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She said/She said

Is Britney's 'Work Bitch' Anthem Anti-Feminist?

The lyrics are empowering ("Hold Your Head High, fingers to the sky") but it's so hard to get past those dog leashes. Two Daily Beast reporters debate Brit-Brit's latest hit.

Caroline Linton: This song is a feminist call to arms, no? Listen to the lyrics: “You want to live fancy? Live in a big mansion? Party in France? You better work bitch.”

We’ve all watched the coming-of-age of Britney Spears, from the 17-year-old who danced into our hearts with “...Baby One More Time” to being on top of the world in 2002, when Forbes named her the most powerful celebrity. Her fall was inevitable, but spectacular all the same, from her disastrous marriage to backup dancer Kevin Federline, to the mess that was "Chaotic" (for those who don’t remember, their reality TV show), the two children in two years, the tear-filled interview Dateline interview in 2006. Eventually came her divorce from Federline, shaving her hair, the public meltdown, losing custody of her children, and eventually even losing the right to make her decisions. She’s tried to come back before—remember her 2007 performance at the VMAs? When it looked like she lost her dancing skills and her hot body? And then “Till the World Ends” in 2011? Well, this is it, this is Britney Spears who has learned her lessons as a woman—if you want it, you gotta work, bitch.

Adrienne Vogt: First of all, I’d just like to say that Britney is lookin’ FIERCE in this video. But that doesn’t excuse its content. Caroline, let’s take a look at the :44 and 2:00 marks, when she cracks a whips onto one of the ladies in her video. Ouch. At around the 3:23 mark, she has all her backup dancers writhing on leashes. Are women dogs? Yes, Britney, we all know that a bitch is a female dog—got it, over it. The metaphor is so blatant, not to mention incredibly demeaning. And what is going on with all the female mannequins exploding? This video leaves me feeling more bewildered than empowered.

Caroline: Ok, the whips might be a little much. I can concede that it’s maybe not the best message. But I think she is just trying to whip everyone into shape. Listen: “don’t stop now, just be the champion.” Also, I think maybe we should all be applauding that her team even knows how to make metaphors? Just pointing that out.

But beyond all that, the refrain of the song holds the best message to me. “So hold your head high / fingers to the sky / now they don’t believe you / but they’re going to need you / so keep it frozen higher and higher / work work work.” This is it, women! The world is going to try to keep you down and nobody is going to hand you anything—but if you work, they can’t deny you!

Adrienne: I’m not completely sold on the lyrics, Caroline. I can’t think of another song right now that glorifies materialism so much. Not every woman is completely obsessed with having a fancy car, taking glamorous trips, and prancing around in a quasi-strip club emblazoned with glowing lights that spell out “Bitch.” It’s hard enough getting by on a daily basis, and now you’re telling women they aren’t working hard enough because they don’t have any of these things? Why does Brit-Brit have to set the bar so high? As Buzzfeed has handily figured out, if “you want a Maserati,” a minimum-wage worker would have to work for 19,710 hours. And if you want to want to “live in a big mansion,” (average price: $71 million) a person would have to work about 9.9 million hours. Not having it.

Caroline: There might be an emphasis on materialism and a hot body. But we all know, Britney had to work for that freaking body! Remember how she had those two babies in two years? And after her breakdown, she stopped dancing? As for the materialism: we all know she comes from the middle-of-nowhere Louisiana—she’s had to work for every single thing she’s got. Sometimes the people who seem like the most materialistic are the ones who had nothing to start with—they know the value of a dollar. Not only is she encouraging to work, she’s also doing it with a catchy background.

Adrienne: Complaining aside, I have to admit this song has been in rotation nonstop in my head for the past two days.

Caroline: It’s been on the rotation here for pretty much shift I’ve worked. Listen, everyone: you gotta work bitch!

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