Treating women like objects seems to be a well-established tradition in music videos. But, the new video for "Literally I Can't," by Play-N-Skillz featuring Redfoo, Lil Jon, and Enertia McFly, takes it one step further. In this song, women are (gasp) actually allowed to speak. Unfortunately, their one recurring line — "Literally, I can't" — makes ladies who don't want to drink, be exploited in famous rappers' tweets, or have sex seem like prudes who can't let loose and have a good time doing what the boys want them to do.
Here, the "Literally I Can't" women are sisters in a sorority of the same name (#LIC, if you want to hashtag it). They arrive at a party dressed in preppy tennis clothes and pearls. The boys offer them shots, an invite to the after-party, and a chance for some "girl-on-girl" while everyone watches. After each request, they respond with (what else?), "Literally, I can't."
Over and over again, they utter this phrase, in a tone meant to mimic the ubiquitous millennial remark, "I can't even." Except, when we say "I can't even" — or "Literally, I can't" — in real life, we usually mean it in jest. It's also not in response to offers to be sexually exploited or get alcohol poisoning. A more apt title for this song would probably be the rappers' thesis statement, which seems to be, "Shut up and shake your ass."
Finally, the offers stop coming, and everyone at the party tells the LIC girls to "shut the fuck up." The rappers then make their case for women needing to be quiet and act grateful for their attention.
"You got a big ol' butt. I can tell by the way you walkin'. But, you an annoying slut, because you're talking," Redfoo raps. "Shhh...I set you on the pole; I didn't need your opinion...I'm sipping on this drink [insert beverage product placement here], trying to see what you got, not trying to hear what you think." (The video also contains product placement for a porn site.)
This colorful portrayal of misogyny already has over 700 comments on YouTube, which range from support and justification to anger and accusations that it supports rape culture. "'I'm going to harass women until they stop complaining about how I treat them and start acting like the sex objects I want them to be,'" user OneUpdateataTime helpfully interpreted the song. "Dreadful on so many levels." To which user Jessie H responded, "STFU, you sensitive pussy."
Other commenters argued that this was all intended as satire. As in, "annoying girls" came to the wrong party and refuse to participate. It's social commentary about letting loose and having fun — get it? YouTubers also note that the song helpfully points out the abuse of the word "literally" in today's lexicon.
If it was intended to be satirical, the message isn't coming across. At all. YouTube user zarucarsha summed it up best in this since-deleted comment: "Snotty girls using 'literally' all the time may be annoying, but that doesn't justify being creepy toward them. Asking them about 'girl-on-girl' stuff, and then yelling at them when they decline, is all sorts of creepy. And, rape-y."
Exactly. A video showing men telling women who say no to drinks, parties, and sex to "shut the fuck up" isn't the way to take a stand about grammar. We have Schoolhouse Rock for that. The verbs and nouns on there never told each other to twerk it so they could tweet about it.