Music: “Work, Bitch” as Feminist Anthem*.

britney spears work bitch rosie the riveter

Like Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women, Part 1” and “Bills, Bills, Bills” before her, Britney Spears’ latest single, “Work, Bitch”, professes female autonomy and financial independence as supreme. A sampling:

“You wanna hot body
You wanna Bugatti
You wanna Maserati
You better work bitch
You wanna Lamborghini
Sip martinis
Look hot in a bikini
You better work bitch
You wanna live fancy
Live in a big mansion
Party in France.

“You better work bitch.”

Now, Britney and her songs have long stopped being coherent, and just as “Work, Bitch” could be seen as a feminist anthem for earning your possessions and accomplishments instead of waiting for a significant other to give them to you, it’s also a nonsensical club hit that could just as much be about getting your groove on on the dance floor. It does give off flavours of “Gimme More”, but less fully-realised.

But as with the abovementioned Destiny’s Child songs, there’s more to feminism than money. It’s great to be able to “buy my own diamonds and… my own rings”, and poverty is a major feminist issue, but it’s so easy to put a musical call out to women who make their own money to “throw your hands up at me” and disguise it as feminism.

Obviously I’m giving Britney and the hitmakers behind her far too much credit; her songs have never pushed an agenda other than being infectious ditties that get everybody up off their asses, with the exception perhaps of “Piece of Me”, a musing on the insatiable nature of the media and paparazzi. But appropriation, cultural and otherwise, is the trend du jour, so why not reimagine “Work, Bitch” as a feminist anthem?

*Written with tongue firmly in cheek.

Elsewhere: [Thought Catalog] Cultural Appropriation is a Bigger Problem Than Miley Cyrus.

[Jezebel] Robin Thicke Calls “Blurred Lines” A “Feminist Movement Within Itself”.

Image via Instagram.

6 thoughts on “Music: “Work, Bitch” as Feminist Anthem*.

  1. I would definitely suggest people watch the video before anyone touts this as a feminist anthem. In the video Britney is blatantly telling women through words and images that in order to be successful, you have to be a sex slave like “it’s your profession.” Women are portrayed on their knees being whipped, wearing ball gags and collars with leases, and seductively displaying themselves in “red light district” type windows. She even threw in the cliche male spectator. If Britney meant, if you want things in life, get a career and earn them, she wouldn’t say work it “like” a profession. It WOULD be a profession. Instead, she is telling us ladies, be a sex slave and you will get what you want.

    • I just watched the newly released video and, unfortunately, you’re absolutely right. We can see that “Work, Bitch” is more about prostitution than female financial independence. And in the very few frames where Britney looks directly at the camera, there’s no light behind her eyes; she even own the notion of sexual slavery you mention as she did in “Slave 4 U”, for example. Not that sexual slavery is an empowering predicament, but there are other, more positive ways, of looking at consensual sex work than this video…

  2. Or maybe… When she says “work bitch” is more like “you have to work to be rich, have a great body, do anything you want, have sex…” All those things they use to show in pop culture as the “cool.” In the end, you have to work hard to be the “popular girl.” When she says “like” a profession: is about this. Work to “look hot in a bikini” like this is a profession.

    But… still. I don’t see it as a feminist anthem, but there’s much more in this. So what the video is another sequence of nothing? (because, let’s be honest, the video isn’t more than what we see in all the others: women almost naked dancing. you can argue that there’s even a scene where she’s wearing pants – and I’m almost sure this video is a mix of everything she did before)

    Let me finish with something John Green said about books:
    “They belong to their readers now, which is a great thing–because the books are more powerful in the hands of my readers than they could ever be in my hands.”

    Obviously we’re giving Britney and the hitmakers behind her too much credit: but when we see female financial independence in this song, the credit is ours.

  3. Oh, of course it’s a feminist anthem! Yes the video poses as craven, materialistic pap, Britney’s “Work Bitch” is secretly a feminist transmission praising female Laotian deminers. Visual decoding at theclusterproject.com/blog

  4. Pingback: On the (Rest of the) Net. | The Early Bird Catches the Worm

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