justin bieber’s “sorry” video is feminist as fck

[EDIT: if you use (or like!) this piece please link back to my original post- thank you!]

(for some context: i am not a justin bieber fan but i am a feminism fan)

my first reaction when i watched justin bieber’s new music video for his single “sorry” was those dancers are badass// that was some powerful dancing. the video ended and i was not thinking about justin bieber or even his song, really. the first thing i did was find the dance crew’s youtube channel. i was thinking about the women.

societally, we still hesitate to label anything “feminist;” people shy away from the word, making it hard for me to believe that a feminist video was, in any way, jb’s intention. but the more i thought about it and envisioned little girls watching this video- i couldn’t help but viewing the video as a feminist piece, which isn’t something to shy away from. in fact, with something as wide-reaching as a bieber music video, it is something to celebrate.

“sorry” is feminist because………

  1. bieber isn’t in the video! as i said, i forgot about him during and after the video. his absence gives the audience much more room to appreciate the dancing, the dancers and the other strengths of the video. and not only does jb make no appearance in the video- the dancers mouth the lyrics throughout the video- i sense some taking back of the narrative ;).
  2. and because bieber isn’t in the video… there is no male gaze. this translates to substantially less sexualization of the dancers. the women are using their bodies for their skill (dancing) and that is a powerful, difficult, refined skill that does not require a man or sexualization to be legitimate or enjoyable. those body rolls are impressive as hell and i appreciate them because that is serious skill and that is quite clear without a man there to “appreciate” the female body and its capabilities. women are free to use their bodies as they please and don’t need a man’s presence or permission to do so.
  3. again, they are skilled: the women in this video are a part of a preexisting dance troupe called the ladies of request. the women were selected, as an entity, because they are amazing at dancing. the women were not selected as individuals for how their physical attributes, but instead for being part of an existing, proven, skilled, professional group.
  4. the dancers unapologetically use their bodies for their craft. the video and the dancers do not shy away from using their female bodies (specifically chests, butt, stomachs) as a part of the dance. women do not have to look and dance like men for this video to be powerful/empowering, they own the feminine and the female body. this debunks the notion that to be feminist a women can’t be “feminine” or sexy, etc. these women utilize their bodies and are showcasing what the female body is capable of.
  5. this is a simple one: they showed the dancers’ heads/faces. in too many music videos the women are literally just dancing boobs and butts. seeing the whole person does, in fact, suggest we view women as whole people and more than their body parts.
  6. the dancers don’t all look the same*. i loved that each women was in a relatively unique outfit. often times in music videos the dancers are dressed the same and look the same- leaving little room for the audience to appreciate her as anything more than an interchangeable prop in the video. even if the women didn’t style themselves for the video, the different outfits give the illusion of different personalities and self-expression. additionally, the outfits had different levels of coverage of the dancers’ bodies (some exposed stomachs, some shorts, and some not….) and this, for me, highlighted the notion that women can wear whatever they want and that that is self expression all the same, not an invitation for sexualization.
  7. re the lyrics: a presumable ex-lover/boyfriend is trying to apologize and/or win someone back and the dancers appear to dgaf. they dance hard as hell, continue to dance as hard as hell as he apologies, all with no man in sight. throughout the video they are having fun with one another. there is no story line about the man/boyfriend/ex which again keeps the focus away from the women’s value being rooted in that value which a man does or does not place on her/her body.

don’t get me wrong, the video isn’t a perfect visual representation of feminism. i was so disappointed at the end when they bring out the “i love jb” sign, the only real attention placed on him throughout the whole video. why couldn’t it just end with the dancers continuing to ignore his existence? but i digress, just because it isn’t perfect or doesn’t have some issues*, doesn’t mean that the video is not a feminist piece. there isn’t a definitive line for feminist vs. not. feminism doesn’t have to be a hard yes or a hard no. this is a brilliant video showing skilled, happy, healthy, strong women doing what they are clearly good at and i appreciate that deeply. i don’t even like jb and would let my (future) kid watch this video.

*with that said, i would have loved to see a wider range of races, ethnicities, and body types represented.