Many female celebrities have recently been speaking about feminism in their personal lives, but few bring that into their professional work.
With the music video for “Ain’t Your Mama” Jennifer Lopez brought her beliefs about the roles of women to the forefront. Already an empowering and catchy song, the music video amplifies her message. In the video, Lopez plays several different characters, all women who are expected to take care of their male counterpart. The lyrics may be referring to a romantic relationship, but several of these characters are women in a male-dominated workplace who take back their power.
Lyrically, the song speaks to the role of women in a household. Historically, gender roles have always placed women in the category of nurturer, or caregiver. Not only must she take care of the upkeep of the house, but she should want children and be a doting mother. “Ain’t Your Mama” focuses on the other aspect of being a caregiver–taking care of her husband, one that is often overshadowed.
The expectations placed on a woman to take care of her husband are so engrained in our society that women may not even realize that they have moved from mother of their children to mother of their children and their husband. Lopez’s song says enough is enough! She is done doing his laundry and cooking for him all day on top of managing her own career and personal life. She is not his mother, and their relationship is meant to be one of equal partnership, not give and take.
In the music video, Lopez plays a housewife in one scenario, but she plays three different working women. In each world, she tackles issues such as sexual harassment, the glass ceiling, and men taking credit for a woman’s work. Similar to the way a wife is expected to be around a husband, women in the workplace must sacrifice themselves and their success so a man can benefit. The woman is the secretary, who keeps her boss’s life in order, while the man is the boss getting credit for the achievements.
What gets me the most with this video is the fact that Lopez gives women permission to be angry about how they are treated. From a young age girls are told to be ladylike, which basically means that they have to be respectful, modest, dainty, and seen but not heard. Lopez demands, “You’ve got to get mad. I want you to get up out of your chair, go to the window, open your door, stick your head out and yell!”
Yet, none of the women are vindictive or evil–they don’t poison their husband/bosses or cause them harm, they just stand up for themselves! Feminism still has the connotation of being extremist, outlandish, and dangerous. The word “feminazi” still circulates its way through our vocabularies, as if standing up against years of oppression equals mass genocide. When Lopez urges women to yell, it’s to be heard, not to be intimidating.
There is a strong sense of solidarity among the women in the video. By playing a news anchor telling women to stand up for themselves, she is calling for solidarity in a blatant way, which nobody actually does in mass media.
Lopez released this song to be a summer hit. The video will be played on TV, online, in clubs, stores, you name it. The song will be on every major radio station multiple times an hour. While the song is catchy, the lyrics are to the point, and every time anybody sings the song without thinking, they will be absorbing and spreading the message. Jennifer Lopez created something that has the potential to take feminism into popular media like never before.