Bella Shmurda, one of the industry’s fast-rising musical acts, has been at the center of the internet’s latest talking point. Video stills from his single Rush, a collaboration with Dangbana Republik released back in January, made it to Twitter showing topless women in long latex skirts surrounding the singer, their nipples covered.
As always, the images caused quite a stir on the internet with many thinking these women were being objectified or sexualised as video vixens. To them, Shmurda had crossed a line with how they were depicted. On the other hand, others felt (men, largely) that this is what body positivity is about, women embracing and celebrating their bodies, and pointing out the hypocrisy of Nigerians when they watch international female artistes like Cardi B or Megan Thee Stallion going nude in their videos and see nothing wrong.
Nude women in music videos isn’t new, a value chain that finds intersections with sex work and labour for women in a way that is economically empowering for them. While the music industry is still slanted in sexism and misogyny which women with this skilled set have to navigate, the dominant imagery in music videos is often that of slim, abled-bodied, light-skinned women.
In today’s social media terrain, body positivity has become a buzzword thrown around, shifting from fat women which the term was originally meant for to normalise their own bodies in the face of multidimensional bias, to anyone who is skinny/slim and who can’t see how they are co-opting the label and taking more space. It’s become a trendy, cool term, hashtag #BodyPositivity slapped on Instagram selfies and whatnot.
Circling back to the stills of Shmurda’s Rush, the nude women are no different than what is routinely portrayed in videos – slender/slim/skinny. Men calling it body positive obviously don’t know what they are talking about.
When Bernard Dayo isn’t writing about pop culture, he’s watching horror movies and reading comics and trying to pretend his addiction to Netflix isn’t a serious condition.