Watching the video for Beyonce and Drake’s “Mine”, listening to the lyrics “Know you wanna roll with a good girl?/Do it big do it all for a good girl” I found myself wondering, what the hell is a “good girl” anyway? Drake has been somewhat fixated on her this year, and yet she seems to exist in the pop landscape as a nebulous concept more than a person.
When we start reducing a woman to a concept, we strip her of her autonomy. It doesn’t matter whether she’s called a “ho” or a “good girl”, the effect is the same. Any time we turn a woman into an idea of a woman, we’re being reductive. Being deemed a “good girl” is just as insulting as being stuck with any other of the stereotypes of femininity. Nevermind that this distinction is a completely boring one and that there’s far more to a woman than being “good” or “bad”.
What does it mean to be a “good girl”? Bringing Beyonce into the equation is interesting, because she’s a strong, powerful, sexy woman. At the same time, she’s married, a mother, known for her hardworking rather than hard partying ways, and (I say this controversially) is generally a woman who is always seen, but not as often heard (a lot of her platitudes about womanhood and motherhood just sound like rhetoric for me). In a nutshell, Beyonce is not particularly challenging.
I’m not trying to reduce Beyonce here–I love her and I think she can be problematic but that her brand of femininity is powerful and important–but in the context of “Mine”, I am trying to distill the elements of Beyonce’s persona to determine exactly who this “good girl” could be. And to be honest, I think if she grew up differently or had less self-disciples, Beyonce could really throw down. There’s something terrifyingly primal about her at times.
While she has no problem being overtly sexual in her movements, attire and lyrics, Beyonce gets the brand of good girl because she’s monogamous and “classy”. Women like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Ke$ha are most certainly never going to get stuck with the “good girl” moniker because they’re promiscuous and I guess (depending on who you ask) “trashy”. And yet I’m not convinced they’re not good girls too.
A good girl should read as–a woman who is generous of spirit, kind to those around her, and self possessed enough to live her life as she chooses and not pass judgement freely upon others. Indeed this is probably all it takes to be a “good person” in general. But when it comes to women, so much of what is categorized as “good” or “bad” is tied up in sexuality. It’s time to sever those ties.
The idea of a “good girl” makes me feel sick. A woman who brings Christmas pie to her neighbors, who drives her friends to the airport, who holds her loved ones when they are broken, who volunteers, who smiles at service staff, who cooks for her man, who is successful and hardworking in her career, who says please and thank-you–she is no less “good” whether she has slept with one or 100 men.