Moms are having a moment. We’re about to get the first stoner comedy where moms play a central role as opposed to background characters.
And now Fergie has a new video, M.I.L.F.$, which she describes thusly:
Changing the acronym to Moms I’d Like to Follow is about empowering women who did it all. … They have a career, a family, and still find time to take care of themselves and feel sexy. With a wink of course :).
Yet white feminism is having none of it. Slate writer Elissa Strauss:
The fact that Fergie had repurposed [the concept of moms asserting their hotness] without any irony, eight years after Tina Fey lampooned it, doesn’t strike me as a feminist move. But she says it is.
Right. Well let’s not forget that Tina Fey gets to have her cake and eat it too, making fun of women for asserting their hotness while simultaneously capitalizing on hers.
“There’s not a single moment in the video that asks us to consider anything other than whether or not these women are sexy,” Strauss writes, apparently not having seen the video.
In fact the video and lyrics are about two things simultaneously, both of which are hella empowering.
First, and foremost, it’s a rejection of the idea that motherhood and sexyness are incompatible.
Sure, we know this on a gut level, and in addition we have research to back it up. Researcher Justin Lehmiller found that “MILF” is one of straight guys’ most searched porn phrases.
Straight men want to fuck women even after they become mothers, sure. But women and men both still want to shame women who refuse to relinquish the sexual aspects of themselves after they become mothers. We are still very much bound up in the Madonna/whore dichotomy.
Some asshole, usually more than one, will say “Isn’t she a mother?” nearly every time a woman who’s had children posts a sexual photo of herself online. “Inappropriate” is another accusation hurled at women who don’t respond to motherhood by suddenly donning burkas. None other than Bill O’Reilly took it upon himself to admonish Beyonce for “setting a bad example for her daughter” because she dared show some skin.
That men masturbate to older women is certainly heartening to women who are alive and hope to stay that way. Lehmiller theorizes that men find older women’s perceived confidence and physical imperfections alluring. Lehmiller cites Psychologist David Ley who thinks that men who watch milf porn want to fantasize about sex with a realistic person, rather than a pneumatic doll.
All that’s great, but it’s beside the point.
The question isn’t and never was whether straight men find women who’ve had children sexually attractive. The question is whether women are willing to claim that sexuality without shame.
The video is about power. Seeing sexiness as something the “male gaze” either confers on mothers or doesn’t misses the entire point in a pathetic, white-feminism way.
Instead, the mothers in the video harness the power of their own sex drives and sexual allure for themselves.
Moms aren’t having a moment because of milf porn, they’re having a moment because they’re rejecting the lies of patriarchy.
They’re rejecting the lie that a woman’s public sexuality ends when motherhood begins, that wanting sex and to be sexy is selfish and mothers aren’t allowed to be that selfish, that kids are embarrassed by their parents sexuality and that a kid’s feelings always trump a mother’s needs, and that being unashamed of having sex and wanting sex sets a bad example for young girls.
Second, it’s a rejection of the idea that mothers are only powerful in their role as mothers.
The video is about power, and the other main source of power in the video is money.
We’ve had a lot of conversations about how women can’t have it all. And this video is demonstrating that when a woman is rich enough, she can have it all.
“They have a career, a family, and still find time to take care of themselves and feel sexy.”
Again, there’s a double standard where when fathers pursue riches they are sacrificing for their families, but when women do the same, they’re sacrificing their families. But hewing to this standard leaves women dependent on men, and sets a far worse example for daughters than wearing a skimpy dress.
By unabashedly promoting independence (Fergie spells out the word in the song) and showing women being able to afford pampering and primping on their own dime, Fergie is sending a very feminist message that motherhood doesn’t necessitate dependence on a man.
And indeed, every mother in the video is independently wealthy.
Strauss uses the fact that the video uses milk as a prop to demonstrate that the video is a fantasy designed for men, and not women, as if the two were mutually exclusive. Her reasoning? Because breastfeeding is hard, milk can’t be sexy.
Forget women rejecting sexist shaming of openly sexual mothers, forget women owning their sexuality after motherhood, forget women declaring their financial independence even after motherhood without shame, milk makes this unfeminist.
This is why feminism is losing. Pitting male and female sexuality as mutually exclusive won’t win anyone over, nor should it. It’s incredibly condescending for a random white feminist to tell Fergie that she’s wrong about whether or not her video is “really feminist.” And to try to mind read about whether women are embracing their sexuality without shame in a new and important context “for themselves” and deciding, with a sniff, that it’s really for the “male gaze,” is pretentious, boring, and insulting.
This is why we need more pro-sex, pro-money, pro-independence feminism. Anyone can get paid to shit on other women and call it feminism. That’s not progress, honey. That’s being a bitch.