Does The Message In Pink's "Stupid Girls" Still Hold Up A Decade Later?

Photo: Justin Lloyd/Newspix/REX/Shutterstock.
Pink didn't have to say anything about Kim Kardashian's recent nude selfie, which inspired some celebrities to take shots and others to take the reality star's side, because a tweet days later expressed exactly how the singer felt.

On International Women's Day, the artist, whose given name is Alecia Moore, wrote a shout-out to all the women using "their brains, their strength, their work ethic, their talent, their 'magic' that they were born with, that only they possess." Getting even more pointed, Pink wrote that these attributes don't always get as much "'attention' or bank notes as using your body, your sex, your tits and asses." And she made it clear that the women she's talking about don't need that kind of attention, because they have something else to offer.

"In the quiet moments, you will feel something deeper than the fleeting excitement resulting from attention," Pink wrote. "You will feel something called pride and self respect."

Coming from Pink, an artist who makes it her business to sell records, not sex, the message isn't a new one. It's actually the same one she shared 10 years ago, when she released the song "Stupid Girls."

Having taken three years off after her worst-performing record, 2003's Try This (which Pink has said she wrote in a week to rebel against her then-label, Arista Records, and fulfill her contractual obligation), her fourth studio album, 2006's I’m Not Dead, was her big comeback. It was Pink saying that the poor performance of Try This was a fluke, and that she still had hits up her sleeve.

And she was sly, gleefully embracing her status as the anti-Britney all while teaming up with the producers behind Spears' biggest hits. Pink was also more defiant, ready to share her views on everything over a perfect pop beat. She was brutally honest, writing an open letter to President George W. Bush asking him to clarify his views on homosexuality, war, and No Child Left Behind ("Dear Mr. President"). She wrote a song based on a poem she wrote when she was 13 years old about sexual abuse ("Long Way to Happy").

To reintroduce herself after a hiatus, Pink released "Stupid Girls" as the first single, throwing major shade at young female starlets who were making headlines for sex tapes and rehab stints and nothing more. The song wasn't just a dig at these kinds of women, it had her seriously wondering what kind of example these stars were setting for their female fans.

"What happened to the dream of a girl president?" she sings, only to answer her own question: "She's dancing in the video next to 50 Cent."

The "Stupid Girls" video — directed by Pink's longtime collaborator Dave Meyers — gets more specific about who these "porno paparazzi girls" are.

Channeling Eminem, Pink donned wigs and costumes to look like Jessica Simpson washing a car in her Daisy Dukes, just as Simpson did in her "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" video. She posed as Lindsay Lohan behind the wheel, hitting pedestrians and then just going right back to re-applying her lip gloss. She mocked Mary Kate Olsen's boho chic look and the incredibly tan girls who shop at Fred Segal with their toy dogs and their Mary Poppins-like purses.

It was Paris Hilton, though, who epitomized Pink's idea of a Stupid Girl. The singer is seen rolling around in the sheets, recalling the socialite in her infamous 2004 sex tape, 1 Night in Paris. It was so obviously a parody of Hilton that a few weeks after the video debuted, Ellen DeGeneres asked the reality star about it on her talk show. "I haven’t even seen it yet,” Hilton said. “But I think…it’s just a form of flattery.” It certainly wasn't.

The video has a lot to say about body image; one setup finds Pink lying on an operating table, black marker all over her body, marking the parts of herself she needs to nip, tuck, and augment. She sounds exasperated as she sings about vapid, hypersexualized women being an epidemic for which there is no cure. In one scene, Pink plays a girl in a bathroom trying to throw up what she consumed that day, complaining that calories aren't "sexy."

By our super-sensitive 2016 standards, Pink gagging as she puts a toothbrush down her throat could be interpreted as judgmental, as if she's shaming women who struggle with eating disorders. But make no mistake, this is satire — Pink's bold way of commenting on the damaging expectations that society places on women. The International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals got the message in 2006, issuing a statement saying that the song "highlights the culture's relentless and unrealistic pursuit of thinness and unattainable drive for physical beauty."

Pink seemed to be both pop music's angel and devil — a dual identity she embraces in this video by appearing as both characters on a young girl's shoulders. She spoke out against the pop princesses, but she didn't hide her sexuality from the world, using stripper poles on stage during the early part of her career. And with "Stupid Girls," she came right out and said what many people were thinking about America's obsession with being thin, blond, and beautiful.

"The parents were very happy with me after that song," Pink told The Telegraph in 2012. "They were, like [to their daughters], 'Honey, maybe you could listen to Pink. Maybe she isn’t the piece of trash I thought.'"
Courtesy of RCA Records.
For years, Pink was the relatable singer. She spoke for those of us who knew that looking like the Britneys and Christinas was unrealistic, but still hated ourselves for falling short. And yet, even an artist as ostensibly tough as Pink struggled with self-confidence and constant comparisons to every other female celebrity. On her 2001 track “Don't Let Me Get Me,” she sings about her war with the mirror: "I can't take the person starin' back at me / Tired of being compared to damn Britney Spears / She's so pretty, that just ain't me."

There, Pink sounds defeated. On "Stupid Girls," she's more confident. She's still fighting with that mirror of hers; she's just become more accepting of what she sees. She wonders if a push-up bra will get her noticed, but she's more interested in condemning sexism and promoting intelligence.

"Where, oh where, have the smart people gone?" she sings, mimicking the old nursery rhyme. "Oh where, oh where could they be?"

Pink wasn't the only one asking this question. In her May 2006 Salon essay, "Return of the brainless hussies," Rebecca Traister wrote about the fear that the rise of Paris Hilton's celebrity would encourage other women to dumb themselves down. Oprah dedicated an entire episode to the topic of Stupid Girls, inviting smart women like Pink, journalist Naomi Wolf, and Female Chauvinist Pigs author Ariel Levy on as guests. It felt like a Camp David summit to determine a way to encourage women to value themselves more than the culture did.

The truth is, the idea that a majority of young women were turning into vapid damsels, their interests never venturing beyond who slept with whom on Gossip Girl, was a false one. Some girls may have been idolizing Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan, but plenty of others were focused on people like Hillary Clinton, who, at that time, was the prime example of a woman in ascent.

When Pink asked, "What happened to the dream of a girl president?", for the first time in our nation's history, the idea of a woman in the Oval Office wasn't so far-fetched. Clinton had just won a second term representing New York in the Senate, which many rightfully assumed would lead to a presidential bid. But Pink seemed to be concerned that young women would stop dreaming that big — that they would see this new breed of female celebrity who looked really good playing dumb (not to mention, made a lot of money doing it), and choose that path instead.
Photo: Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic.
Pink and Hillary Clinton on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in 2015.
Pink's video for "Stupid Girls" may seem like a direct attack on a few specific female celebrities, but her beef wasn't really with them. It was with society and how it was failing all of us. Pink didn't have a problem with any woman being sexy. She's always promoted the idea of feeling comfortable in one's skin, posing naked for PETA's "Rather Go Naked" campaign and later performing an aerial silks act in a flesh-toned body suit at the Grammys. But she always assumed control over how she was showing off her body. It was her choice to pose naked. No one had leaked it on the internet or taken her photo without her knowing.

Pink's issue, then, was the insidious perpetuation of women as sex objects. There was ample reason to be concerned: In 2006, we were nearly a decade into the era of Girls Gone Wild and a year into TMZ, which became notorious for posting videos of female celebrities tipsily entering and exiting their cars without underwear. Pink wanted to see women stand up for themselves and take control of how they were seen. “There’s a certain thing the world is being fed,” Pink told MTV in 2006, “and my point is there should be a choice.”

That message was proudly feminist at a time when other pop stars recoiled from the F-word as if it were a slur. In fact, in a 2005 CBS poll, only 24% of American women identified as feminist, even though they believed in social, political, and economical equality. While 60% of American women felt the women's movement of the 1970s had made their lives better, less than half believed there was still a need for it to continue.

These days, thanks to social media, we're so used to engaging in fierce feminist debates that it may be hard to imagine how bold Pink's statement was at the time. With "Stupid Girls," she brought feminism to the masses, infiltrating MTV, ground zero for the hyping up of Hilton, Spears, and their ilk. "Outcasts and girls with ambition," she sang like a rallying cry. "That's what I wanna see."

When Pink sent out that tweet on International Women's Day last month, she was still advocating for the Smart Woman, the one who chooses to use her brain to get ahead, not only her body. Was this a slight at Kim Kardashian's nude selfie? Did the singer mean to imply that Kardashian is the latest example of a Stupid Girl? If so, is this even fair, given that — love her or loathe her — Kardashian has proved to be a savvy business woman? Amber Rose was among those who came to Kardashian's defense, asking Pink to explain the difference between posting a nude photo to Instagram or posing nude for a photoshoot.

"If a grown mother of 2 is comfortable with her body and wants to show it off that's none of ur business or anyone else's," Rose wrote, adding, "That's our problem! We're so quick to down each other instead of uplifting!"

Pink never mentions Kardashian's name in the note, so we can only speculate that her comments were aimed at the reality queen. We can also choose to believe Pink was once again reminding women that they have choices, and that they don't have to let the media dictate how they see themselves. We can believe that Pink was trying to uplift the women who don't feel comfortable posting pictures of their naked bodies online. To let them know there's nothing wrong or anti-feminist with feeling like a nude photo isn't everyone's idea of strength.

Kardashian can feel empowered by her nude selfies and Pink can respectfully disagree. As the singer tweeted hours after posting her original message, "I am open to hear all of it. But it won't change my mind." That's the beauty of this kind of debate — there is no right or wrong.

And it's likely that both women would agree — 2006 or 2016, no one wants to be a Stupid Girl.

More from Music