Annie Lennox says NO to twerking: “It’s not empowering.”

Annie Lennox is promoting her new album, Nostalgia, which is out this week. She’s given a number of interviews to promote her collection of covered Jazz standards, but she’s also discussed the current “entertainment” scene and given her thoughts on feminism.

In an interview with NPR, Lennox attempted to clarify her position towards Beyoncé as well. In another interview, when asked about Knowles, Annie had referred to her as a “feminist lite” and had criticised her for being overtly sexual in her music and performances. The subject of the interview then veered towards the twerking phenomenon, which Lennox declared as “not empowering” and did not recognise it as a form of feminism.

The subject of sex in the music business and the entertainment business in general has often been discussed. Many performers have been criticised for using sex to sell their music, thus exploiting it to vehicle a negative message to their fanbases. Annie Lennox too said she has “issues with it if the audience is 7-year-old kids.” The position of female artists towards sexuality is, moreover, a hot topic.

When Beyoncé released her self-titled 5th album last December, it was clear that the main statement that came with the music and the visuals was that of sexual empowerment. Being able to showcase that she is still a sexy woman, despite having given birth to a baby, and that she still is able to have a healthy sexual relationship with her husband, was her inspiring message for all the women who have followed her as an artist throughout her career.

Her feminist message is perhaps expressed in an unconventional way, but feminists are not only scholars and theorists. Believing that women have the same rights as men is not supposed to be treated as an academic subject. It’s more of a pragmatic issue and Beyoncé has made sure to incorporate that message into her music, bringing it around the world with her performances, since the early stages of her career in Destiny’s Child.

A female artist who is strong and secure in her position is a feminist who can carry her ideas and project them onto her fans. Beyoncé is that kind of artist: strong, confident, hard working and someone who firmly believes in her abilities. When she incorporated a portion of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech on feminism into her song, “***Flawless,” and brought it on stage at this year’s MTV VMAs for the audience to see and hear, she demonstrated that she is someone who can convey a positive message for her female fanbase.

And then there is the twerking phenomenon which, while it isn’t new, has come to a whole new level of exposure recently. Twerking on stage has become the “it” thing to do. But as with many trends in Pop music, it is destined to be abandoned soon. It is really nothing more than any sexualised dance routine brought on stage by performers to entertain. Feminists will argue that it’s the exploitation of the female body for the pleasure and entertainment of men, but no one is forced to twerk to be cool. And one could even argue that women have gone from being mere dancers in Hip-Hop music videos, to using twerking as a means to deliberately attract publicity and boost their profile (Miley Cyrus’ “scandalous” performance at the 2013 MTV VMAs comes to mind).

This, however, is not the lesson Beyoncé is trying to teach and, to be honest, she isn’t even one to associate with heavy twerking. A more interesting reflection could be made on how twerking has become the mass exploitation of a culture by mainstream entertainment, to the point where it’s reached a level of saturation because of how negatively it has been received and how silly it has become. It has become such a big phenomenon that it’s even starting to lose its appeal and, quite frankly, there are far bigger issues for women around the world that feminists should concentrate on.

As Annie Lennox suggested, this is a good subject to debate on and it’s great that it can inspire debate. I just happen not to share her sentiments on it.

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