Overthinking “BO$$”

Fifth Harmony’s star could not be bigger right now. The teen pop group, formed on the 2012 season of The X Factor, has had a string of recent successes that have catapulted them into school-stationery-level pop stardom. During just a few short months, Fifth Harmony has embarked on three US tours, opening for Austin Mahone and Demi Lovato and selling out their own headlining tour.

In fact, Fifth Harmony is the biggest girl group in America right now, but if you’re over the age of 18, you probably haven’t heard of them. They won the coveted Artist to Watch award at the MTV Video Music Awards over the predicted winner, the punk-rock group with boyband appeal 5 Seconds of Summer. In an awards category notable for its appeal to tween & teen girls (past winners include One Direction and Justin Bieber), Fifth Harmony is the first female winner since Lady Gaga in 2009 (pre-meat-dress).

With the recent media attention, it’s only natural that Fifth Harmony would want to capitalize on their win. Their newest single “BO$$” is a catchy, overproduced, danceable banger … with lyrics like “working for the money ’cause that’s what my mama taught me / So your ass better show me some respect” and “boy, I think you know who run this house.”

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The lyrics call for economic achievement, praising self-confidence and loyalty. The girls “ain’t thirstin’ for no bae” — they’re too busy making “Oprah dollars.” And childish as the lyrics are, they’re a great introduction to the feminist message of the importance of financial stability without dragging bell hooks or Judith Butler into the mix.

If you don’t think that economic independence for women is relevant anymore, then you haven’t been paying attention. In 2012, female full-time workers made 77 cents compared to a similarly employed man’s dollar. But that (already depressing) number dwarfs the amount women of color make. Compared to white men (who make up 90% of Fortune 500 CEOs, the real BO$$es of America), Hispanic earn 59.8 cents to the dollar and black women earn 69.6 cents. All of the members of Fifth Harmony are women of color; name-dropping Michelle Obama and Oprah as ladies making paper shows little girls that their role models don’t have to be limited to pop divas.

And speaking of divas, 5H absolutely dominate every scene of the music video, from defeating a bunch of rowdy young men in an arm wrestling competition to marching in formation for an American flag.

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In crop tops, tight skirts, and fitted pants, their muscles are on display, and they dance with power instead of modesty. Because the internet will be the internet, the “BO$$” video on YouTube was deluged in comments telling the girls to cover up, that they were sluts, rabble rabble rabble. Member Lauren Jauregui responded to critical commenters asking whether their parents approved, saying “they thought that we looked great and were very supportive of us feeling confident. I think that was the main thing about the video, to show confidence. What we were wearing wasn’t the main focus at all. We didn’t even think about it to be honest, it became a whole thing after. It was more about getting across the message of the song, which was to be empowered and be comfortable with yourself.”

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And the girls are empowered, from turning their cameras back at the paparazzi (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t scream “male gaze!” when I saw it) to posing as Rosie the Riveter for their instagram page — a page with almost 700k followers, most of whom are young girls. I’m not calling Fifth Harmony the musical version of Audre Lorde. I’m just saying they’re Maybachs, and misogyny’s a Volvo.

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Originally published at claremulligan.tumblr.com.

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