Twerking: does it empower or objectify?

Twerking is a recent craze but has cultural history many aren't aware of. (Source: agent j loves nyc via flickr).
Emily considers the role of twerking in our modern culture, discusses the origin of the dance and whether it is empowering women, or objectifying them.

by Emily Murray

For most of us, twerking is a 21st century dance craze that involves shaking your ass as fast as you can. The dance has not always had sexual connotations, and contrary to popular belief was has been around for years and years. The original dance uses an intense amount of core and lower body strength and intricate footwork. It was originally performed as a celebratory dance in churches and religious festivals.

Cultural appropriation has turned a dance celebration into a sexual movement craze, kicked off by Miley Cyrus on stage at the VMAs in 2013 with Robin Thicke. To sexualise traditions from another culture seems highly offensive, intensified by the fact that Miley promotes this “I don’t care what people think about me” attitude that she relays time and time again in interviews and on social media.

I’m all for expressing yourself when you dance and I believe that the lack of social restrictions for etiquette on the dance floor nowadays allows women to feel empowered in that they can express themselves freely. But there’s swaying your hips to the rhythm of the beat and then there’s spreading your legs and dry humping the air/someone.

Cyrus herself believes that her twerking is inspiring to women. But what role model dances up on a male celebrity who’s famous for writing a chart topping song about rape and seems to only perform with half naked women if not completely naked as the models were in the music video for ‘Blurred lines’.

Miley Cyrus broke out on the music scene as an artist detached from her role in American kids show Hannah Montana. Her new sexualised image was evidence to the theory that ‘sex sells’. She has made millions from selling her body.

Only a little more than 100 years ago the Waltz was seen in Western Society as a provocative dance… how has it all gone so wrong? Nowadays girls can be seen dropping to the floor in a club left, right and centre, daring surrounding boys to eye their derriere. Within this context, ignorant to the customs and history of the dance move twerking is objectifying.

Women little more than 100 years ago were not seen to be sexual objects. They were meant to cover up, talk little and to be discouraged if they should show an opinion or God forbid advance on a guy before he made a move. So I’m all for women showcasing their womanhood, so long as they are represented as whole people, not just sexual objects.

Rihanna twerking in crotchless slacks is the epitome of sexy, but is watching her bent over for Drake as he admires her from behind empowering? It seems to me that the 21st century “power women” offer nothing but their bodies to the world. It is not women singing lines like “face down ass up” and “drop it down low” and “shake that ass for me” it’s men commanding them to. Twerking has nothing to do with female empowerment, but all to do with gratifying men.

magazine gal-dem, has begun a series of dance workshops at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to bring the dance move back to it’s roots, to educate people on a dance of empowerment and throw away the 21st century indecent cultural appropriation of the historical West African dance.

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