Black women’s bodies, ourselves (and a twerkin’ for mothers’ video): An interview with strugglingtobeheard.
Hi strugglingtobeheard! I’m leonine antiheroine—thanks for agreeing to talk about your wonderful Twerk for Mother’s Day video.
As I understand it, you made the video in order to honour and acknowledge mothers—including your own, whom raised you and your siblings alone after your dad sadly passed when you were 10. You also paid special tribute to undervalued and marginalised mothers, such as trans and cis mothers of colour, all trans mothers and queer mothers. There was also the strong feel good factor.
The Twerk for Mother’s Day video originally appeared on your personal blog Struggling To Be Heard, on Mother’s Day, Sunday the 13th of March 2012, and received a lot of support and praise. However a stranger then uploaded your video on to the website, World Star Hip Hop (WSHH) under the heading “Who’s Mother Is This? Chick Twerking For Mother’s Day.. In Honor Of Her Momma! “For Justice, Liberation & Solidarity”. On this site, this is where the reactions became hostile and misogynistic—basically a lot of shade was thrown with a smattering of compliments and support. Amazingly, the video has been retweeted nearly 500 times and attracted nearly 300 000 hits. OK, so let’s hear more from you and some of your story and perhaps clear up some misconceptions.
- So for our less knowledgeable readers out there, what is twerking?
Twerking is the art of shaking your ass. I think the exact kinds of twerk vary depending on where people may be from, but it can include booty clappin, booty poppin, using your muscles to isolate your cheeks. It is really the art of celebrating your ass and what you can do with it.
- Where did you learn to twerk?
I learned various forms of twerking when I was young. Some moves I learned from my Latina friends, such as the baby cry or others I learned from my Black family or friends like the tootsie roll. From there, I really just loved to dance and wanted to become a choreographer when I was young. After my friend started dancing at a club and I saw what it was about, I thought myself by watching other girls and adding my own moves.
- What attracts you to twerking? It’s really hypnotic… plus there’s something wonderful about Black women just dancing with our butts regardless of the Black women and butts stereotypes.
For me, it’s a great release of energy. You know that feeling when you hear a great song and you are like, “oh shit, that’s my song” and you just have to dance? Twerk is the release of that feeling, the release of stress, of negative energy, to make you feel good. To me it’s about celebrating my body and my mood and when I feel like twerking, I can with ease and I love that.
- Out of all the dance moves from your two videos, which is your favourite?
I love being able to do the splits and pop it while in the splits. That or the actual booty clapping twerk, which is something I love to do even when I’m just cooking or something.
- Do you think that SKILLS when one twerks is unrecognised or recognised plenty?
I think the skills are recognized by some, but not enough. A lot of people just call it dirty dancing or ratchet or a ghetto mess. They don’t realize the kind of muscle control twerking requires, the kind of rhythm and ear for music one must have, and it also takes endurance. Twerking is a physical activity, it requires some muscle movement and control and so you are moving and working. It seems a lot of people have a hard time seeing it as something that takes effort and is a physical workout.
World Star Hip Hop
- Were you asked if your video could be uploaded on to World Star Hip Hop?
No, I was not asked. I was not asked by anyone and no one ever received my permission to submit the video to that website. Someone on my YouTube channel informed me they submitted it for me, as if they did me a service.
- How do you feel about the context of how your video featured on World Star Hip Hop?
I do not like it. World Star Hip Hop is a terrible website. They do not respect Black women at all. The title dissed my butt and acted as if twerking for liberation was impossible. It seems they were too simple to even understand the general message I left in the beginning. Now, if someone had messaged me and said that my video was featured on a website and talked about the ways we don’t want to see mothers as sexually autonomous beings or how the art of dance really can be liberating or fulfilling, especially for women of color, I wouldn’t mind. But the website wanted to degrade me and judging by their messages to my complaints of their misuse of my video, they also hoped the degradation I received by their site goers would compel me to take my video down. It was an attempt to shame someone they have read as a Black woman for not falling into the “respectable” mold of womanhood. I do not appreciate that.
- For those that didn’t get it the first time, why did you make the video?
I made the video as a tribute to many of my blog viewers. It was Mother’s Day and I figured, why not make a gift for the mothers who follow my blog. I don’t have much money but I do have a talent and this is something I can share with people I have respect for. I had made one video before and received nothing but positive feedback and encouragement. With all the positivity behind the first video, I figured I wanted to reciprocate that.
As I said in my video, mothers do not get the respect they deserve. Most of the work mothers do goes unpaid and unsupported. Single and poor mothers are scapegoated as excuses for capitalist failures. Mothers of color are often criminalized for existed and placed under terrible stereotypes such as “welfare queen”. Trans mothers have to fight for their right to exist and be acknowledged in the first place. There are so many ways the world and the United States where I live, fails mothers. So I said hey, I know a lot of mothers who might appreciate this. I know a lot of mothers who are also in the strip clubs who enjoy having someone dance for THEM for a change. Mothers don’t always want to be the ones servicing others. Why not have someone dance and work for them? That was most of my motivation behind the video.
yo, go read strugglingtobeheard’s own words about claiming our bodies and about twerking for liberation. what a fucking boss.
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