On Lizzo being told she can’t twerk

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The lovely, talented, Taurus sun Virgo moon performer Lizzo graced Luther’s Regents Center on Friday September 28th. If you know anything about Lizzo or attended Friday’s concert, you know that body image and self love are incredibly important to her — “‘scuse me while I feel myself,” 1she sings. You know that she has confidence out the window. You also know that she likes to throw ass back; usually in a leotard of some sort. Oh wait…if you didn’t know about Lizzo before Friday, you WOULDN’T know that she likes to throw ass back! According to my left and right ears which were both present at the concert, she was not allowed to twerk at her Luther performance, citing her contract with this “Christian college” as the reason.

This restriction placed on her choreography has everything to do with her being a sexually liberated plus-size Black woman: and it’s nothing new. Policing of Black women’s bodies under the guise of ‘keeping things appropriate’ is common practice in the United States. Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Kimberly Springer of the Ohio State University wrote about this very issue in 2011. Springer defined a phrase called ‘sexual subjectivity’, meaning “articulations (e.g. writings, songs, performance, fine art, speeches, etc.) that permit Black women to speak on their own terms about who they are as sexual beings, which sexual acts they enjoy,…, how they relate to their bodies, and myriad expressions that fall within the bounds of sexuality.”2 Even when Black women are not trying to outwardly express sexuality, there is still criticism for being too sexy.

“Lizzo was victim to whoever in Luther made the decision to regulate her sexual subjectivity, deciding she was a Jezebel for merely existing as a sexually open and free Black woman.”

– Shasa Sartin (‘19)

Most recently, world’s greatest athlete and Libra sun Virgo moon icon Serena Williams was made victim to this. On August 24th French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli created a restrictive dress code inspired by his disappointment in William’s legendary catsuit. She wears it to prevent blood clots which she is prone to, and also to make her feel like a “superhero.”3 Giudicelli said that “one must respect the game and the place” when asked about why he created the new regulations on gametime attire.4 What is it about a sleek body-covering black bodysuit that is disrespectful to the sport of tennis in Paris, France? Pardon my French mais je ne comprends pas le problème ici, parce que son ensemble est très approprié et chic au même temps pour l’activité du sport, a mon avis.5

This is not quite an example of Springer’s sexual subjectivity as much as it’s a classic example of Black women being forcibly assigned the role of the hyper-sexual Jezebel.6 Williams is a professional athlete, the best in her craft — there are clearly no issues with her respecting the sport. The fact is that Williams has a very curvy and athletic physique, and her catsuit emphasized this. If she had a smaller, less muscular, WHITE body, she wouldn’t receive this criticism.

Similarly, if Lizzo was a petite white woman instead of a Black BBW7  I doubt she would have been told she couldn’t twerk on stage. Lizzo was victim to whoever in Luther made the decision to regulate her sexual subjectivity, deciding she was a Jezebel for merely existing as a sexually open and free Black woman.

At the end of the day…she still got a check Paid to the Order of Melissa Jefferson by Luther College.8

And as Beyoncé says, “always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper.”9


1 Lizzo. Coconut Oil. “’Scuse Me”. Nice Life, 2016.

2 Kimberly Springer, “Policing Black Women’s Sexual Expression: The Cases of Sarah Jones and Renee Cox.”

3 Christen A. Johnson, “Serena Williams’ catsuit ban another way to police a black woman’s body,” Chicago Tribune, August 24, 2018, http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/sc-fam-serena-williams-body-suit-ban-0904-story.html.


5 In English: I don’t understand the problem here, because her outfit is very appropriate and stylish at the same time for sports, in my opinion.

6 Jezebel is a term used to describe a depiction of Black women that is “innately promiscuous, even predatory” in contrast to white women who are historically portrayed as “models of self-respect, self control and modesty.”

David Pilgrim, “The Jezebel Stereotype,” Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, Ferris State University, July 2002, https://ferris.edu/HTMLS/news/jimcrow/jezebel/index.htm.

7 Big Beautiful Woman.

8 Melissa Jefferson is Lizzo’s government name and the name that is likely on the accounts with all of her bread inside.

9 Knowles-Carter, Beyoncé-Giselle. Lemonade. “Formation”. Parkwood Entertainment, 2016.

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