Jennifer Lopez's "Ain't Your Mama" Ain't My Feminism

How can we expect men to respect our feminism if part of that feminism is disrespecting men?
Publish date:
May 9, 2016
music, gender bias, jennifer lopez

On Friday, May 6th, Jennifer Lopez released the video for her latest single entitled, I Ain’t Your Mama, and I ain’t impressed. Lopez is jumping on the feminist bandwagon, treating it like a fad, spouting rhetoric that has killed the American family and continues to separate women from their men, their children and from each other, with lyrics like, I ain’t gonna be cooking all day / I ain’t your mama. I ain’t gonna do your laundry / I ain’t your mama.

Wait a minute.

How often does Jennifer Lopez find herself cooking all day or doing anyone’s laundry? And is she sure she ain’t my mama? Because she sure sounds like her, and this sort of talk is what left my mother unmarried, with three fatherless children, and no home life as she enters her AARP years.

This is my mother’s feminism and it does not work.

Both men and women need helpmates, and a woman who won’t do something based solely on what she thinks is feminism, is in no way a viable helpmate. In the same sense, if a man refuses to do something just because it doesn’t support his patriarchal bull, what sort of helpmate can he be? And since when does a woman have to be your mother in order for her to make a meal or do laundry? And since when is being someone’s mother and/or a woman who cooks and cleans a bad thing? As with men, once a woman breaks the law of reciprocity, what is she to expect from her mate or anyone else in her life? Is she then willing to hear a laundry list of things a man won’t do for her? What if a man proclaimed he won’t care for her, cook, clean, support or help her because he ain’t her daddy?

All hell would break loose.

Don’t let this dated feminist anthem lead you astray. Don’t let Jennifer Lopez ruin your life as she tries to join this conversation in the middle of hers. Feminism is not about a set of communal rules. Feminism is about a woman’s right and ability to choose what sort of life she wants and her role in that life. It is her right to choose and choose again if she likes. She doesn’t have to live by any particular set of standards, except the ones she defines for herself. And at anytime she changes her mind, she can live by a whole new set of standards.

If a woman wants to cook, clean, and do laundry, this does not make her less of a feminist or less of a woman — it simply makes it her choice, her feminism.

"Get Mad"

Jenny from the block insists that women get mad and, frankly, I cannot disagree with this notion. God knows there are more than enough crimes against women in this country to keep us all pissed but, fortunately, cooking and cleaning isn’t one of them.

Let us not get so angry that we fight for things we do not want. Don’t get so mad that you talk yourself out of the luxuries of being a woman, so mad that you find yourself pulling out your own chairs, taking off your own coat, and opening your own doors for the rest of your life.

Do not become so angry with the current state of patriarchal affairs that you shy away from the option of common courtesies. There may be days when you just don’t feel like driving yourself, going dutch, or even ordering for yourself. And that’s okay.

There are times when I don’t want a man doing anything for me, and then, there are times when I’m tired of always being in charge, tired of doing it all myself, and I stop short of a closed door, allowing my man to open it, letting me enter first.

There are days when being a woman, a mother, a wife, and an entrepreneur frigging sucks, and all I want to do is be catered to.

Being a feminist doesn’t mean I have to give up treating my man with kindness and courtesies, allowing him to do the same.

Let’s not get so angry that we make men feel we never want or need them around. And let’s not let a woman who has a boyfriend (who is also on her payroll) and a full staff, a woman who doesn’t have to do her own makeup or pick out her own clothes, rile us into an archaic feminist rhetoric.

I Ain't Your Stereotype

The lyrics of the song and imagery of the video are chock full of offensive stereotypes. They both imply that women who choose to cook and clean for their husbands are indentured and waiting for someone to set them free from the hell of servitude. The overused and stereotypical 1950s housewife visual propaganda is as dated as the tone, rhetoric, and musical composition of J.Lo's song.

The aloof or vapid husband stereotype is just as offensive, with millions of men being supportive of their wives whether working in or outside of homes. Why are these men rarely represented?

I find it cowardly to continue to push this agenda onto the world, continuing to show the ripping apart of relationships solely based on the notion that traditional gender roles are wrong.

As a working housewife who cooks three times a day, cleans most everyday, and does laundry three times a week, I resent its implications. Millions of women choose to work in or outside of their homes, just as millions of women choose not to. Neither choice is wrong, and to imply that a woman who cooks all day and does her man’s laundry should be mad about it, is not only presumptuous but offensive to women who dedicate their lives to purposefully caring for their husbands, children, and homes.

"I'm Too Good For That"

Repeatedly, Jen insists she’s too good — but for what? And are we supposed to sing along to this foolishness? I am not too good to take care of my man and family. I am not too good to nourish them with healthy meals and see to it that their clothes are clean, pressed, and waiting for them when they wake up — and my man isn’t too good for it, either.

What needs to be understood is that each household has its own set of changeable guidelines. If the man in the sole breadwinner and works long hours, it is more likely for the woman to take care of the home. These days, we are seeing an influx of househusbands who stay home with the children and see about the daily upkeep of the house as their wives earn the money. There are double income families who have to work together in order to keep things functional and get the bills paid on time. Maybe she cooks, maybe he cooks, maybe they cook together. She handles this, he handles that, and then they switch. That’s the beautiful thing about families, about men and women, we can make it up as we go along and none of us should feel “too good” for the roles we choose.

The Real Housewives of Shame

The issue with relationship equality is that by demanding we be made equal, we infer the belief that we’re already below. As a woman, I believe I am not equal to men but complementary and more equipped, if for no other reason than my ability to carry and deliver babies.

The maturation and deliverance of human life is, in my opinion as a mother, the most important gift and responsibility for those who choose to accept it and even for those who don’t. Having this option, an option no man has, gives me great power as it does all women. This power and the fear of it, drives middle-aged white male lawmakers to continue to deliberate and vote upon the right for women to have abortions, birth control, and affordable or free reproductive health care.

Only women’s bodies are governed by law, not men’s, because even lawmakers know the power we possess within the same bodies society shames us for.

So if we are taught to be ashamed of our chosen roles the same as we are taught to be ashamed of our bodies, their looks, pleasures, and natural functions, we will be deterred from recognizing and utilizing the power in those roles. We will fall into prefixed categories like housewife, businesswoman, or feminist, versus taking a piece of each and making them our own.

If we make being a housewife shameful, our families will fall apart. If we make being a businesswoman shameful, our families will apart.

But, if we accept the fact that we are women, that we are not below men in our personal relationships and therefore, we need not strive to be equal to them, but to be complementary, we can buck the shaming of women no matter their chosen roles.

We Are Not Independent or Indentured

The idea that any woman or man can, at any point and time in their lives, be independent of another human being is ridiculous. We all need each other. We depend on each other for basic necessities on a daily basis. We need people to hire us or support our entrepreneurship.

We need people to make our clothes and people to sell them to us. We need farmers to grow our produce and the people who work in our local grocery stores and farmers markets to make them available to us. Everything you do reeks of dependency and that independent woman rhetoric is a lie.

You are not independent.

You are self-sufficient.

That being said, we would hope that every adult person over a certain age would come into their self-sufficiency, not relying on someone else to do and be everything they need. This includes our life partners and spouses. It is healthier to be with someone who has the ability to take care of themselves financially and otherwise, whether they have to use that option or not. If we are partnered with self-sufficient men who pull their weight in their chosen role and the role agreed upon within the household, why should we feel indentured by pulling our weight within our chosen and mutually agreed upon role?

The Power of Servitude

What most people will never realize or tell you is that your strength is in your servitude — servitude to your God, yourself, your family, and your community. Being of service does not weaken you; it makes you vital, important, and powerful.

As a woman who cooks for her family, you are insuring their nutrition. When feeding them whole, clean food, you give your children and your man a better chance at longer, healthier lives. You give them a better chance of being productive at school and at work, and that is so powerful.

Adversely, when feeding them inappropriately, you ruin their chances for longer, healthier lives, and to be effective in their work and studies.

There is so much power and fate in your hands as you prepare meals for you and the people who matter to you. Never take that lightly and never be ashamed of the role you have chosen. Take pride when entering into this traditional gender role, even if it only happens once in awhile, and don’t let undermining, dated feminist rhetoric steal that from you.

You Are Your Own Feminism

Make no mistake about it, I am a radial, sex positive feminist who runs things around here — except for the things my man runs around here. I prefer to do most of the cooking and my man’s laundry because, honestly, I do it better. I taught my son how to cook and do his laundry when he was just nine years old and now, at eighteen, he is a junior chef who cooks when I’m too busy or lazy to get into the kitchen. Even at eighteen, he doesn’t think he is "too good" to cook my food or do my laundry if I can’t or don’t want to do it. I wouldn’t want to raise a son or daughter who felt being of service to anyone is beneath them.

I refuse to take out the trash and I hate when men are in my kitchen, poking around. I may change a lightbulb but not the ones that are up high. I don’t fix things and I don’t answer phones or doors when guests call. And that's okay, because I let the men around me take care of those things.

I make all my food and desserts from scratch and my man pays all or most of the bills at points and times, no matter how much money I’m making. Sometimes, I don’t open doors, pull out my own chair, or order my own food.

I work damn hard in and outside my home and I enjoy having the option to say, “No. I don’t want to.” Part of my feminism is traditionalism and that’s what works for me and my family, none of which may work for you.

But this is the beauty of the movement — we all get an individual choice.

As I watched Jennifer play out these stereotypical roles in the music video for I Ain’t Your Mama, I winced when she threw dinner over her husband’s head.

Though there were other images pertaining to fairness and equality in the workplace that ruffled my feather a bit less, the image of disrespecting a working man just because he wants dinner, floored me.

If the tables were turned and it were a woman coming home looking for food and her man poured dinner over her head, we’d all be crying bloody murder. Here’s the thing how can we expect men to respect our feminism if part of that feminism is disrespecting men? Think about it.