#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…

[Chorus]
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!

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