Jennifer Lopez dropped the music video for her new single “Ain’t Your Mama” on Friday morning, and the five-minute clip is impressively entertaining. However, the internet’s response hasn’t been sunshine and puppies.
While major publications and mainstream blogs are praising Jenny from the block with words like “inspiring,” “impactful,” and “feminist,” independent bloggers agree that there’s something not quite right here. Instead of typing fluffy praises, they are raising awareness to multiple problems with the “Ain’t Your Mama” video. The most important being that the video fails to address gender inequality in a way that represents the very real problems women have faced for decades.
Though I do enjoy the music video and have rematched it a few times now, I have to agree with the independent bloggers. I completely understand why such a great video backfired, and I think you’ll understand, too.
1. Jennifer Lopez inspires a feminist revolution without ever personally addressing the reasons a revolution is necessary.
The video opens with Lopez outside in the pouring rain, talking to a difficult spouse on a payphone. She hangs up the phone and goes to work. Surprise, she’s a news anchor! Before her segment begins filming, we hear historically significant quotes from feminist leaders Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, and Patricia Arquette. This is the first and last time we hear words like “women’s rights,” “wage equality,” and “reform.” The 46-year-old begins her newscast but goes off script, telling women it’s time to get angry. Rather than give valid reasons why women as a gender should rise up, she complains that women are “overlooked and under-appreciated.” The video, though entertaining, starts to fall apart.
2. Every character is a simplistic, marketable cliché.
Throughout the video, we see Lopez beautifully costumed in outfits and wigs distinct to each decade, from the 1950’s to today. In the 50’s, she is a disgruntled housewife whose husband doesn’t value her hard work. In the 60’s, she’s a corporate secretary whose boss makes sexual advances towards her. In the 70’s, she’s in one of the first waves of working-class women and is seen packaging glass bottles in a factory. This character sends a load of glasses crashing to the ground for no good reason. Lopez’s 80’s character is a business woman who wrecks the office when male coworkers leave her out of a meeting. The final character, modern-day Jennifer Lopez, doesn’t have to work at all because she’s busy leading a group of beautiful, dancing women in screaming “I ain’t your mama!”
3. There’s a thin line between feminism and women acting out dramatically.
The worst observation I made while watching “Ain’t Your Mama” was that that these women are acting out in a way that would set the feminist movement back, not forward. When Lopez is working in the factory, she breaks product because her boss, a man, is getting on her nerves. As a business woman in the 80’s, Lopez tosses office equipment and kicks paperwork off of a desk because she’s left out of a meeting. Without better reason for misbehaving, these characters are as feminist as they are reckless, ungrateful, and self-sabotaging; they wouldn’t be able to hold a job and are terrible role models for women who fight every day for the same respect and appreciation their male colleagues receive. Even 50’s Lopez dumping dinner on her husband’s head does more harm than good.
4. Obvious product placement screams “We made this for money.”
If you need any more reason than Lopez’s false ideas of feminism to believe the “Ain’t Your Mama” video is more about capitalizing on feminism than helping move it forward, look no further than product placement. Most of the product placements in this video are subtle, but — even if you miss the shots paid for by Lavazza, Beluga, and Lopez’s own clothing line — you can’t miss the blatant advertising of the Friendable app. The app looks like a less appealing version of Tinder but is meant for friends, not dating. Lopez uses it to reach out to her dance squad and all of the women in town who are tired of being someone’s “mama.”
5. The final nail in the video’s coffin: the song.
“Ain’t Your Mama” is a radio banger that co-writer Meghan Trainor should have kept for herself, but the song’s lyrics appeal to girlfriends and wives who are tired of picking up after unappreciative men. The video took a brave leap by beginning with a strong feminist angle, but the rest of the video follows the song’s lead and focuses on angry women rather than a real movement or cause. Ironically, the song already earned backlash weeks ago when details emerged that Dr. Luke had a hand in its production. The producer is currently in a heated legal battle with Kesha over allegations that he drugged and raped her shortly after she signed to his record label. With artists like Lady Gaga, Adele, Kelly Clarkson, and Iggy Azalea publicly supporting Kesha’s claims, Dr. Luke is the last producer who should be tied to a “feminist track” right now.
There are plenty of reasons to like the video, and some moments may hold deeper meaning than you can pick up on during the first watch. For example, when 80’s Lopez is left out of a meeting, her coworker slams a glass door in her face. This may be a nod to the “glass ceiling effect,” the system of invisible barriers that prevent women and minorities from earning promotion in a company. While interesting, there’s only a slim chance that Lopez had the idea to include these connections.
As much as it would like to be, “Ain’t Your Mama” isn’t a heartfelt, well-developed response to inequality or the mistreatment of women. Videos like this one are designed to safely profit from current events that truly influential artists — like Beyoncé — aren’t afraid to tackle.
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