My Love Is The One

An analysis of Banks’ “Fuck With Myself” music video

Patriarchy is unequivocally impossible to escape, as there are zero societies in which men are not in power in one way or another, even if the female population of a society seemingly has the upper hand. Pressures that women live under are never-ending: we must be one thing, but we must not take that too far. We must obey, but we cannot be entirely submissive, and even this middle ground in which we must live is as blurry as thick, rolling fog. Banks’ “Fuck With Myself” is a visual representation of internal and external struggles female identifying populations experience day-to-day within patriarchal cultures, and layered with her lyrics, is simultaneously a proclamation of self-love that is emotionally striking and achingly empowering.

Both institutionally and socially, the male gender has privileges that allow for levels of power that women are simply not granted access to, even when achieved. Within this hegemonic power structure, women are considered an “other” in comparison to men, unfortunately and ultimately pushing women to become cripplingly critical of themselves in attempt to gain identical privilege, which is simply impossible. This power dynamic is upheld by the male gaze and establishes a relationship of authority between men and women (or anyone who does not place themselves categorically as “male”).

In this still from “Fuck With Myself”, Banks does not allow opportunity for othering or male gaze, there is no negative light the spectator can create. Her lack of attention towards onlookers could be construed as creating a voyeuristic viewing experience, but the certainty of her body language suggests that she does not care whether anyone is watching. Although we are gazing upon her, Banks’ facial expression does not back down. Her eyes lay directly on the lighter where the fire has begun. She is in full control, being wholly intentional and purposeful; as the fire crawls up her frame, searing skin and flesh rippling, the lipstick she formerly smeared, the same color as she wears herself, begins to curdle. Banks’ expression is unquestioning, she is sure of herself with a slight air of cockiness, not commonly found in narratives surrounding women in accepted forms of popular culture. She is not a victim of our gaze, but rather the conductor of our gaze; Banks wields the power.

Accompanying this still, her lyrics include the proclamation that “[she fucks] with [herself] more than anybody else, it’s all love […] cause [her] love is so good” (Banks, “Fuck With Myself”). In most of history, artworks of women have been formulated with the male gaze in mind, aiming to please men rather than fulfilling the woman. Banks’ “Fuck With Myself” attempts to flip that narrative, and she is enormously successful; the only person who matters is Banks, the mastermind of it all, the puppeteer. This piece is not about a man whatsoever; it may be in reference to men as it is a comment on the effects of patriarchy, but ultimately, the message perpetuates the idea of freeing oneself and supporting other women.

Banks setting fire to an exact replication of herself is immensely powerful, representing personal and internal struggle and symbolizes the self-demonization of women everywhere. Fire within this image is denotative of destruction, and the act of setting oneself ablaze can ultimately be seen as self-mutilation and hatred; “seeing what you do to yourself mentally in a visual form […] made me want to not treat myself like that. It made me wanna just nurture myself” (Banks, Youtube, BANKS on Intimacy, Depression, and Confronting Herself: Q&As w/ KTB). On an individual level, the usage of fire speaks to the insignificant events women gaslight ourselves for; discovering the patch of hair we miss with our razor, not smiling warmly enough at a male passerby, the list could roll on perpetually. On a larger, societal scale, the fire is emblematic of how women burn bridges by nit-picking one another, not by will, but because we are heavily socialized to see each other as competition. Watching Banks maim herself with her own hands and fire is arresting; for women and female identifying consumers, the imagery hits close to home, helping us analyze the way that we treat not only ourselves, but the women who surround us. The exceedingly alluring aesthetic, particularly the usage of color, tone, and composition aide the viewer in understanding Banks’ point even further.

Banks and her mannequin counterpart are the only points of light within the image other than the fire, as they are both immersed in a sea of black, creating remarkable contrast, directing the viewers attention; their skins seem to glow from within, emerging out of the dark background. Sharp edges created by both versions of Banks aide in pushing the contrast further, beyond color and into shape and form; there are virtually only smooth and fluid edges present in this image, forcing the viewer keep their eye on the still because of compelling geometrics. The cool tones in her swatches of skin generate the feeling of the cold-heartedness she has against herself, which amplifies the stark mood and self-criticism Banks is attempting to portray. Banks and the mannequin’s skin frame the image as well, creating an attractive triangular lineage, rejecting the rule of thirds, as the mannequin is front and center. Even solely deconstructing the image and comparing Banks herself, there is much to unpack. We have Banks, who is dressed slickly and sensually in a black, deep-cut top, with her dark hair cutting through the left side of her face and landing at her exposed collarbone; she is presented with a glistening but well manicured face of makeup, lipstick in tact. This is Banks in who she desires to be, her external self represents her internal dialogue; she is clean and free of intense internal conflict. Her appearance is positively not simply skin-deep, it is indicative of how she feels inside and is used as a stark contrast to what the mannequin represents, everything she strives against; the lipstick is smudged every which way, the edges where the mannequin’s body is cut off is in shambles, all metaphorical for the unhealthy and damaging way she has treated herself. The red color is present in solely three places: on Banks’ lips, the lighter, and smothered along the mannequins face. These strokes of intense hue only heighten the triangular pattern, creating pinpoints for the viewer’s eyes to land, continuing the geometric cycle once again. Choosing red over any other color reinforces the idea of destruction that was flaunted through the usage of fire, as red symbolizes violence and danger. Perhaps, the act of her badgering and setting herself on fire is an act of defiance, possibly even a protest against the idea that she should be filled with self-hatred and in constant critique of herself. Equally as feasible, her actions can be perceived as an act of further control; she is acting upon herself, and no one should feel entitled to make negative comments or commit acts against her other than her.

Patriarchy has existed ever since stratification systems were constructed to formulate power dynamics allowing some groups to gain access and status over others. Effects of the power structure that patriarchy creates are magnified through mass media we consume today; we are constantly fed images that shape and warp our sense of selves, and typically women are exceptionally effected. This video is a form of protest. “Fuck With Myself” is a declaration of independence, of Banks setting herself free and setting fire to patriarchy, attempting to push that narrative for women viewers. She is white passing which puts her in a place of privilege over women of color, but the video for “Fuck With Myself” is, at least in the slightest, representative of the scrutiny women everywhere experience. Banks’ attempt to visually capture this eternal struggle is entirely effective, forcing us to question our place within the world and how we interact with others, ourselves, and especially our fellow women.

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Banks’ “Fuck With Myself” video
Director Phillipa Price

originally submitted for Visual Culture course, professor Carolyn Martin