When I was just a baby feminist, way back about half way through high school – as I was realizing dudes being in charge of everything wasn’t really suiting my needs or happiness – P!nk was my girl. Her bright pink hair, crop tops, and loud, angry demeanor synced right up with the internal rebellion I felt at the time, and gave me an outlet for an external rebellion I didn’t have the lady balls at the time to follow through with.
So in 2006 when “Stupid Girls” came out, I ate that up. I considered myself enlightened; I wasn’t one of the “stupid girls,” and it was important to me that I grow up to inspire other girls to want to be president or CEOs or scientists – someone smart – just as that song had done for me. The song was met with controversy, but that uproar from Hollywood was just more proof to me that it was right.
Having grown past my initial anger at all men and stupid women phase, I can see now the problems with the lyrics and video for P!nk’s “Stupid Girls.” The song is strewn with lyrics that further widen the gap between “good feminists” and the so-called “stupid girls” by saying that the “Porno Paparazzi girls” with their “teeny-weeny tees” are not the “girls with ambition” with whom she chooses to align herself. Instead, while the world is in despair, their “only concern” is “will it fuck up my hair?” The video slut shames anyone who has consented to making a sex tape, those with large breasts, as well as many other “beach blonde bimbo” stereotypes. It also undermines the severity of eating disorders and the role the media plays in contributing to people developing them when the song pauses for a moment to show P!nk dressed Paris Hilton-esque while sharing a toothbrush with another girl to help induce vomiting and yelling, “I will be skinny!”
It is important to note that this song does acknowledge the lack of women in power. It also makes it clear that in order for women to be able to help solve the problems of the world, we must first be young girls who choose to be smart and ambitious. However, it does this at the expense of these so called stupid girls who have simply chosen a separate path for themselves. It’s a problem still seen in pop music today, as in “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift. Raising one group of girls up while demonizing and shaming another group completely contradicts any true feminist ideal. It’s like a political race with two Republican candidates and one Democrat all vying for the same position. If the Republican voters are divided against one another, it’s likely neither will win; the Democrat already has the upper hand.
In an interview with Andrew Denton on “Enough Rope,” P!nk addressed the controversy that resulted from “Stupid Girls.” After being asked if she’d met any of the girls she parodies in the movie, P!nk states
Yes. And I don’t think any of them are stupid. You can’t be that successful and be stupid…I think it’s an act. And it’s the act that I can’t respect. I can support them. But I can’t support that, the actions. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being sexy, sexual or sensual, I just don’t think it comes with a price tag of ‘dumb.’
I won’t call this statement a cop-out, but I’m not entirely convinced that this is what P!nk had in mind when she first wrote and recorded the song. There is no way of knowing that it’s the act of acting stupid and how that is viewed by young girls that she sees as problematic; rather, it comes across that if a girl has blonde hair and picks Barbies over football, she’s stupid. It certainly didn’t occur to me in my first exposure to “Stupid Girls” and its music video that these girls that P!nk parodies are smart, that they are businesswomen, using the system that continuously calls them stupid to their advantage. There is no evidence in the lyrics or video of the song that these girls are thinking “If they want a ‘slut’ to market, I’m going to give them the best ‘slut’ they can imagine” rather than “SHOES! BOYS! LITTLE DOGS! SKINNY!”
What this song and P!nk’s subsequent acknowledgement of the meaning behind it do accurately is illustrate the evolution in the past eight years of what it means to be a feminist for me. A person can bleach their hair blonde, buy their own DDs, and tan themselves seven shades darker. To call them dumb or consider them less than because of this, however, is to devalue the work that that person put into creating a physical appearance that they are happy and comfortable with. To call them dumb is also calling the little girl who wants blonde hair dumb, thus effectively taking away her ability to think of herself as smart because of her preferences. A woman isn’t a better woman or better feminist just because she’s chosen politics over modeling, or chose playing with Barbies over playing sports.