I have a confession to make: I truly love trashy television and radio.
I’m not above any of it. Not 16 and Pregnant, not Justin Bieber, not Real Housewives. I love it all. As I was singing along to the latest Katy Perry album the other day I couldn’t help but get hung up on the lyrics. Sandwiched somewhere between “Teenage Dream” and “California Gurls” is a song called “Peacock.” In the song, Perry croons about her desire to see her man’s “peacock, cock, cock.” She melodically begs and threatens in order to find out “whatchu hidin’ underneath.” By minute 3:10 of the catchy pop song, I found myself chanting along, “Are you brave enough to let me see you peacock? / Don’t be chicken boy, stop acting like a biatch. / I’ma peace out if you don’t give me the pay off.”
Much like my reaction to Amber hitting Gary on MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, I found myself wondering… how would I feel if the genders were reversed? No doubt, Gary hitting his fiancé would have sparked a letter to MTV. Similarly, I’d be less inclined to buy music by a male artist who was threatening to walk away from the woman in his life unless she put out. And yet, I find myself humming the peacock song as I prep for my pre-trial practicum.
I have no idea if Katy Perry sees herself as a feminist; but surely there is no shortage of people who would argue that women who embrace sexuality, and even vulgarity, the way men do are taking steps forward for feminism.
I don’t know if I want to say that behaving like men moves us forward. Breaking into professions that have been historically held captive by men moves us forward, but adopting their vulgarity seems different. Telling a man “Don’t be chicken boy, stop acting like a biatch. / I’ma peace out if you don’t give me the pay off,” does nothing for the feminization of power, it demands that women accept the version of power that has been shaped by men. In fact, songs like this, as elements of mainstream pop culture, normalizes this acceptance. In the words of Gloria Steinem, “we’ve begun to raise our daughters more like sons…but few have the courage to raise our sons more like daughters.” I think our daughters can do better than beg to see his (pea)cock.
Amanda Gonzalez is third year law student, community organizer and freelance diversity educator. She writes on issues of diversity, race, gender and sexuality for her blog Reconstructing Law School.