The first time I heard Brooke Candy’s ‘Das Me’, my body was immediately overwhelmed by her pulsating, gaudy soundscape and her quick, whiplike tongue that gave no quarter to what she perceived as bullshit. Her lyrics painted images of an unapologetic “slut” that revealed her sexual politics of reclamation, as well as her intentions of destroying the patriarchal double standard that my liberal arts education has trained me to hate–the feminist in me was hyped the fuck out. I was so hyped that I completely ignored her problematic image and proceeded to share her music all over social media and even changed my Facebook cover photo (the ultimate form of endearment) to a picture of Brooke Candy in Grimes’ “Genesis” video. However, the more YouTube time I spent with Brooke Candy, the more I grew weary and uncomfortable with her seemingly “innovative” persona. Sporting long braids, extravagant multicolored nails, and metallic body suits that are closely related to something a post-apocalyptic warrior princess would wear, Brooke Candy seems less radically creative and more appropriative to me.
Initially, I thought Brooke Candy’s identity to be edgy — existing outside of mainstream consciousness — so she appealed to my radical side. But then, as I began questioning what about her made her seem so crazy, some unsettling social and historical context dawned on me: the colored box braids, long nails, and her use of ebonics are symbols of “ratchetness” ascribed to black women. Additionally, the extremely revealing body suits reminded me of how imperial Europeans would project sexual fantasies onto the bodies of women of color as ways to dehumanize the colonized subjects. Despite her efforts to reclaim the female agency, it seems as if she is doing so largely on the backs of black women. Much like the larger (white) feminist movement (which has been heavily critiqued for excluding minority viewpoints), Brooke Candy is attacking the patriarchy by excluding and offending black voices. Because of this, I feel very uneasy about her appropriative behavior and the problematic mix of over-sexualization because it reinforces the age-old stereotype that women of color (WOC) are sexually promiscuous and are morally inferior to the imperialist European gaze.
The fact that Brooke Candy was actually raised in the upper middle class suburb of Agoura Hills as the daughter of the Chief Financial Officer of Hustler magazine and the CEO of Hustler Casino makes the realization that Brooke Candy is complicit in her white privilege very apparent to me –she has a choice in her decision to appear, in her own words, as the “hoodrat Drew Barrymore,” and because of daddy’s cash, she always has a safety net to fall back into. However, the reality for poor women of color all across the country is that they rarely have choice in their own portrayal within in the mainstream dialogue, and safety nets that allows them that agency are hard to come by.
Brooke Candy’s multi colored braids are seen as an integral part of her image. In all of the magazine interviews/articles/blurbs that I have read concerning Brooke, there’s always a mention of her braids. Of course, it’s important to note that within most of those articles, her braids are used as a tool to cement her image as an over-sexual, aggressive rapper to her audience. This is troublesome because even though braids are used as a protective hairstyle, they are ascribed as low class, unprofessional, ratchet, and ugly by the Eurocentric standards of beauty which idealize the fair, tall, slim, and straight haired Caucasian woman as the pinnacle of female perfection.
Similar to what Miley Cyrus did with twerking, Brooke Candy, by donning braids, is taking something that has ample cultural, historical, and practical significance from its roots and is using it as an ostensibly short-lived fashion trend just so she can seem edgy and outside of the norm (Google: “Brooke Candy and braids.” There will be numerous links proclaiming how donning braids are now fashionable). Ironically, this normalizes braids because Brooke Candy, as someone with white upper-middle class socioeconomic status and power, has the power to shift the way in which the white culture views certain things that were once considered inferior and/or underground (again, Google search: “Brooke Candy and braids.” Braids are now seen as fashionable). While some might argue that the normalization of braids/twerking/ebonics/whatever is being appropriated from the subordinate culture is a good thing, it actually isn’t. It perpetuates the White Savior Complex, by which marginalized groups are denied agency over their own problems. This type of normalization usually doesn’t address the primary problem (public perceptions and historical/social ignorance in this case) and instead places a very skimpy bandaid over a wound that will keep bleeding until it is given the proper care.
To compound the issue of appropriation from women of color, Brooke Candy’s image is sexually explicit. Artists like Lil Kim, Trina, Foxxy Brown, Eve, and Missy Elliot have been doing what Brooke Candy is doing for ages, but when anyone speaks of them, they are rarely mentioned for their feminist contributions. Why is that? Could it be that all of these artists are women of color and society’s narrative tells us that women of color are inherently sexual beings (which, in society’s view, is a bad thing), so the materials they put out regarding sexual agency are automatically dismissed because it is assumed that all they want to do is fuck? If so, then why is Brooke Candy, a white woman sporting braids and rapping in ebonics, given so much credit for trying to smash this patriarchal society by dancing on a pole with a python slithering between her legs and rapping about how she wants to “fuck right now.”
To fully understand why this is problematic, we must look at European (and American) imperialist practices. One of the ways in which European colonizers historically dehumanized their subjects was by projecting sexual promiscuity on the bodies of women of color — African women were seen as uncivilized and brazenly sexual, often depicted with huge bare breasts; Native American women were always scantily clad and quick to jump into bed with any man they saw; Behind their dainty and graceful appearances, far east Asian women were seductive whores who invited sexual intercourse through glowering eyes; and just like Princess Jasmine, Arab and Desi women always had their midriffs bared and moved in sensual dances to evoke sexual energies within the men they encountered. On the other, far more pale, hand, European women were chaste, modest, and submissive. And to an extent these stereotypes are still largely perpetuated in our modern society and Brooke Candy’s image furthers these stereotypes. Of course, one could say that these are social constructs but these social constructs have real consequences that hinder women of color within all layers of this white hetero-patriarchal society.
If Brooke Candy wants to shatter the patriarchal double standard, she should do so reflecting the place she comes from. But, of course, that would be much harder because there truly is something subversive about a white woman exercising her own sexual agency without scapegoating a marginalized group. Instead, it is easier to boost one group (white women) at the expense of another group (black women), because then at least some semblance of the oppression that allows for rich white male supremacy would still be intact.
Graphic by krks