Earth to Erykah

Tirhakah Love (@GoonTherapy)


If you thought Erykah Badu would be the hypest high school principal of all time, take a deep breath before continuing. After reading about a New Zealand high school that recently mandated female students to wear skirts at the knee, Badu tweeted: “There was an article ruling that high school girls lower their skirts so male teachers are not distracted. I agreed because I am aware we live in a sex–driven society.” She continued, rather problematically to explain the rule as a means of protection for young ladies who are at baby-making age.

Neo-Soul royalty doesn’t preclude you from being a herb.  Badu doesn’t tweet things for the sake of controversy but she does often promote heated conversation. When Rachel Dolezal was a legitimate news story, Badu praised the idea that the issue was actually being discussed, no matter how annoying or distracting it was. Twitter didn’t take too kindly to her position, blowing up her mentions with accusations of reifying the rape culture by placing the onus of protection on schoolgirls.

But Erykah pivoted.

She cites biology as the causal factor in pedophilia–noting that males, no matter the age or profession, are attracted to girls regardless of what they have on. And I get it, humans are still a part of the animal kingdom so nature plays an integral role in literally every human social interaction. But its hard to argue that notion when we’re talking about teachers. Professionals. And professionalism should be enough of a barrier against, say, I don’t know, looking up a 14-year old girl’s skirt.  Aside from that, Badu also took the position that’s essentially heteronormative. There are numerous instances in which female teachers boo’d up female students, male teachers preyed on male students. Who’s going to protect those students when the rule is geared towards young girls staving off the eyes of men old enough to be their fathers?

While I don’t really think these views are controversial–they represent a long, played out, history of respectability–Badu does split hairs in terms of why it might be a necessary rule: To counteract biology. Things get dicey from there. Erykah is claiming that biology leaves young girls at risk to sexual assault by their male teachers, but moral laws are written to protect them. What happened to the morality a teacher is supposed to exhibit in front of their classrooms? Why demand less restraint on male teachers who are supposed to be able to handle their “biological urges” with class and dignity? And why is respectability only meant to be directed at young girls who shouldn’t have to worry about the sexual proclivities of an educator?

I once called Erykah Badu the queen of all things cool and I do stand by that. But she’s sounding more like a square with these statements. When we can put her words side-by-side with General Tom Lawson, the highest ranking military officer in Canada who, just last year, said that the underlying reason for rampant sexual assault in the military may be the fact that men are “biologically wired in a certain way,” it’s not a good look. He said that, not to protect the lives of women, but to remind us that the imbalanced male-female power dynamic is institutional and based on faulty logic. Badu’s words aren’t controversial, they’re damaging to her credibility as well as the women she claims to love. Respectability politics are about reassigning accountability, most often, to trivialize the social dynamics that riddle our world. To assume that a skirt is going to stop a predatory man in a power position from taking what he wants from women is foolish and shortsighted.

I don’t think this issue is one that will force me to stop listening to Erykah’s music–realizing that the rule in place doesn’t affect me in the ways that it could affect my unborn children–but it does make me question how much access I have to my fave’s personal beliefs. Maybe Badu’s right, maybe these ideas are so advanced that my little animal brain can’t comprehend it. Maybe she’s speaking into the future. But if that’s the future she’s looking towards, she can leave my black ass out of it.


One comment

  1. Erykah Badu is the very same woman who called the predatory R. Kelly her “brother” and claimed that he did more for black people than anyone else. So, these remarks assigning responsibility to young girls to stave off predatory adult males by dressing “respectably” shouldn’t come as a surprise. What she completely fails to take into account is that adults who prey on children look for qualities of vulnerability and being easily controlled. They actively seek out underage kids and deliberately place themselves in positions where they can gain easy access to them. It matters less how kids, especially girls, dress than it does that a young kid may have low self-esteem, be unprotected, and seem like a kid no one cares about or cares enough about. They also groom their prey in order to make them more “accommodating.” She also seems to have missed the point that underage kids cannot legally consent to sex with adults, no matter how willing they might be. Her comments, no matter how well-meaning, are based on a lot of discredited ideas, one of which is the one where how someone dresses deters or fails to deter rapists. Does she not realize that even women who wear ugly burquas get raped? She also is looking at pedophilia as just sexual attraction, when it’s about a heavy imbalance of power and control, all in the adult predator’s “favor.” But she is only one example of so-called “conscious” black folks who don’t get it that predators in our midst don’t deserve any loyalty because of the harm they do, a lot of it irreparable.

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