Oh, Rita Ora. The British pop star just released her new single Girls, featuring Cardi B, Bebe Rexha and Charli XCX. But not everybody is thrilled about the bi-curious ballad – especially the community the song invalidates.
Watch Girls below:
The LGBTQI+ community did not take well to Rita’s party anthem, particularly the lyrical content that suggests being bisexual or lesbian has something to do with intoxication.
Although Rita said ‘for those who aren’t afraid to rule the world, this is our anthem. A celebration of love,’ lyrics like ‘I’m 50-50 and I’m never going to hide it… Sometimes, I just wanna kiss girls/Red wine, I just want to kiss girls, girls, girls’ sang a different tune.
When songs do more harm than good…
The song portrays an old trope that erases same-sex desire and replaces it with the idea that women only hook up when the red wine is flowing and inhibitions are loose.
Rita was first called out by openly lesbian artist Hayley Kiyoko, who wrote in a Twitter thread that Girls does ‘more harm than good for the LGBTQI+ community’. She continued, ‘A song like this just fuels the male gaze, while marginalising the idea of women loving women… I don’t need to drink wine to kiss girls; I’ve loved women my entire life.’
She continued to note that the song ‘belittles and invalidates the very pure feelings of an entire community’.
‘It’s harmful when LGBTQI women are fetishised’
Fellow queer artists like Kehlani and DJ Kitty agreed with Hayley. Kehlani wrote that she found the song problematic because of the ‘awkward slurs and quotes… I never assumed it was for men. LOL, just think certain quotes weren’t progressive.’
DJ Kitty said that ‘this song is literally about wanting to kiss girls when you’re drinking and smoking weed… It’s harmful when LGBTQI women are fetishised while relationships are never taken seriously.’
also can y’all stop telling me that rita ora and cardi b are bi when this is how they talk about bisexuality?? this is a classic example of straight women coming into our spaces and acting like my sexuality is an accessory and i am done with it!!! pic.twitter.com/4n5fOp0nLc
— jay 🏳️🌈 (@slytherinlarry_) May 13, 2018
The stereotype is not new but it’s still harmful because people take these representations of sexuality as a gimmick or party ice-breaker as fact. Bisexual women specifically struggle to validate their sexuality against misconceptions and myths perpetuated by the media. Songs like I Kissed A Girl by Katy Perry is just another example of how bisexuality is treated as a dirty little secret by straight women who have no romantic interest in women – something bisexual women actually experience.
‘I would never intentionally cause harm to other LGBTQI+ people or anyone’
Since the widespread criticism, fans and others in and outside of the LGBTQI+ community have defended Rita after her apology revealed she herself is bisexual. Even Cardi B, who raps on the song, came out to say she too has hooked up with other women – but being bisexual isn’t just about hooking up with someone of the same sex.
Listen to “GIRLS” by Rita Ora ft me @BebeRexha @charli_xcx .We never try to cause harm or had bad intentions with the song .I personally myself had experiences with other woman ,shiieeett with a lot of woman ! I though the song was a good song and i remember my experience .
— iamcardib (@iamcardib) May 15, 2018
It’s never okay to out anybody or force them to explain or justify their sexuality. Rita released the apology, as she should because she hurt a lot of people, but revealing her sexuality was also her own choice so it’s not exactly fair to suggest that attempting to hold her accountable caused her own outing.
She posted on Twitter, ‘I would never intentionally cause harm to other LGBTQI+ people or anyone…[The song] was written to represent my truth and is an accurate account of a very real and honest experience in my life. I have had romantic relationships with women and men throughout my life and this is my personal journey.’
Rita Ora has issued an apology after being criticized for lyrics in her latest song "Girls".
"Looking forward, I hope that continuing to express myself through my art will empower my fans to feel as proud of themselves as I'm learning to feel about who I am." pic.twitter.com/R5Dc7nnIho
— The Pop Hub 👄 (@ThePopHub) May 14, 2018
It’s also not okay to use your sexuality (even if you have a similar shared experience with many other people) to further marginalise others. Just because Rita is bisexual does not give her the right to treat representation irresponsibly for streams and re-tweets. If Girls is a queer anthem, where are the queer artists?
Art, music, lyrics and words do not exist in a vacuum where what you say and do has no consequences or context. We’re living in a cultural climate where we’re starting to think a bit deeper and becoming a little bit more conscious of how we contribute to the oppression of others, even if it’s in subtle ways you can’t see. That means when we make art, as important as it is to express ourselves, it’s probably a good idea to make sure you’re not tangibly offending anyone’s identity.
That being said, no one experience is privileged over others, and some people did come into their sexuality in the I Kissed A Girl way and that’s completely fine. It’s a time where social responsibility is trending and the world can only be a better place if we all have some compassion.
Rita made a mistake and it’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s high-time we stop hiding behind flaws in judgement and start trying to make a positive difference.
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