Yesterday, Juicy J announced the winner of the $50,000 twerking scholarship that he began advertising in October in a partnership with World Star Hip Hop.
The winner, 19 year old biology major Zaire Holmes distinguished herself from many other applicants by deciding not to twerk.
It turns out twerking was not required.
Congratulations are in order for Ms. Holmes. She is not only a student, but also a full time single mom, with a clear cut set of goals for becoming a doctor and achieving her dreams. That’s awesome and I am peacock proud of the sister for doing the damn thing!
But I’m absolutely incensed at Juicy J for even daring to invoke respectability politics when announcing his choice of winner.
In the opening scene of the video, Juicy J says, “Fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money and I don’t want to waste it on just some girl twerking her ass. You don’t deserve it.”
Um what?! No sir. No fucking sir. You invited women to twerk, all while drumming up free publicity for your otherwise unremarkable song “Scholarship,” which is about a woman who pays her way through school by dancing.
Zaire says at the end of the video, “a lot of people thought you had to twerk but you just had to read the rules.” And Juicy J chimes right in, “See that’s what you get for shaking your ass and thinking you were gone get some money. It’s not always about shaking your ass.”
Now look, I know this shit seems clever, but color me unimpressed. Zaire was clearly a deserving candidate, but that does not mean that the scores of women who showed off their twerking skills deserved to be shamed or to have Juicy J’s whack ass insinuate that they were stupid.
I mean look, perhaps it was wrong of us not to recognize the master mind behind “Bands A Make Her Dance,” was incapable of noble intentions toward sisters hustling trying to make it. Who knew that he would use this scholarship as a sick experiment to add credibility to his premise, (i.e. girls will dance for money.)?
But that is the thing we should be clear about. Juicy J wanted girls to twerk, framed it as a twerking competition, and then had the nerve to try to make a ratchet project respectable not by simply taking responsibility for his choice but rather by shaming the sisters who participated.
My good friend Dr. Treva Lindsey noted that in many ways his refusal to choose a woman who twerked and his choice to just reduce their videos down to a mindless shaking of ass constituted “blatant usurping of any of the power the women in videos exercised in creating their own narratives about financing their education. We all knew the scholarship was a problematic from its inception, but damn if some of these hip hop generation women didn’t enter into that problematic space and find a way to resist and explore. Now we shaming??? GTFOH.”
Yes, many of these women twerked, but they twerked on their own terms, they twerked while reading Dorothy Roberts, they twerked with friends, they twerked for enjoyment.
So while Juicy J might have capitulated to calls to make his process more “respectable” by not requiring a girl to shake her ass for money, he also undercut that by shaming the women who did exactly what he asked them to do.
He seems to have some sick, twisted Captain Save a Ho complex, wherein he wants to be a Sugar Daddy for some girl from the hood, a la E-40. But since he doesn’t fundamentally respect the girls who dance in the club for money, he deems them all unworthy of being saved through his $50 thousand dollar gift.
Like the Project Pat remix to E-40, Juicy J’s snub screams “don’t save her! She don’t wanna be saved.”
Sexism warps the mind and the dulls the thinking. Clearly.
Some part of me thinks that we feminists got what we deserved: our willingness to keep on trying to resist and subvert patriarchy often only ends up showing us how much we don’t control the terms of the conversation. And maybe our goal should not just be resistance any longer, but fullscale revolt, because in this instance, Black women got played. But we’re still figuring out what revolution looks like, and unfortunately we still believe these sexist assholes are redeemable and mean us some good.
Sexism doesn’t work that way though. Or rather it works exactly this way. He gives out a few crumbs to Zaire, and transforms her life. She is exceptional and he gets to be the Patron Saint of Hustlin Hood Chicks. All the while, his contempt for women in general and sex workers in particular remains in check and thinly veiled.
Oh and I’m not here for anybody talking about “they shoulda read the fine print.” Juicy J knew what he was doing, and if your goal is to give a scholarship, then don’t act like you are asking trick questions in a Mensa contest. You’re not that dude, J. Stay in your lane.
In the end, Juicy J switched things up, invoked respectability, invited a kind of derisiveness towards twerkers, and thought he would come out looking like a stand up guy.
Not so I say.
This is deeply fucked up and we should not fall for it.
Women who twerk for money are not stupid. Rather than blaming twerkers, I think our eyes should be squarely on Juicy J. He came up with this brainchild, got to watch countless women shake their ass for free mind you, and then did what dudes do best: blame women for being stupid enough to disrespect themselves.
But let’s remember he had money and power and he used it target women without money and power. Getting mad at them for making the “wrong choice” to participate absolves Juicy J of using male privilege and money and to set up a rigged game.
So don’t fall for the okey doke. Juicy J is a sexist. We already knew that. And he participated in the worst of kind of exploitation by getting working class sisters who really needed the help to participate in his contest.
I’m glad Zaire has the funds she needs to become a doctor, but Juicy J gets NO RESPECT. He might win some, but he just lost one.