author – activist – faculty – mom
Jennifer Lopez’s new video, “I Luh Ya PaPi,” has been billed as an interesting gender flip, where the women objectify the men, for a change.
I have a ton of writing deadlines, the end of my teaching semester is coming up, my house desperately needed some spring cleaning, and I’m swamped with end of year parenting stuff. But I took time out to see the video, and I had a mix of thoughts as I watched it.
First of all, hell yeah for all music videos that critique the objectification of women and gender roles in media. It opens with the white video director pitching ideas to JLo and her two collaborators, a pair of Latina dancers. He suggests typical (and culturally clueless) ideas on how/where to shoot the video. JLo’s girls make an alternative suggestion: “Why do men always objectify the women in every single video?”one of the pals said. “Why can’t we for once objectify the men?” Suggested location? “up in a mansion with all these half-naked [men], or maybe even in a yacht.”
Which is exactly how the video starts. Shot after shot of half naked and interchangeable men draped about on the furniture, as JLo holds the power position in the scenes. They flip a number of video tropes on the male models, such as the sexualized car wash with men’s abs and crotches scrubbed down in suds outside the mansion. Then they pour champagne into the men’s skimpy briefs on the yacht.
Of course, this is a mainstream commercial music video, not an indie feminist film, so JLo is also half naked in every scene. She’s tetas out in the mansion scene, booty cheeks out in the yacht scene, dropping it like it’s hot right and left. She’s nearly as naked as the boys.
But there’s one person who’s not naked, and that’s French Montana the video’s featured rapper. He assumes the fully-dressed power position in her video. In fact, in one moment, as he’s rapping, she’s dropping it, and at another moment, he’s rapping with her two dancers, one crawling across the stage at his feet. So it’s less about objectifying the men instead, and more about objectifying them in addition. Which is probably a smart move for JLo’s straight female and queer male fans who like seeing naked men. My biggest disappointment is that she didn’t choose to have a woman rapping in her video.
Another challenge to the table-turning, however, is the song’s actual lyrics. Here’s how it starts:
I put it down for a brother like you
Give it to you right in the car
Soon she’s talking about the sexy body she has to offer her man:
Got that hourglass for you, baby, look at these legs
No brakes, go green, no red…
If you wanna hear your name, I shout it
And then, of course, she says a million times about how much she loves him:
I luh ya luh ya luh ya papi
Loving, apparently, is all about 24-7 sexual availability.
When French Montana comes in, he starts out with a little reciprocity:
Baby, you the shit, I-I love you, mami
Shorty got me catching feelings
But he ends up with a pretty traditional sexual narrative:
Take the pants out here, drop to her knees
There are a bunch of pop culture sexual references that I don’t understand, so I’m sure there’s more potentially sexist innuendo that I missed.
Not that I look to JLo for substantive feminist lyrics, but I enjoyed the pop music feminist swagger of her “Love Don’t Cost A Thing”:
Think I wanna drive your Benz, I don’t
If I wanna floss I got my own
Even if you were broke
My love don’t cost a thing
All that matters is
That you treat me right
So it doesn’t manage a total gender flip, but it really is fun and funny to watch. My favorite part is the camaraderie between JLo and her two girls, which is strong throughout. On screen they relate more to each other than they do to the guys.
And there are other victories to be celebrated here. This is the 44 year old JLo’s 10th album. It’s incredible to have a woman of color with such staying power in pop music, and her bankable sexiness is part of what keeps her commercially viable. As feminist rapper Coco Peila pointed out in a recent conversation, in the context of mainstream music, the media literacy conversation in a JLo music video is priceless for young women.
Finally, the dialogue with the director at the beginning and the end is funny and real. JLo and her working class Latina collaborators are so themselves, loud and in the face of the white director suggesting they shoot the video at a zoo or a waterpark.
“A waterpark?” the gals responded
“If she was a guy, we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all.”
“I Luh Ya PaPi” lyrics via A-Z lyrics.
“Love Don’t Cost a Thing” lyrics via MetroLyrics.