YouTube Nation on #LikeaGirl & SmoothieFreak on Nicky Minaj Cups

In the last thirty years … there has been a remarkable change in the image and roles of children. Childhood as a protected and sheltered period of life has all but disappeared. Children today seems less “childlike.” Children speak more like adults, dress more like adults, and behave more like adults than they used to. In fact, the reverse is also true.

There are indications that many adults who have come of age within the last twenty years continue to speak, dress, and act much like overgrown children. Certainly, all children and adults do not and cannot behave exactly alike, but there are many more similarities in behavior than in the past. The traditional dividing lines are gone.

Joshua Meyrowitz (Author of No Sense of Place)   childhood | adulthood/adult development

YouTube Nation host Jacob Soboroff is a TEDster (TEDActive) and I’m proud to say he’s a former student of mine from NYU who took a jazz course with me that he told me changed his point of view about life.

Jacob is political and an improvisor in life. He and I reconnected about 18 months ago while he was running HuffPost Live. Now he’s featured as a host for YouTubeNation and I’ll be posting those videos here because it connects with my research on black girls who twerk on YouTube. Studying the YouTube community is essential to my work.

In the video above he talks about the viral phenomenon of my previous post about the Always #LikeaGirl Campaign by documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield that asked different demographic groups of girls and a few guys of varying ages to “run like a girl” and the cognitive bias of gender emerged very powerfully among them all.

Doin Nicky Minaj to the game-song Cups

The YouTube Nation review video also features black girl (ok woman) blogger Akilah Hughes better known as smoothiefreak on YouTube. Check out her video playing the cups game to the original twerk queen of pop rap Nicky Minaj’s lyricsBlack girls got game, baby! Also check out her YouTube channel and subscribe!


Learn how to make your own gifs on Jacob’s site this week.  Jacob also appears on TakePartLive and yesterday they had a great convo asking if America is becoming more racist than ever following a vote on Capital Hill regarding the Civil Rights Voting Act. The research I am studying with my summer anthro students suggest the answer is insidiously yes. More on that soon!



Girls at Play: Do We See Black Childhood Clearly?

 “Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.”
― Dr. Seuss

Where Have All the Children Gone?

As I watch YouTube videos of black girls who twerk, as I invite and request my students to study their performance as both play and to examine how others’ views of black girls’ childhood are distorted and distorting how those girls see themselves, I have been remembering my earlier work on black girls’ games. I don’t want to lose that black girls are children at play while also critiquing what it means to play with self (sexual)-objectification. This video doesn’t have that objectification piece in it from the girl or the boys. Check it out. Perhaps introducing this music and dance to adolescents would be interesting. Having them analyze its difference from US twerking in videos.

PS What I love about this video also is that they are playing freely in the mud after a rain in their yard.


 “Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
― C.S. Lewis

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning…They have to play with what they know to be true in order to find out more, and then they can use what they learn in new forms of play.”
~ Fred Rogers (from the PBS show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood)

Always…Like A Girl #likeagirl #bottomlines #twerkit

The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says: It’s a girl.
— Shirley Chisholm

“The greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”
― Steve Biko (ads for maxi pads) are selling a message that follows yesterday’s post on period parties.  This is the kind of work we need and I hope to do about twerking on YouTube. Revealing the ways we see and talk. Uncovering our internalized biases begins with a kind of inner warrior work we are not teaching ourselves or young people today. What Audre Lorde called the radical political work of “self care.” Glad some commercials are trying lead us to think and do this kind of work. #werkit

Last year in March, I saw a music video featuring Nicky Minaj soar to 1 million views overnight primarily because the song had a familiar Jamaican riddim (“Murder She Wrote”) and her breasts were fully exposed on YouTube. I refuse to repost it as I don’t want to add to its traffic.  It’s nice to see a video that is not about the sexualization of girls and things girls consume on YouTube (explicit raps by male pop idols) have better currency and reach on YouTube in just a few days.

This video was released on June 26, 2014, three days ago, and has over 6 million views. Goodness can pay off!

Perhaps we should recreate commercials like these in our home communities as a viral video meme?


Kyraocity Asks:

  1. Do you like that products advertise values you can get behind? If yes, why? If not, why not?

Throw Your Daughter a Period Party. #period #bottomlines

“If you are free, you are not predictable and you are not controllable.”  #thebloodandtheblessing ― June Jordan

#BlackGirlsMatter: Consuming Black Thots on YouTube

Showing women as consumable [as discussed in Think Progress in 2012] tells us things about how we perceive them and what we want from them, not about who they actually are.


TALKIN OUT OF SCHOOL: Coding YouTube Videos of Black Girls Who Twerk with my Anthro Students

Go to 0:53

My summer session students and I are coding 200 videos of young black girls who twerk on YouTube and man–, is it both interesting and complicated as a site of cultural analysis and ethnography.

I don’t have much time to chat.  Revising and resubmitting an article calls. So I am procrastinating right now. Yesterday, in class I discovered some new local knowledge about youth culture online in the form of new discourse — words used to exchange ideas. The discourse included

  1. dub” meaning grinding your ass on someone in a video or in person. I suspect it’s a diminuative version of “rub-a-dub” from early local Jamaican dancehall and street culture
  2. hmu KIK me” which means hit me up and contact me on the app KIK me which a biracial black man student in my class was for picking up girls.
  3. She’s a thot” which is an acronym for “those hoes over there”. The same male student above used it to suggest that he considered a young dark skinned hispanic girl in another video we were watching in class a ho or whore based on her carefree (or careless) public and highly erotic display of ass-shaking.
  4. soffe shorts” for girls worn as pajama shorts. A popular brand of shorts for cheerleading and dancing that reminds me of skimmies worn under your cheerleading outfit or tennis gear when I was a teen. Girls often twerk in them.
  5. faded” which means drunk. The twerking video above features a song by Tyga called “Faded”.

What I left our lively and engaging conversations about young black girls twerking with was a new insight I had NOT ever thought about before.

It’s Code

Took my name, my site, my song
Been trying to find myself all day long…

Oh baby, it’s code
I want you to hold me, and love me until I want no more

We are coding data into a Google Docs spreadsheet I got from digital ethnographer and master professor of digital media in anthropology Michael Wesch. We are coding titles, subscribers, upload dates, during, style, demographics of age, race, and class, each subscriber’s views and channel views and other behavior including ranking their dancing. We are also analyzing the sexually objectifying comments below each video.

The OMG moment came when I noticed lots of “KIK me” comments and phone numbers by males with and without profile pics. My brain would have never imagined that this was a sign of hookup culture that begins to explain a conundrum I was having: Why wouldn’t these girls disable all the sexually objectifying language in the comments? The male student who defined the discourse of KIK me led me to conclude that this is a serious form of black girls’ hookup culture.

Had an idea to call those numbers in the comments and record them and remix them with the videos. This is really complex, curious, disconcerting and an awesome research project. I am glad I fought my disdain at first to pursue all this.

Today’s kyraocity: Piggybacking on “thot”:

A though on thot: them hoes over there. Have you ever considered the amount of money rap artists are making piggybacking off videos by young girls like this in a digital media ecology that is always perceived as a site of empowering ordinary users to make money?

The first video I posted above has over 28,000 hits but it also has an immersive ad for selling Tyga’s rap single. The record company and the artist gain identity. The two girls lose marketplace identity not only in the exchange on YouTube but also IRL.


MUSIC BREAK: Grown Black Girls Rock the Mic

Janelle Monae speaking to sway on women, sexuality and sounding and acting grown. Cuz she is!

Captain Kirk and Uhuru Watch Miley Twerk on Robin Thicke. #MileyVirusAlert


I missed this during the meme cycle last August. A friend posted this on the FB wall and I need to keep it for research purposes. Will share in class today.

The Miley Virus of twerking factors in my work. Yes, it’s shaking or rocking the hips back and forth (one gesture in twerking) and yes she’s doing her best to back that thing up (but she ain’t got that thang). It makes my work fun and complicated though and I thank her for that. I also appreciate that she’s doing what Brittany and JT did to divorce their childhood from Disney. #onceyougoblackyounevergoback

Forbes Reports YouTube’s Blocking Content of Indie Artists like Adele

Screenshot 2014-06-23 00.15.12


At the end of the summer, according to,. YouTube is supposedly launching a new music streaming service called “YouTube Music Pass“.

With it is likely to come the blocking of live concert appearances any day now that have been freely available on the distribution platform. Artists like Adele and Radiohead were mentioned as possible targets of blocking. Also, indie artists have not negotiated licensing agreements for their content like the three major labels – Sony, Warner and Universal. Indie  labels haven’t been offered the same deal. This leaves them vulnerable to being blocked soon, according to the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN).

According to, “the indies are being faced with two options; sign the licensing deals or face being left off the service AND have your content removed from the site.”

The Forbes article also quotes Kristoffer Rom, co-chairman of Danish indepependent label association DUP, who thinks this could kill the independent music industry. YouTube’s power as a platform comes from its music videos and if commercial videos remain there, indie artists will be pushed out like the old days of MTV. All of YouTube’s most-watched video except 3-4 in their top 30, are music videos, and 90% of those are VEVO videos. PSY ranks on top with over 2 billions views for one of his 3 videos topping those charts.

[YouTube] has also in the past made much of its support for independent artists, as [Rom] points out.

“YouTube’s self-proclaimed role as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small’ is little more than hollow branding of a company that in reality is losing touch with the very creators and audience that have bloated the size of the platform into the stratosphere over the years,” he says.

This will surely have some impact on the algorithms or killbots used to detect copyright infringement when it comes to user-generated content that includes commercially-recorded music. I wonder if user-generated videos of black girls twerking to hit rap songs will start to be blocked as YouTube’s begins to redine its brand around music. Only time will tell.


Reported info from:

Black Girls: Who Else “Owns” Your YouTube Video?

Body and soul, Black America reveals the extreme questions of contemporary life, questions of freedom and identity:
How can I be who I am?

– June Jordan

This summer i am using my Black Girls Who Twerk on YouTube research to teach my two intro to cultural anthropology courses. There is one black woman or black “girl” in each section. The rest include a Bangladeshi man, a Pakastani woman, a Russian woman who twerks and has shared that her boyfriend is/was black, men who identify as white–one who is Albanian, a woman who was born in Taiwan but has resided in Singapore and now NYC, a Puerto Rican man who has lived in Singapore who wants to be a professional writer, a recent immigrant for college from France who never knew much about black cultural identity and others. There’s 20 students in all. The two groups are nationally-diverse but their knowledge of black girls’ lives have been more or less limited…until now.

There is so much value from learning with people who have different perspectives of the world we share. We are starting to discover the power of doing ethnography and the unique things we can discuss by looking from different lens at black girls on YouTube. Our clashes of insight and sight reveal so much about how black girls are viewed, represented vs. how they represent themselves in ways. Both are distorted and affected by how others view black girls and women locally, nationally and internationally. Holistic or historical patterns of patriarchy (the views of boys/men), white superiority and beauty ideals, and a history of colorism or skin color politics within and without the black community are all filters for how we see black girls today. It’s hard for others in the public sphere to imagine much less appreciate the ideals and values of moving one’s hips in dance within many contexts of the black or African diaspora in the US and abroad.

Twerking in online video has somehow become the flipped imprimatur of black femaleness, meaning a YouTuber’s acceptance or guarantee that something is not of a good standard these days.


Watching Teen Black Girls Twerk on HisTube

In class this week, both sections got tripped up over the contexts that we take for granted on YouTube. That what we see is always the original online video of a black girl twerking.

A few students struggled over whether a video that we watched “belonged” to the young black girl dancing in the YouTube frame. I insisted it was not once I saw the channel and its owner. One student insisted like “can’t you see that’s really her in the video”. LOL. I helped her discover that there are number of videos most YouTubers may watch of black girls twerking that do not belong to the performer. Online videos are easily downloaded and uploaded as content to male creator’s channels. Most viewers do not check who published the video or who owns the channel. Most viewers mindlessly see just another black girl twerking from her bedroom or kitchen and add that to a list of things they think are deviant about the practice, making it public, not being respecable, or that girls diminish themselves by doing that dance. #respectabilitypolitricks

Many videos featuring a teen black girl dancing from her bedroom is not “owned” or “published” by her. The video below by subscriber dizzybundles806 is a case in point. Sometimes the performance isn’t actually twerking as is the case here despite the title. A title that lets us know what she’s doing is “ratchet” the code word for a lack of respect for oneself these days. But each of the over 9,000 views and 19 comments reflects a way in which a black girl stands in for all black girls in these views that are being generalized and collapsed into the latest stereotype of black femaleness. It is them freely promulgated by YouTubers like this one.



“WHO’S CHILD IS THIS: RATCHET BLACK GIRL TWERKING.” YouTube. dizzybundles806 (4 videos, 56 subscribers), 8 Jan. 2014. Web. 20 June 2014. .

This problem is an example of what Mike Wesch, along with danah boyd, as “context collapse“.  While the young girl dancing above did make an online video, the one that appears on dizzybundles806‘s channel is actually a reproduction, a copy that looks just like the original but surely without her consent. It appears that the channel belongs to a male. Since YouTube, as someone I heard say, is actually like a public utility available to us all, it seems like she cannot lay claim to consent.

Context collapse often leads viewers to overlook that we read things differently because of different contexts. Knowing this as the original selfie with 9,000 views is different than when the online video of the girl is used on another channel to get views, to garner traffic and eyes. I’ll say more about his channel in a sec but this is not uncommon for males to repost videos by black women in some sort of free trade agrement on YouTube. Far too many twerking videos do not “belong” to the channel owner but may be read as if it’s just the girl. What’s one girls loss is another channel owner’s gain in social capital and perhaps even real currency.

Most girls who create these videos may or may not be hip to this. How do we become more media literate about it? How do we educate these lil’ sisters that their  original online video is potentially of more value to others than to herself? If she’s not aware?  In the YouTube media ecology consent shifts to really knowing how to own your own body image in online video.

There is another aspect to the impact of this recirculation. It produces a kind of cultural noise about the social capital among viewers (non-black and black) who find black girls’ revelry before the glass dot discordant with public opinion about everyday black girls. Then real black girls may find themselves challenged and reshaping their sense of self, around expressing their sexuality on and offline, not just with the booty backin that thang up to a YouTube webcam in their bedroom, but also in other public, and less virtual, spaces after boys and men have learned they can handle “them” any way they want on YouTube. The offline reality is this: they may not be safe anywhere.

A study conducted by The Black Women’s Health Imperative seven years ago found the rate of sexual assault was approximately 40%. – Brooke Axetell 2011 in Forbes Magazine.

Black female victims of sexual assault are, on average, eight years old when they experience their first incidence of sexual abuse (Carolyn M. West 2002: 28).

Approximately 40% of Black women report coercive contact of a sexual nature by age 18.4….Stereotypes regarding African American women’s sexuality, including terms like “Black jezebel,” “promiscuous,” and “exotic,” perpetuate the notion that African American women are willing participants in their own victimization.”

The expression “possession is nine tenths of the law” is apropos here as rates of sexaul assault and rape increase in the lives of black girls today. You get to freely publish or broadcast yourself twerking but at a much higher cost than I assert non-black girls or those who are not twerking in their videos.

Blackness, black femaleness, shows up in certain lights that others don’t, especially in light of persistent racialized and sexualizing stereotypes about black teenage girls.

HisTube not HerTube

Here are thumbnails from the 4 videos on the channel. He earned almost 10,000 views from Miss Thang’s original video. That might have turned into a little bit of money if he had ads associated with his account but that is not guaranteed unless you really go viral.  And then it’s only about $2 per 1000 views (CPMs – cost per thousand impressions). That money, if any was earned, could have gone to the black girl who made the video.

From checking out his range of videos we see the distribution encompasses some fascination with objcctifying black girls’ bodies and one video about a rap battle turning into a gang fight. YouTube is all about this kind of shock value and when it comes to black girls, they are objects of drawing eyes to channels as deviant, out of place and out of bounds, youth or females.

How we assign or attribute ownership in YouTube without checking shapes the plight of our conception of black girls online. Yes, she made the video, but no that is not HER channel. She is not gaining social capital the way he is from reposting it and most young girls do not have the technical know-how to trace where their video images end up. Most people don’t. So that’s what we are up to this week.

After a year of study of YouTube videos featuring black girls who twerk and to a lesser degree black women rappers, I am just starting to understand what is going on in the media ecology of YouTube. More to come from what we discover this summer. I intend to vlog once a week about this from now on. Be on the lookout for my vlogs.

Spreading Ideas by Black Girls

Black girls can colloquially mean a young or older black girl to signify the sisterhood we share and perhaps to signify unconsciously on that time of life when we are least bound by the conventions of respectability, beauty and competition with men and other women.

Each week I want to share a TED Talk by a black girl.  This one speaks how our native orientations to English make a difference and point to differences. I spoke last week about linguistic productivity — the ability to make new meaning with words and ideas in our discourse. I want to start a movement of black girls who take twerking videos and start thinking about producing new ideas with them. Adding their voice and speaking texts or poetry with their own dance. Remixing Beyonce or feminist speeches by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or June Jordan to their own videos. Remixing empowering ideas whether visual, textual or aural with twerking videos to learn to play with new narratives about themselves.

We deserve to make our own meanings! Let’s bring curiosity to our own sites of practice on YouTube.