name of making a buck. She leads us to sing and dance to a highly uncritical expression of feminism and what’s worse is that much of society is complicit in groveling in this feminist (mis) representation.

3. Living feminism – it’s a responsibility.

The way I see it, is that JLO is another celebrity jumping on the feminist bandwagon. This bandwagon is highly lucrative for one’s personal celebrity gain and JLO is well aware of this fact. It will help make JLO millions of dollars. Saying that one is a feminist (with nothing to back it up) feminism-1-titleis so kitsch at this moment… perhaps JLO is fighting for a way to be relevant within a loud media space. Certain behaviors or so-called feminist stances make headlines. Women are applauded or retaliated against for stating the obvious. I guess it’s like the old adage, “There is no such thing as bad publicity”.

I can’t speak for JLO or any other self-proclaimed feminist. Who am I to do so? What I can do is be critical and unafraid to question the irresponsible appropriation of feminism that is thrown at me every day. Living feminism in your daily life is to be a good citizen and human being. To be a feminist you must be critical of the type of image we put out into the allusive social media space, moreover to think about the ways in which we use our words. My feminism is caring for every living organism, it is brave, and it is inclusive. It’s important to own your interpretation of what you know to be true and be able to back up what you put out in to the world. It’s the reality one lives, but I certainly can’t see JLO spending a day with an ironing board, can you?


One thought on “Feel-Good Feminism: My problem with JLO’s “I Ain’t Your Mama”

  1. Hi there: thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I agree, feminism is more then just a buzz word or an abstract political theory or ideology. It’s part of one’s foundation; ” the reality one lives”, as you so eloquently concluded.

    Gloria Steinem once said ” a feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men”. To me, that spells I-N-C-L-U-S-I-V-I-T-Y, but there are many young women today who subscribe to a more limited version of feminism. For example, a younger friend of mine and I got into a big debate over the Twitter war between Kim Kardashian and Pink that broke out March 8th on International Woman’s Day. She supported Pink’s not-so veiled dig at the nude selfies Kim K posted on Insta that week. She also agreed with Pink’s version of “feminism” and felt Pink was a better role model for her daughter. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m down with Pink’s message. Women are more than the sum of their body parts and should bank on their spirit, mind, character and creativity to get ahead in this world, not just their derrière. Moreover, [given the choice] I, too, would choose Pink over Kim K as a role model for any young girl out there. But choosing one over the other isn’t about voting for or against feminism. It’s choosing between 2 kinds of feminism. Because [in my world] there is room for BOTH Pink and Kim K. Why? Because like you…I believe in an inclusive brand of feminism.

    From a professional standpoint, Kim K’s ballin’ shot-callin’. She’s the workaholic CEO of her own enterprise and is a partner in countless other ventures; a “boss” in every sense of the word. Forbes puts her net worth at $88 million,which is a a lot more than her hubby’s… who was last seen begging Mark Zuckerberg for change.My friend once said she has the personality of mud. Sure,I admit I cringe when I watch her interviews ;agree she’s no éminence grise. But, thing is… Mudgirl just deposited $53 million in her account thanks to her new app sales. So say what you like, but she’s at the top of her game and the name of that game is fame.Like most industries, showbiz has long been dominated by men. For decades, the top grossing producers, directors, studio and network owners, movie or TV stars were men. Kim Kardashian has broken records in the entertainment industry most male TV stars could only dream of. This time last year her Mom [yes, that’s right] negotiated a contract for her that most male agents would sell their own mother for. Thanks to Kris Jenner, Kim K hasn’t just broken through the “glass ceiling” of her chosen industry or field of endeavour, she’s actually annihilated it.

    But feminism isn’t just about equal opportunity for professional advancement or pay equity: it’s about FREEDOM. It’s not my place to decide for any grown woman what’s good for her or how and when she’s allowed to express herself. The patriarchal order spent centuries denying women their basic rights and a truly inclusive feminist does not seek to control others. As long as what you’re doing isn’t directly harmful to yourself and others, Snapchat your derrière away ladies. Feel free to do YOU and as you see fit…and hopefully the rest will follow.

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