Erykah Badu’s New Video for “Window Seat”: Feminist Art or Shameless Publicity Stunt? (NSFW)

This weekend, the blogosphere was taken by storm when Erykah Badu released a music video for “Window Seat,” the first single off her brand new album. Definitely check it out if you haven’t already, although please be warned that this is most definitely Not Safe For Work.
In the video, Badu is seen stripping down from a hoodie and pants to her birthday suit on a public street. I won’t spoil the rest of the video for you, but let’s just say the ending definitely caught me off guard. A surprise “plot twist” turns this video into something much deeper than your average music video “striptease”.
Or does it?
The video was meant to be a statement against “groupthink” and for rawness, realness, truth, and vulnerability in art and in life. Yeah! I dig that. I personally am a huge fan of Badu’s since way back, precisely because she pushes the envelope and works to achieve a level of truth in her art that is hard to come by these days. She is dope.
But while Badu seemed to be trying to use nudity to make a point about artistic vulnerability in this video, I’m not sure that I’m entirely convinced that she manages to transcend objectification and commodification as well as she might have liked to.
That being said, this video was clearly made to be provocative and evoke opinion, so I won’t bore you with mine, mostly because I’m still forming it. It seems like there are almost as many opinions about this video as there are viewers of it. Erykah Badu spent the better part of her weekend retweeting the opinions of some of her followers on Twitter. Comments of support included:
“I admire your innate ability 2 think outside the box….society suppresses individuality for fear of it!! Evolve or die!!:)”
“u successfully showed how female body’s an instrument,not an ornament. Art/vision is insane«-bold! inspired.”
“video was a success. It made us discuss things that are deeper than the surface.”
Other comments were not as supportive or “in on it.” Some accused Erykah of just trying to generate buzz around her album, and some people made sexualized comments about her body (“she got a donk”).
So Feministing community, I turn to you. What to make of this? Do you think this is a “feminist” video? What do you make of Badu’s nudity? Is it inspired? Art? Genius? Or is it just a publicity stunt that objectifies a woman’s body in the process of selling albums? Is the video politically feminist? Purely artistic? Or does it manage to be both? I’m just trying to make sense of what I’m seeing….Let’s get to the bottom of this together.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to her work at Feministing, Lori is an Associate Director at Planned Parenthood Global. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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