Opinion: Why This Generation Needed Erykah Badu's "Long Skirts" Twitter Debate
In typical Fat Belly Bella fashion, Erykah Badu took the Twitterverse by calm storm yet again. This time, it came shortly after sharing her thoughts on an article discussing young girls and skirt length. The debate-prompting tweet stated her agreement with the ruling that high school girls should lower their skirts to prevent distracting their male teachers.
Before a nest of the Twitter mob formed and swarmed her notifications, she explains her position on the controversial subject:
Heated dialogue following such a bold stance in controversy is about as inevitable as paying taxes. Few and far between, there was a smudge of Twitter-finger thuggery, insult jabs and plain contempt for Ms. Sara Bellum’s sentiments. But to help us sift through those, her consistent retweets on the matter welcomed educated conversation and perspectives that both backed and bucked her opinion. From normalizing intrusive sexual behavior and nature vs. law principles all the way to admittance of downright, honest ignorance (word to Jidenna), the discussion’s layers were so thought-provoking that even the most unshaken, one-track-minded conversationalist could appreciate it:
In a generation that hyper-drives our judgment, opinions, assumptions and notions, Badu’s digital door opened into healthy deliberation that proved that no single point of view on our society’s array of issues are absolute. There are tiers to troubles, and many social issues share an intersection with others. As Badu and the cooperating tweeters exchanged their brain pickings, it flawlessly epitomized the unity of opposing forces and demonstrated that contrast does not always mean combat.
The 48-hour long Twitter buzz also introduced a concept that naturally lent itself to further insight: gender and clothes. In terms of gender, both demographics of males and females have dealt with their fair share of respectability politics regarding the matter. For example, the debate about black men wearing their pants below their waists and the social image buttressing labels of “thugs” or “felons” who are less-deserving of quality lifestyles, if deserving of life at all. We’ve fought adamantly to end this damaging notion with meme-inspired quotes reminding us that both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were murdered in suits and ties, thus proving that what someone wears is determinant of… pretty much nothing.
As is the case with how much “respect” the modestly-dressed woman and the provocatively-dressed woman earns. As Amber Rose’s Slut Walk and other womanist movements emphasizes, the misogyny aimed at either of the two existed well before she decided what to wear that morning (or night). Does this wipe out the merit from Badu’s argument that young girls should wear longer skirts, though? Not necessarily.
Rules mean reinforcement, and “force” is its middle name― literally. No, I don’t agree that girls should be “forced” by schools to wear skirts of a specified length. No, I don’t agree that policing girls attire to prevent peepy eyes from grown men is “fair” to everyone. But, I do agree that our society is imbalanced, as Badu put it. I do agree that while ladies should be able to wear what they please, they should be aware. I do agree that while her point of natural attraction is a vital piece to the conversation, so is self-control.
And above all, I appreciate that this conversation did not divide these alternative angles, but merged them in such a way that we all can understand the golds and the glitches in our individual ways of thinking. Let’s be realistic: political debates aren’t even this organized. As a youth in the Information Era and Digital Age, it nudges our mindsets just a bit closer to pragmatism. It helps us realize that just maybe the conversations we have in real life are more important than the ones we’re having in celebrity comment sections and Twitter notifications.
For that, Mama Badu, thank you for finally giving us a reason to put our phones down.