Pit Bulls, Bitches or Rudolph: Is the “Dog” Wagging Her Tail? #twerktweens

I am realizing how all the research I’ve been focused on for the last 2 years is about one big idea: the unintended consequences of the “new digital divide” for marginalized groups across new media ecologies. With the ubiquity of the mobile web among African American tweens, unequal literacies about the persistence and searchability of girls’ music-related content on the Internet has become a “new digital divide.”  The consequences or #bottomlines I explore are the participation gaps and critical literacies found beyond mere access.

NOTE:  I’m still playing around with the title of my blog. The aim of my new title is to emphasize my role as an ethnomusicologist as well as the work I do as a social science researcher and digital media ethnographer. Thus: #Bottomlines in the New Digital Divide. The new subtitle plays with the notion of the digital seduction of music and media among marginalized groups in new media ecologies. I am toying with typography in the word “education.” The way it’s stylized–by inserting the “$” sign — signifying economic capital–before the word and inserting the “@” sign in the middle to replace the usual “a” in education–the word can be slyly read as both “seduction” and “education” in the context of “Music & the Media $Educ@tion of Marginalized Groups.”

Why “seduction”? Because seduction remains the dominant possibility without better digital media literacy or education. Participation gaps in editing and in privacy ethics are costing black girls the very power and agency that marginalized groups try to establish with their use of social media. Fan video-making related to rap and R&B videos on YouTube and other platforms helps them develop cultural and social capital within their own communities but it’s their social mobility to other networks that really matters in the long run.

What do you think about my wordplay? Let me know in the comments!! My blog format or structure will continue as usual: I start with quotes, then images and an intro, more or less while highlighting key terms, concepts or links in pink to signify the intersectionality of my interventions.  Let’s get to the point of this post, tween twerking videos and the question What ‘dog‘ is wagging these girls’ tail in kids dance videos of Red Nose? The breed known as a “red nose pit bull”? Hip-hop’s casual but persistent attribution of the word “bitch” to girls and women who are routinely referred to as “females”? Or do the kids here “Rudolph the red nose reindeer” even though it ain’t even Christmas time.

Red nose hook & Rudolph GIF
A GIF meme using an image of Rudolph with the popular hook from Sage the Gemini’s “Red Nose” rap song. Gemini’s video premiered on his SageTheGeminiVEVO YouTube channel on June 10, 2013, a week before “We Can’t Stop” on the MileyCyrusVEVO Channel

Italian scientists found that pups wag their tails to the right when they see something positive, and more toward the left when they see something negative. In their latest study, researchers found that other dogs also pick up on that difference, and their hearts beat faster when they see a pooch wagging its tail to the left. Associated Press, 2013

[The] asymmetry in sexual education maintains men’s power in the myth: They look at women’s bodies, evaluate, move on; their own bodies are not looked at, evaluated, and taken or passed over. But there is no “rock called gender” responsible for that; it can change so that real mutuality–an equal gaze, equal vulnerability, equal desire–brings heterosexual men and women together.”
Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

Tweenage Twerking to Red Nose 

The group I presently study — online tweenage Black girls — is marginalized by age, race, and gender. In this blog post, I examine a YouTube video of tweenage girls who are making a “yiking” video for the 2nd time. The first one was removed. I’ll write an upcoming post on the violation of Community Guidelines on YouTube and the unintended consequences of that for marginalized youth.

I found this video while searching for twerking videos on YouTube. Anything with a black girl or woman shaking her hips to music is often titled or tagged “twerking” although this video is actually a style known as “yiking” in the Bay area. The Red Nose dance has become a viral meme on YouTube and this particular video is a testament of its spreadability. The girls in the video talk to the camera with what seems to be a Bajan creole accent. So, I can reasonably argue they are not from the Bay area of Cali. Readers from Barbados or folk from the Bay, correct me if I’m wrong!

TITLE: Red nose children version(CLEAN)
URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cfzs_9k5cE
13,090 views, 116 Likes, 14 Dislikes (as of Sat 23 May 2015 8:12pm)
Published on Jul 8, 2013
User Description: All about fun DO NOT PUT ON FACEBOOK
Music “Red Nose” by Sage The Gemini (Google Play • iTunes • AmazonMP3)
Artist Sage the Gemini
Category: Entertainment
ALL COMMENTS (20)

The other day, I went searching for tweens dancing to “Red Nose” by Sage the Gemini because there are only 200 songs in my dataset of 800 videos. Red Nose appears multiple times. This summer, I intend to explore these copyrighted songs, the artists and their accompanying videos to get a sense of the relationships between them and the tweens’ dancing in user-generated videos.

The “Red nose” dance [Cue the video above at 1:29″] features an isolated, snake-like gesture of the female torso executed when the fluid motion of her knees from left to right and back again punctuated by syncing up a “tick tock” booty popping motion over 3-4 beats to the lyrics “like-like-like-like a red nose” which is the hook of Gemini’s song.

In the Bay area, where it’s known as “yiking“, the dance generally occurs between a female and male partner with most of the action and attention on the former’s booty moves. There are tons of exceptions In tweenage and teen videos on YouTube where is all girls. But you never see two guys doing the red nose dance together.

Four girls doing the red nose in a school bathroom.
Four tween girls doing the red nose in a school bathroom.

In the dance, generally a tween girl bends over at the hips and usually a guy, sometimes older but more often than not a younger brother stands with his hips right behind her squatting position from behind. The partner behind grabs the girl’s waist or shoulders and rides her moves, so to speak, as she were one of those coin-operated pony rides they used to have outside the supermarket.

The partner’s gaze is on the girls’ hip gestures or booty. From a viewer’s gaze, given the physical proximity of the partners–a boys’ private parts are up against a girls’ behind–it is difficult for the mind to avoid the suggestive “doggy style” sex position. When the mediated gender performance between the sexes is observed among children and tweens (ages 8-13) on YouTube, no doubt many viewers are left with a great deal of uneasiness. And, as one of my students suggested, this unease is often projected onto the imagined social identity of black girls–one of the unintended consequences of their online play.

Search Results

When typing a search of “Red nose” on my computer, the first autocorrect choice is “red nose kids dance.” It yields over 97,000 results one day and 100,000 the next (May 24 and 25, 2015). When I filter for 4 min or less videos only, the results increase to over 100,000. The YouTube search algorithm can be a mystery.

Tween YouTubers who upload these videos surely realize that “twerking” is a better tag for YouTube’s search algorithm to find. The factors shaping the algorithmic results include the video title, keywords in the description during the upload, view count and comments, and the trust and authority of the channel owner. The keyword “twerking” is certainly going to pull more results and have more relevance for a broader set of viewers than “yiking”. The cultural capital of getting views or gaming the system is known by even the youngest YouTubers–how can I get people to watch my videos and follow my channel?

The Art? of Rap

“The art of rap is deceptive. It seems so straightforward and personal and real that people read it completely literally, as raw testimony or autobiography. And sometimes the words we use, nigga, bitch, motherfucker, and the violence of the images overwhelms some listeners. It’s all white noise to them till they hear a bitch or a nigga and then they run off yelling “See!” and feel vindicated in their narrow conception of what the music is about.”   Jay-Z, Decoded

LYRICS TO RED NOSE

CHORUS:
(Holy shit)
All this money on me
Come and take it from a G
All she tryna do is get naked (Naked)

Hook: And she gon’ shake it, like a red nose
Li-li-li-li-like a red nose
And she gon’ shake it, like a red nose
Like a, like a, like a red nose
And she gon’ shake it, like a red nose
Li-li-li-li-like a red nose
And she gon’ shake it, like a red nose
Like a, like a, like a red nose

VERSE 1:

That booty talkin’ to me, what that shit say?
Shake it for the dojo I’m the sensei
Once you wobble on my song, on replay
Almost got ‘er at house, up off Kingsway
I told her shake it like a red nose Pitbull
And I’mma keep throwin’ money ’til your bank full
Cake-cake-cake-cake birthday suit
Damn in a little I’mma forget your age soon
Whoa, OK, now let’s do it my way
If she don’t go crazy then she walkin’ on the highway
And if she don’t believe me tell that bitch just try me
Bet you she be shakin‘ from the club back to my place whoa

Read more: Sage The Gemini – Red Nose Lyrics | MetroLyrics

The hook of the song is about shaking it like a red nose and like a stripper. Word play is clear here when you read the rest of the lyrics. But a red nose pit bull appears in the VEVO video along with micro-celebrity India Haynes know as #GetItIndy or FunnSizeIndy for her yiking on YouTube.

Unintended Consequences

The question here: What are the unintended consequences of tween girls dancing to these lyrics whether they think they are about pitt bulls, bitches or Rudolph? Each symbolic meaning is there for the taking when sit down and think about the meaning of the lyrics. This cognitive shift from listening to dancing seems to be dichotomous but later it will come back home to roost as a form of misogyny for most older girls and women.

For ages, the passive stance that I like the beats and I don’t listen to the lyrics puts women in an even more passive stance about their involvement in hip-hop listening culture where males pay attention to the patriarchal lyrics and its narratives of black masculinity. There is a “dog” wagging the tail of online adolescent black girls’s dance in YouTube videos and it’s not man’s best friend or a woman or a girl’s. But the dancing is seductive! What has girls so mute in the face of such objectivity?

This video of the two Bajan tweens doing a 2nd video of Red Nose is linked in my mind to two of my students’ analysis in our research project this term. C. and J. coded instructional lyrics in 15 twerking videos of tween and teen girls. The applied the hashtag #poplockanddropit to their project. Watch their final vlog and analysis here: https://youtu.be/t3fVaTJD7vY.

C. and J’s presentation got me thinking about the affinity for pitbulls but not females among black males in urban settings. So I searched Google for something about why black men like pit bulls and found a 2008 law blog post about the racialization of pitbulls. It was tagged under “constitutional law”:

…the rhetoric that surrounds the proponents of Breed Specific Legislation sounds remarkably racial.  Consider the following common statements.  Biology and breed unwaveringly determine behavioral characteristics.  Reduced amounts of the aggressive ancestry decreases the chances for recidivism.  Pitbulls have large mouths and funny looking lips.  It is wise to cross the street when approached by a pitbull.   Pitbulls are lazy until you try to take something away from them.  Mixed breed pitbulls are more intelligent, kind, and gentle than full-breeds.  All pitbulls are from the ghetto.  You can take the dog out of the ghetto but you can’t take the ghetto out of the dog.

These statements could be equally applied to most any racially marginalized group, but most specifically, it invokes racially charged images of African Americans and Native Americans. The determination of who legally belongs in a racial group has long been the study of my own scholarly work, as well as that of Rose Villazor (SMU), Carla Pratt (Penn State), and Adrienne Davis (WashU).  But could similar theories be extended to that of the animal kingdom? http://www.thefacultylounge.org/2008/02/are-pitbulls-th.html

I had mentioned to my students that in my experience in Brooklyn, it seems that black men often have pitbulls. I don’t dare call them pets. They’re more like guard dogs, an extension of their bravado in most cases.  I added that I’ve never seen a young black man or boy refer to their dogs as a “bitch” in public though the term is technically referring to a female dog, as most people know. In street talk and rap discourse, the term “bitch” is exclusively reserved referring to girls/women or as a way of stigmatizing frienemies and enemies to call into question their masculinity or hardness like some kind of imagined group test. Real men stick together!

I just want to point out to two cues in the Red Nose kids dance video above that I coded. In the video, there is a taller girl in blue jean shorts (about 10) and a shorter girl in fuscia shorts with white trim.

0:43 Girl in fuscia shorts: “Our first one…they deleted only cuz we’re doing it [the red nose dance]” She is interacting with the audience about “YouTube” taking down their first video “Red Nose.” They make a case even at their young age that their video was no more a violation of community guidelines than dozens of other videos by kids dancing to Red Nose. Then she makes an appeal. Shifting from actor to content creator in her speaking she asks the audience to essentially help them get cultural capital or “views” on YouTube, adding

0:59 Girl in fuscia shorts: “Anyways we’re going to do another one, so please do not delete it. Cuz the last one, the first one, it was 248 viewers and 27 subscribers. WE NEVER GET THAT BEFORE! It was our first time, so PLEASE!.” Girl in jean shorts adds “It’s for the children!”

These girls are being strategic in their appeal despite the fact that in over 800 videos I’ve collected with students only 5% feature girls talking to the camera. This isn’t all that strange since they are essentially dance videos. Nobody talks on the dance floor. But they are also vlogs. Vlogs are an opportunity to not only present your body to the YouTube public but also your voice.

The jean shorted girl is trying to appeal to a sympathy for kids from the people out in the audience with power (adults at YouTube or maybe viewers who might show support in their comments). It’s as if she is saying “let us have our cake and eat it, too!” or “let us play online like everybody else who’s doing the Red Nose!” Meanwhile, Sage the Gemini’s music not only gets advertised under their video and the views they accrue count towards his Billboard ranking, and the girls get nothing but a sense of attention and that they might have been on to something on YouTube–real social capital. But that is not possible without monetizing your channel and really preparing. Nine out of ten of the most viral videos on YouTube according to the Wall Street Journal are professionally made and 9 out of 10 of the most popular videos on YouTube are music videos. Girls today have the same impression I did as a teen or tween. One day I’ll be famous like Diana Ross! Today it’s internet famous like Beyoncé, Rihanna or Nicki MInaj!

Get It Indy: Extreme Twerking by India Haynes

I refuse to embed the original Sage the Gemini video here — I will not add to his coffers — but here’s the link if you’re curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-I-YY5p0uq8.

For me, it’s India Haynes’ appearance in Gemini’s video that interests me. I first learned about yiking from India Haynes aka Get It Indy #getitindy on YouTube around the time she turned 18 according to her channel. Her 2013 video is a guide for understanding twerking vs. yiking vs. bounce. Check out these cues:

Yiking at 10:00″-12:05″
Then she talks about bounce at 12:05″-13:22″
Then the “Tick Tock” at 13:22″ – 14:09″

 

That’s it for now! Leave your comments!

YOUTUBE TIP OF THE WEEK:

Tell your tweens that back that thang up when twerking on YouTube should be about privacy not publicity!  Help them change their privacy settings on YouTube to UNLISTED!!  Unlisted allows them to share with their friends but it won’t be available in the YouTube search results.

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