J.Lo’s New Feminist Anthem Isn’t Feminist At All

Earlier today, Jennifer Lopez released her music video for “Ain’t Your Mama,” a new single that’s made headlines for how feminist it purports to be. The artist has taken a “feminist stand in empowering new video,” according to one headline. She’s “mad as hell,” reads another. But the video isn’t feminist. And while I believe J.Lo is annoyed about something here, I don’t think she’s angry at the patriarchy. It’s important to note that J.Lo follows the incredibly tough act of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, arguably the biggest feminist mic drop in recent memory. We’ve all got women’s rights on the brain, between the Bey album and Hillary’s campaigning. But more important, we’ve also got anger. The L.A. Times’ Mary McNamara writes about how it’s important that women show anger in pop culture, and how Bey, Kelly Ripa, and Sam Bee have brought that conversation front and center. “Men shout in righteous rage,” she writes, “but women who raise their voices are still often seen as losing control.” Except J.Lo’s video never goes there. It’s a bag of mixed messages. We start by seeing her in a phone booth. She’s having a conversation with someone we assume is her spouse, but could also very well be a roommate, as the nature of the discussion is vague. It’s raining, as it always fucking is when someone’s feeling blue on-screen. Then she takes a seat at a news desk, while recordings of feminist speeches play. We hear things like, “Humans rights are women’s rights” and “It’s our time to have wage equality.” Sampling sound bites of feminist speeches does not a progressive video make. J.Lo was more feminist when she was sitting next to Meryl Streep, hollering for Patricia Arquette at the Oscars. “Look, I don’t have to tell you things are bad,” she says from her news desk. “Taken for granted. Ignored. Overlooked. Underappreciated.” AND THEN THE BEAT DROPS. “We have a big, big problem, ladies. First, you’ve got to get mad.” Okay, great. Let’s get mad! “I want you to get up, get out of your chair, go to the window. Open your door, stick your head out. and yell. ‘I ain’t gonna be cooking all day.’” If you were hoping this would be where J.Lo tackles the wage gap and outrageous attacks against reproductive rights in this country, you will be severely disappointed. Because all this song is about is a relationship that’s lost its flame. “We used to be crazy in love,” she sings. “Can we go back to how it was? When did you get too comfortable? I’m too good for that.” We’re taken through a montage of J.Lo in various decades — and they’re all cheesy clichés. She’s a ’50s housewife scrubbing floors and ironing clothes. Then she’s a secretary in the ’60s fielding advances from her pervy boss. She's a Rosie the Riveter–style factory worker, only in the ’70s...packaging bright green soda. Later, she’s an ’80s businesswoman with shoulder pads who gets a conference-room door slammed in her face. This all feels like nothing more than a convenient nod to a social movement that's become very present in pop culture. It's J.Lo jumping on the feminist bandwagon in the safest, least-likely-to-ruffle-a-single-feather way possible. Here she goes, rehashing familiar images from the history of women's rights without adding a single new thought or flavor — much less ever seeing any of those ideas through. It's a throw-away pop tune about a woman who wishes her man would treat her better. Even if this were a righteous fist-pump to feeling angry about being unappreciated in a romantic relationship, fine. But “anger,” as it exists in this video feels more like choreography. She flips over a crate of soda bottles. She throws some papers in the air. In her most fiery moment she — gasp! — messes up some guy’s Rubik’s Cube. Toward the end, she organizes — by way of an app — a “women’s march” in Brooklyn. But this is hardly an assembly of female power on par with “Formation.” It’s a dance — and not even a good one by J.Lo standards. It’s the kind of song I expect to roll with the credits at the end of some women-centric movie this summer. (Looking at you, Bad Moms.)
“Ain’t Your Mama” is all bubblegum and no punch. And sure, you can smile your way through hard feelings, but, as Beyoncé so perfectly illustrated, it's a lot more powerful when you smash shit up with a baseball bat while you’re doing it.

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