Missy Elliot, Work It.
I’ve been writing a critique of Catherine Hakim’s work on erotic capital. I’ll be putting it up soon. This vid by Missy Elliot was playing in the background at one stage to inspire me. Unlike Hakim’s research, I see that Missy Elliot’s representation of femininity contributes towards the empowerment of non-white heterosexual women.*
Writing about Elliot’s video for Sock It to Me, Sociologist Rana Emerson argues that Elliot combines agency, voice, partnership, and ‘Black context’ to construct ‘Black woman–centred video narratives’:
these narratives, the interests, desires, and goals of women are predominant and gain importance in contrast to those in which they are exploited and subsumed. Black women are quite firmly the subjects of these narratives and are able to clearly and unequivocally express their points of view.
I think Emerson’s comments could also apply to Missy Elliot’s entire body of work, including Work It. Writing about Beep Me 911, which is set in ‘what seems to be a pornographic peep show’, Emerson argues:
the juxtaposition and combination of sexuality, assertiveness, and independence in these videos can also be read as the reappropriation of the Black woman’s body in response to its sexual regulation and exploitation. What emerges is an effort on the part of the Black female artist to assert her own sexuality, to gain her own sexual pleasure.
This is such a nice bit of sociology. Unlike Hakim’s book. Sigh…
*I cover LGBT people in my critique of Hakim.