Pole Position: The Curiously Anti-Stripper Message Of Lil Wayne's "How To Love" Video

Categories: Lil Wayne

lilwayne_howtolove.jpg

If Lifetime movies are too light on the melodrama for your taste, Lil Wayne's new video for "How To Love" will be right up your alley. Unlike most Weezy jams it's a slow, treacly song, so I haven't heard it while at work. Perhaps it's fitting, then, that the video is not all that stripper-positive. MTV has a really long recap, but the short of it is this: A girl grows up in hardship with an abusive baby daddy in prison, gets molested, becomes a stripper and prostitute and contracts HIV. Then the video rewinds and shows a magical alternate universe where her mom marries a nice man, she goes to college, and gets happily pregnant. It's a real tear-jerker, though the tears being jerked might be the result of hot rage.

Yes, "How To Love" is another hip-hop video championing conservative, anti-choice anti-feminism. Its simplistic moralizing is a sad reminder that the Madonna/whore complex, not to mention a strong bias against birth control and abortion, is alive and well in certain corners of hip-hop. And it's disappointing that Weezy, of all people, is going down this road. I expected better from him and director Chris Robinson, the man behind the video for the unqualified stripper classic "Make It Rain." That video inaugurated a whole new genre of conspicuous consumption imagery in hip-hop with its all-text, no-sub image of women's bodies being literally covered with cash money. While women remained objects and accessories, at least they were getting fair market value for it.

But apparently there's been a shift in Wayne's thinking, and now instead of celebrating strippers he's using their career choices to exemplify women hitting rock bottom. The message: If you want to be compensated for sexual labor, you're going to suffer. The stripper is no longer dancing in a celebratory cascade of bills; instead, she's kicking platforms off of her tired feet in the dressing room as she counts out crumpled singles. Is Wayne pitying strippers now instead of paying them? Perhaps he sees a changing attitude towards sex workers as a mark of maturity. Maybe he read some of anti-sex worker crusader Melissa Farley's work while in jail. Whatever the reason, I can only read the new depiction of strippers as evidence of a condescending impulse to categorize women.

The cheap dramatics don't even send a clear message, a pretty big failing for a "message" video. What is the point supposed to be? Your mom would go home if she wanted to raise you right? Getting molested is bad because it leads to being an HIV+ sex worker? (Is this 1987? Here's some crazy news: HIV is treatable now.) It's also disturbing that the happy alternate version hinges on Mom going back home instead of staying with the bad baby daddy, effectively blaming her for her daughter's tragic outcome. And what the hell does all this have to do with knowing "How To Love"? You know who should have known how to love? The men in the story.

There's just one thing that would almost redeem this video: If on Sunday night, Weezy did a live, one-man re-enactment of this shitshow at the VMAs a la R. Kelly's "Trapped In The Closet" performance in 2005. It wouldn't make the reductiveness and condescension any less galling, but at least it would match the absurdity of this clip's attitude.

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12 comments
Awake
Awake

"Yes, "How To Love" is another hip-hop video championing conservative, anti-choice anti-feminism. Its simplistic moralizing is a sad reminder that the Madonna/whore complex, not to mention a strong bias against birth control and abortion, is alive and well in certain corners of hip-hop. "

Perhaps maybe Lil Wayne has a clearer view of reality than you would have liked him to have, and you simply cannot tolerate that. 

Men of all races, ages, incomes, and religions are finally waking up to the fraud that folks like you and  Betty Friedan have peddled for the last 50 years.

User007
User007

The theme of the video as I took it is. That we need to reevaluate the family unit. A mother and a father to raise a child. Men owning up to there responsibilities, and not just going around spreading their seed. A message weezy, him self should take a look at. Very ironic video if you ask me.

Mountingandcounting
Mountingandcounting

Stripping has risks, but it's a great gig if you choose a nice clean club and resist the temptations always present with drug dealing clients, men propositioning you to meet them to exchange sex/money after work etc....it's not rock bottom, it's an entrepreneurial choice women make so they earn more faster, "even" if they have other options, such as a 20K entry level salary.

Veronica Vice
Veronica Vice

lil wayne probably doesnt do much of his own thinking. he's a product of a bunch of executives in a room trying to figure out what sells and they're business men not artists so of course we suffer the same tired cliches we've seen for years.

Rick
Rick

Cliches are cliches, and lyl wayne uses another one to make a video. Really really bad video.

the(1)
the(1)

so whats the big deal about women choosing to dance and be in videos then? If every one is just doing what they choose to do it then it isn't exploitive? it can't be one way, right?

the(1)
the(1)

ok, the author is a woman, went to college, and probaly took women and gender studies. nothing wrong with any of the above but this is a pretty cliche review. Does it surprise the author that Lil Wayne or any other man doesn't view women the same way that they view themselves or how women view men.  Why is it wrong to show that this person's lifestyle can have bad cuases and results? How come no one ever dicusses how men are exploited by sex workers since anyone who has every been to a a strip club knows that the women control the way the intereact with thier customers?

Veronica Vice
Veronica Vice

as a stripper... i really don't feel exploited and i highly doubt any of my customers do. im there to take men into a fantasy and away from reality for an hour or two, and if they can afford it, great. 

the authors point was that lil wayne went from saying that we're being paid for a valid service to showing us as broken and used. 

personally, i couldn't give a fuck less if they show strippers as having a shitty life. keeps the competition down lol.

Veronica Vice
Veronica Vice

your argument is lacking brilliance and your effort to make men the victim made me lol. dancers aren't exploited and neither are the patrons. dancers want the cash and men go in there to get their T&A fill for the evening. no one goes into a strip club with good intentions, and no one goes in there by force.

48volts
48volts

Hmm. No one ever discusses all of those poor men that helplessly wander into a strip club with handfuls of one dollar bills to find themselves exploited by those mean strippers taking advantage of them! Because God forbid women having ANY control while they're trying to make a living. How can you be exploited by consenting to walk into the club in the first place?

Libby Lynn
Libby Lynn

@the(1) - huge difference between 'exploit' and 'fulfill a consumer-based demand,' especially when consumers - of any industry or ilk - attend a venue or event by choice. 

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