Katy Perry's Mummified Dancers Are Not Racist

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[Ed note: Voice Clubs Editor Brittany Spanos offers a counterpoint to this essay. ]

The chic thing to do on the internet this week is to moan about Katy Perry's Prism tour backup dancers. According to all the Wendy Whiners out there, because the faceless dancers are endowed with large bottoms and breasts, plumped up lips, fake nails, and hoop earrings, they must be caricatures of black women. Ahem. I find it somewhat reductive to simplify race to these stereotypes, and maybe as a white woman I have no place deciding what does and does not constitute "black." But that's what the internet is sometimes (and exceedingly so in this case): white chicks having opinions. And kittens, don't forget the kittens.

See also: "That Just Feels Dismissive of Real Pain": Why Katy Perry's Mummified Dancers Are Racist

Contrary to what big ticket commentators on things to do with women and race, like those at Jezebel, are saying, I don't think there's very much at all racist about Katy's dancers. Everyone needs to calm down and think for a minute, and attempt to divest of the need to make absolutely everything political, all the time. Racism, whether intentional or not, still occurs in pop music. Miley Cyrus accessories with black women. Selena Gomez co-opts saris and bindis for her performances. Lana Del Rey wears a Native American head dress. There was a time when Gwen Stefani rocked up to every party as an imperialist Queen, surrounded by her personal gaggle of Harajuku Girls. But all this doesn't mean that racism is ALWAYS occurring in pop music. Sometimes pop music and pop performance is stupid and fluffy, and there's absolutely nothing to be read into it at all.

In the curious case of Katy's mummified dancers, the women in question aren't even attributed a color, but instead appear wrapped in bandages. They have other defining characteristics — including the aforementioned enlarged breasts, lips and bottoms, wigs, nails and earrings — which critics are associating with color, which to me says more about the latent racism of critics than anything else. To look at large bottoms, hoop earrings and long fingernails and immediately announce "black" is a huge disservice to black culture, and perhaps just another way that we reduce and compartmentalize everything that isn't inherently white into arbitrary and easy to digest symbolism. Heaven forbid there might be more to race than a smattering of superficial aesthetic signifiers.

Speaking of which, the most famous large ass in the world is stuck to the behind of an Armenian woman (Kim Kardashian), who is most definitely not a black lady. Iggy Azalea, while a great rapper, is mostly known for her big butt, which is swathed in lily white skin. Hell, I come from a long line of Greek women and I've never seen anything less than a bouncing booty on one of them. Yes, some black women have large behinds, but some don't. Some white women have big butts and some don't. It's reductive that we're now branding other women's bodies not just by the old fashioned fat/thin binary, but also by a white/black one, especially considering that most critics in this dialogue are also quick to argue for feminine bodily autonomy, free of stereotyping.

As for the nails, lips and hoop earrings — give me a break. Accusing these of being exclusive to black culture makes me feel that Miley Cyrus' twerking with her posse of black women has been more damaging to the common consciousness than we even initially conceived — it seems almost as though she's managed to reconstruct and popularise an image of blackness that we're now imprinted with an unrelenting bias towards.


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11 comments
phoenixvisa
phoenixvisa

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geltlrafael
geltlrafael

Katy's performances are beautiful, great fun and a lot of artistic inspiration for me as a singer, guitar player and generally somebody who wants to enjoy his life. I adore that lady, and she deserves every success. Pseudo intellectuals just need to get their head out of that place where the sun don't shine. I ain't gonna say no more.

f3rnando.se
f3rnando.se

when i read the tittle i really thought they meant (without watching the pictures before) racism againg egiptians OMG #DEAD

Marla Baker
Marla Baker

You should have stopped here: "maybe as a white woman I have no place deciding what does and does not constitute 'black.'" That would have been best. You apparently have little to no knowledge of where the stereotype of the black woman as a caricature with large lips, breasts, and buttocks originated. Yet you feel comfortable asserting your opinion based on your experience, sans historical context. You are not knowledgeable enough on the subject to decide what is racist, or racially offensive to an entire group of people whose history you admit to having little familiarity with. Your assertion is neither based on a personal relationship with the accused nor an understanding of racist dynamics. Your words are unqualifiable drivel. Next time you have an opinion tweet it.

Candice Rivera-Cahoon
Candice Rivera-Cahoon

How is it racist? Do people really believe that only black or Puerto Rican women have prominent rear ends?

Yvonne Bridges
Yvonne Bridges

She just saw how much attention Miley got from doing this EXACT SAME THING and wants some. Typical. These singers all vie to outdo each other now with over the top imagery and ridiculousness. Minaj, Gaga, Kesha, Miley, Beyonce', Katy. Music and talent are secondary - it's about how much press you get for the outrageousness/impropriety/scandal of your show/video/dress/etc.

Melanie Stevens
Melanie Stevens

So much wrong here. But Perry has been a habitual line stepper in terms of cultural appropriation and mockery. Of various cultures. Along with many of her contemporaries. So...I guess what I am saying is *yawn*.

DL Lopez
DL Lopez

Are those The Kardashians????

Mike Vela
Mike Vela

all the props in the world cant hide her voice.. gross.. same goes for all the makeup in the world...

Dutty D Comedian
Dutty D Comedian

This is what you do when you have no talent. Blow then away with special effects.

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