Don’t get it twisted, Kendrick Lamar’s Humble is a good song, but it’s not a feminist masterpiece
Sorry, it’s not woke
Look, everyone loves Kendrick Lamar. Kendrick Lamar makes bangers and we listen and enjoy them. One of those bangers is Humble. I’m not saying Humble isn’t a good song — that’s not what I have a problem with. I have a problem with the idea of the song being lauded as a feminist awakening, the likes of which the world has never seen, when really it subtly advocates for the continued policing of women’s appearances and bodies.
My specific issues relate directly to the following lyrics: “I’m so fuckin’ sick and tired of the Photoshop. Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretch marks”.
In Kendrick’s (admittedly impeccably shot) video for Humble, as he sings these lines, a split screen shows a woman who has one side of her with natural face and hair and the other not. There’s also another scene which shows a ‘natural’ butt that has stretch marks.
It’s saddening to see people getting so excited by the inclusion of stretch marks in a music video, but because he shows us something which is so rarely represented, or represented as a flaw, people are mistaking this as being a positive affirmation of so-called ‘natural beauty’. In reality, this song is directing us on how to look attractive to men, and criticising us for going against the beauty ideals being emphasised.
If Lamar’s looking for the ‘natural’ look will he also be embracing arm pit and leg hair, or is it just his definition of ‘natural beauty’ he’s seeking? You see, if you scratch below the surface it’s evident this song isn’t empowering or liberating women in the slightest. What’s more, the visual imagery in the video only adds to the derogatory undertones by contributing to the disembodiment of women.
My thought is that it's reality for a lot of women, but it is a women's right to choose how she wants to look and not a man's place to say
— Shreddy Pendegrass (@Cmilairk) March 31, 2017
If you find Humble inspiring for placing focus onto ‘natural beauty’ then you need to reevaluate yourself. My value, and the value of all women, is not based upon what men find attractive. And it’s not a man’s place to say how a woman should or should not look, which is exactly what Lamar is doing here. If I want to wear a face full of make-up, or photoshop my pics for that matter, that’s my prerogative, there’s nothing wrong with embracing whatever look you want.
I like Kendrick, but I'm not feeling the song "humble" he honestly isn't respecting women's flaws , he's being condescending
— ✨Jellissia✨ (@Latinabonita_) April 14, 2017
Obviously this isn’t a hit piece on Kendrick as a musician. Kendrick Lamar is a lyrical genius and one of the most important rap artists of our time. To Pimp A Butterfly was added to the Harvard library in recognition of its cultural significance and his second album Good Kid Maad City is being taught as a text in schools. That’s why, to see him put across such a regressive perspective of women is even more of a let down because we expect so much more from him.
Why is it that he can portray such complex social issues yet his representation of women is so poor?
We know how sexist bad and boujee is. The issue is YALL think Kendrick is any better pretending to be woke but still telling us how live
— tropicana shawty (@phredRanger) March 31, 2017
Ultimately, Humble is a poor attempt at being empowering. We all know rap and hip hop is full of misogyny, but by reducing women to their body parts Lamar goes against everything he stands for, and represents, as a socially conscious artist.