I try to steer clear of wishing ill on another, but I wish Erykah Badu’s cell phone, iPad, and laptop had forged a suicide pact in order to spare us all of the string of tweets she’s unleashed multiple days this week.
On Monday, Badu, like many others on Twitter, apparently saw New York magazine’s The Cut tweet out a link to a story about a New Zealand school that enforced knee-length skirts for girls in order to “stop boys from getting ideas and create a good work environment for male staff.” Badu’s initial tweet linked to the piece and added: “I agree. We are sexual beings. We should consider everyone. Young girls are attractive. Some males are distracted.”
Oh, those helpless men who can’t manage to avoid sexualizing minors on their damn job of all places. Let us all please consider their special needs. Badu continued, “Men and women both go thru cycles of arousal. Men automatically are attracted to women of child bearing age….” While she did acknowledge “Males should be taught to be responsible for their actions from childhood” and that “It's not ok to "prey" on young women,” she still said when it comes to a heterosexual [adult] male being attracted to a young woman in a “revealing skirt,” she argued, “No, I think it is his nature.”
Badu continued this debate all through Wednesday, more or less repeating the same logic to the rising depression levels of many of her fans — myself-included.
To some, Badu might have been merely “telling it like it us.” The problem there is just because something sounds pragmatic on its surface doesn’t mean it actually is or even remotely insightful.
Here, Badu is essentially coddling men to the point of infantilization. If an adult man is sexually attracted to a minor and the endpoint is statutory rape, ultimately, the person who bears the greatest burden on that crime is the adult in question. Yes, we are all sexual beings, but this notion that a man cannot control himself because of his nature makes us no better than some wild animal. By the way, if grown men employed to educate school-age girls find themselves sexually attracted to their students, the reality is the length of a skirt will not be that remarkable a factor in thwarting that.
I’m also not totally comfortable with the idea of young girls of “childbearing age.” Exactly what age is that again? Of course, I am not surprised by Badu’s sentiments. After all, as others have pointed out, this is the same person, who last November as host of the Soul Train Awards, claimed that R. Kelly “has done more for Black people than anyone.”
Now, to those who ask: “Why does it matter what she said?” or even worse “Y’all are picking on her because she is a celebrity.” Do me a favor and shut up. Whether you like it or not, celebrities in our culture command more attention, and thus, are more influential. That means a woman of Badu’s clout using her platform to coddle men and put the onus of inappropriate sexualization of school-aged girls on said girls’ clothing is incredibly irresponsible.
In a 2015 piece for Time entitled “How School Dress Codes Shame Girls and Perpetuate Rape Culture,” Everyday Sexism Project founder Laura Bates wrote of school dress codes, “It teaches our children that girls’ bodies are dangerous, powerful and sexualized, and that boys are biologically programmed to objectify and harass them.”
Men are not walking penises. Teachers, male and female alike, need to know what constitutes sexual harassment. If they find themselves so distracted by the sight of school-aged legs, they need to be working at a zoo, not a school. A burka has not even proven to prevent sexual assault. We need to be talking to men and young boys about their role in rape.
Badu can holler all she wants about what is or is not natural, but her “realist” stance is nothing more than an addition to the problem, not the solution.