Men At Twerk Are NSFW: Big Freedia, Drag DJs and Men In Queer Culture — Are they Putting Miley Cyrus to Shame?

“Miley Cyrus’ twerk-filled performance at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards has become the most discussed, polarizing few minutes in a show that saw an ‘N Sync reunion and silhouetted Kanye West singing “Blood on the Leaves”. More than one think piece has accused Cyrus of appropriating and exploiting black culture for her own benefit at the detriment of its pioneers [like Big Freedia].”

                                                                                          – Jason Newman for Fuse.TV

On The #MileyTwerk Controversy and Queer Black Culture

“I’m a singer. I’m not a twerker, I’m not a rapper. I’m a singer…. I really can sing. And you know I can twerk—watch my videos. So there.” – Singer/Pop Artist Miley Cyrus 

[Note: In principle and practice, many of the clips and links below are NSFW. Not. Safe. For. Work. Surf with caution. Some of the content doesn’t prepare you for this fact pre-launch.]

Feminists are not having it.

Kids in San Diego are getting in trouble—like “suspended” in trouble.

Hannity and Limbaugh are hornswoggled, all about this “shocking new twerking thing.” The word “twerk” has made it into the dictionary. Women are even twerking in church…on camera.

But y’all know twerking is nothing new. By now, you’ve likely traced its roots back to Africa’s diaspora, strip club feasts of fancy or your garden variety YouTube/Vine video. Let’s just say it’s familiar.

Twerking’s “a new thing” for Miley Cyrus to do in public (not counting press campaigns planned far in advance of any twerk attempts), so therefore it is “news.” Girlfriend is owning it as-is—so by now ya gotta know, it is Miley’s full intention is to twerk poorly and call attention to the fact that there’s not all too much junk in her trunk.

Ms. Miley ain’t out to win twerk-a-thon championships, and nothing that a Disney grad does—one who’s still on top—is accidental.

Now that that’s out of the way: folks can’t tell what they find most offensive about Miley’s runaway bootie: her lack of hip gyrations, her cultural appropriation, using African American folks as props alongside teddy bears, or her choice to milk every last drop of so-called shock value from ratchet living ’til it’s dry.

MC’s camp is well aware that the so-called American TV demographic isn’t ready for a real-deal twerk. Why would she practice twerking aiming to make that look authentic when it wouldn’t get on the air for the world to see? (Let the “people props” get closer to that.)

As for cultural appropriation, using people as props et al—this is nothing men (and/or Madonna!) haven’t done for decades in the entertainment industry—does that make it okay?

While ratchet/twerking music and culture’s aimed at dancing and partying all night (among, ahem, other ideas), twerking draws upon elements of queer culture. We are everywhere, so why would this not be the case?

LGBTQ folks find Miley’s new-found popularity scenario to be familiar: she’s shining in the spotlight, riding the wave of a cultural trend that’s been around in this form for at least 20 years. When such a trend makes its way to heteronormative culture and is performed by (at least more) heteronormative superstars, it’s salacious, sexy and provocative. “Controversial.” When it’s performed by LGBTQ folks in-community, people are confounded and disgusted. Granted, “disgust” is a subtextual form of interest and arousal, but most folks don’t take much time to process through that appropriately.

Too, to hear Huffpost/AOL tell it, their #MenAtTwerk compilation is one of America’s funniest home videos. As it’s taken out of context, that’s one viewpoint—but because of the platform and audience Huffpost has, such a viewpoint leaves room for much misinterpretation. In-culture, the #MenAtTwerk bootie-clap collage could be considered to be hot, fierce, authentic, queer-inclusive and/or funny at the very least. Not just “funny.”

Back in February, RuPaul and Big Freedia released the hypnotic video and single “Peanut Butter” ( flanked by raw, hot models and dancers (courtesy of Chi Chi LaRue and Big Freedia), and a whole…lotta…arse. (The title of the track is “Peanut Butter,” so no surprises there). This underground club banger’s selling well and re-popularized twerking in-culture in a way that Miley still has yet to understand. Ru and Freedia are internationally famous pop stars too—you just don’t hear about them in the press every…other…second on every other channel.

‘Bout That Actual Life: On Actually Fierce Twerk Game

“I haven’t really seen one bad comment about my twerk video,” she said, then added jokingly, “This is the first thing! All right, I can’t sing, I can’t act, I’m dumb, I’m a hillbilly, but I can twerk, so whatever!” – Miley Cyrus

What did not get as much mainstream press time in this latest cultural case study? Rap Artist-Musician Big Freedia, killin’ it with a jaw dropping set at the Afro-Punk Festival, which took place on the same day as the VMAs did, in the same city and cultural mecca (Brooklyn).

Still, Rap Artist-Musician Big Freedia’s mic is on. People are watching, listening and learning. Big Freedia isn’t any fly-by-night dilettante or hobbyist. This artist is the real, live deal—she’s been all up in Bounce culture and then some since 1999. While promoting her new FUSE show Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce (, she’s making her voice heard, sharing her reflections about the repeated #MileyTwerk spectacle.

While she’s honest about leveraging this strange, emerging opportunity, Big Freedia minces no words: twerking has been screwed and chopped by mainstream culture, and someone from within the culture itself needs to set the record straight.

Sissy Bounce is here, it’s queer, and it’s always been with us.

Reigning Sissy Bounce Queen Diva: Big Freedia Takes New Orleans Bounce to the World Stage

In Her Own Words

“… It’s offensive to black culture and black women who’ve been twerking for years. Every time we do something, people want to snatch it and run with it and put their name on it. And they still don’t even have the moves down yet. Just get me and Miley together so I could give her ass some lessons.” – Big Freedia, on Miley Twerk-A-Mania

Big Freedia doesn’t just make Bounce music—she makes Sissy Bounce music.

She had plenty to share regarding Miley’s twerk-storm. From a recent interview with Fuse TV (, here are a few thoughts Big Freedia shared with her audience:

…. she was trying to twerk. For one thing, we have a dance in bounce music called ‘exercising’ where you just open your legs and shake your butt a little bit from side to side… but she still didn’t even get that right because she didn’t have any butt control. She needs more practice.”

When you have my dancers, they’re professionals. They’re from New Orleans and know what they’re doing . When they started dancing, it was original twerking. Miley’s dancers were prop dancers. None of them were professional dancers.”

They could’ve used girls from New Orleans, even if they were not black, who knew what they’re doing. They’re just using anybody possible just to get that buzz since twerking is hot now. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this, though. I knew the twerking thing was really taking off, but I didn’t know it would blow up like this.”

FUSE asked,Going back to Miley, let’s say you were the choreographer and saw her performance as a dress rehearsal. What specific tips would you have given her?”

Big Freedia responded, “Don’t do it.”

Big Freedia also told she plans to release a response track called “Twerk It,” which “explores the roots of twerk vocabulary.”

Twerk Couture: Bad Girls Twerking Badly Still Puts Twerking On the Map

You can’t really explain [twerking],” Miley said. “It’s something that comes naturally…It’s a lot of booty action…. I’ve been practicing probably for the past two years, in my own time in my living room.” – Miley Cyrus, to E Online

This is an achy-breaky trend that will not die, and Miley isn’t even attempting to backpedal her way out of it. She is riding it for all it is worth to her—and she’s not in this twerk game alone. She of course has handlers and press people. In her mind (from all press interview accounts), Miley really is just chilling with her friends and doing what she loves.

It’s A Feminist/Black/Queer Thing: Miley Isn’t Here to Make It Rain.

On Channeling Nothing

RT @MileyCyrus “Mile, if twerkintwerkin woulda been invented…. And I had a foam finger…. I woulda done the same thang you did.” – DAD

If you watch Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” video or even Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” the point of the shimmery video spectacle is not about making sure celebs and models are “dancing well.”It’s all about the performative pantomime. Again, we already know this yummy aesthetic quite well: Andrew Christian and Chi Chi LaRue’s underwear ad campaigns alone take bootie-shaking to beatific heights, masterfully conjoining commerce, spectacle and eroticism. –

Don’t let Miley’s twerk game fool you: titillation sells, and you can always take that to the bank. Twerk is another set of clothes for Ms. Cyrus. Miley’s still got time for high fashion photo shoots with Terry Richardson and has covered V, Cosmo, Harper’s, Elle UK and counting in recent memory. Those magazines don’t (yet) encourage ratchet couture spreads, and this twerking thing is but another momentary fashion prop for some.

Too, engaged to a man or not, Miley is gay-friendly and (many say) a queer lass indeed. Playing at queering culture isn’t something that can be shut on and off. Cyrus makes a proactive point to remind her fans about this, and the We Can’t Stop video is all about playing at bi-chic tropes and omnisexual aesthetics that may or may not keep happening when cameras stop rolling.

In terms of controversy and criticism goes, Miley takes it all in stride. Trained to deal with the public from a very early age (at least years old), she and her handlers know how to keep people talking and to take “faux rebellion” nowhere near the bleeding edge of real rebelliousness.

As for the pop star’s heiney? Here we have the good ol’ “Goodie I still get to look trick:” you criticize a woman for shakin’ what her momma gave her, telling your partner, the press, your friends, “Oooh! This is just scandalous!” All the while, you’re never taking your eyes off her bum and assorted hijinx. Scandalous attention is still attention.

We Can’t Stop Miley Cyrus. We Won’t Stop Miley Cyrus.

Cyrus’ only responses to criticism have moved along two main streams of thought.

Here’s one: when criticized for her unicorn onesie twerk video, Cyrus essentially said [paraphrased] “J. Dash is happy…no one heard of his song “Wop” before I did that.” And two: when hip hop legends such as Jay Z shout her out in their rhymes and in the press, people tell Miley he’s dissing her. Her responses?

RT @MileyCyrus Somewhere in America a Jay Z song is onnnnnn

RT @MileyCyrus That’s a win win forrrrrr me.

RT @MileyCyrus Call it what you want. But I don’t see Mr. Carter shoutin any of you bitches out. #twerkmileytwerk

And Jay Z agrees.

Miley is still working with (and yes, twerking with) Snoop Lion (aka Snoop Dogg), Odd Future, Ludacris, Big Sean, Pharrell, Juicy J, Nelly and many other rap artists du jour. The Yin Yang Twins wrote a stripper pole-ready song about her tush and twerking it. (

The verdict is in: Miley is “right” on all accounts.

Shameless Plugs

Speaking of accounts, Miley’s still posting pictures of her bootie @MileyCyrus, and you can keep up with Big Freedia’s latest pics and posts @Bigfreedia.

So let’s get a move-on #MCTWERKTEAM…. Assume the #MileyTwerk position and represent.

“Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce” debuts Wednesday, October 2 at 11/10C on Fuse TV and you can buy her album “Queen of Bounce” on iTunes by clicking here (

You can learn (and dance!) more by watching the documentary “Big Freedia The Queen Diva” here:

You know Miley’s on top of the promo gig too: according to Miley’s Twitter TL, you can of course pre-order #Bangers / Wrecking Ball on iTunes here: (

Now Playing – Big Freedia – Y’all Get Back Now

Because she is royalty, let’s give the Diva the last word. Big Freedia recently told the Daily News:

Twerking—and it’s a lot more than twerking—comes from a long history of music and dance in New Orleans. Twerkin’ happen around the world for a long time now, so I’m very excited that it’s coming into the public eye, as long as it’s respected.”

We could say more on the matter and likely will.

But wouldn’t you rather be dancin’ and watchin’ all up on this anyway? Let’s free you up to do that. And let’s keep it real: how many times have you had to switch to your “kitty pics” screen-saver so you wouldn’t get caught watching “Peanut Butter” on loop? Oh—that was just us? Oh, okay. Right.


“One of Us?” Not As Much…On Fatboy Slim’s Queer Behavior

“The most ironic thing is that most of what we do was invented by black, gay Americans in the first place.”

– Fatboy Slim, on EDM / House Music

Fatboy Slim: Queer…or Just European?

Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) is not one to dither around or dilly-dally when it comes to sonic expansiveness and creative perception. While serving as producer, writer or DJ, Fatboy “Jack-of-All-Genres” Slim happily bounces from genre to genre to suit each new mood, project or opportunity. His range of landscapes at-play include Independent Pop, British Hip Hop and House, Big Beat and Dance music, naturally.

Born Quentin Cook, this UK underground boy gone massive came from punk rock beginnings and scruffy indie aesthetics before heading away to college in Brighton, then segueing into club and DJ culture.

Cook enjoyed a brief stint as the bassist for UK alt-pop outfit The Housemartins and experienced his first dash of fame during the band’s “Happy Hour” phase. Soon enough, Cook worked his way back to clubbing and DJ’ing, finally gaining a critical mass of attention and fans with his production and mashup skills, and eventually coming into his own with the fame and success of the hypnotic tracks “Praise You” and “The Rockafeller Skank.”

Some lads hear it more than others, but the “Is He Gay or Just European?” trope prevails in a culture where a metrosexual is a term the British media coined to describe a distinctly European look, sensibility and sexual fluidity (often but not always attached to disposable income and class). Such themes include but are not limited to: effeminate fashion, unisex/asexual presentation and (ahem) sexual experimentation or fluidity. The fact that all metrosexual men are “straight” is of course hogwash. Too–more and more, youth culture refuses to “pick a team” or define themselves by any label whatsoever.

So now, we have the news that Fatboy Slim is a regular Pride entertainer, a staunch LGBTQ advocate, and has ‘experimented with’ men sexually.

If you’d hear it from Cook himself, it’s N.B.D., but perhaps of some interest: back in 2004, Fatboy Slim told the press, “Well, everyone’s had one try-out experience, haven’t they?”

On his relationship with wife Zoe Bell, Fatboy Slim went on, “Me and Zoe have always been convinced [our son is] gay anyway.”

The fact that such goings on were mostly laughed off and minimized typifies the sexual fluidity that is our shared human experience. In less of a “bi-chic” moment and more of a “yeah, that happened” moment, Cook’s language wasn’t quite politically correct but his sentiment speaks to a nonchalance that reveals how natural and fluid sexuality is.

Is this something we can or should ignore?

Being that Fatboy Slim’s son’s still of a tender age, Cook may be keeping laser-point specifics of his son’s life private and deflecting the concept of queering personal life or relationships. However last year, Cook told Pink News UK his that supporting equal marriage is a ‘no brainer’ and revealed, “I talk about the issue with my son.”

Cook, who’s done much education and advocacy work for local young artists in his hometown, once performed at the Terrace Bar of the House of Commons to support even more community-based music initiatives for youth. By having done so, could he be, however subconsciously, helping to open the minds of UK lawmakers to queer culture, sexually fluid living and LGBTQ art and iconography?

Time will tell.

Meanwhile, are Fatboy Slim’s remarks about his own ‘sexual experimentation’ dismissive…or “normal?”

In essence, you cannot un-queer yourself, culturally or sexually. What’s definitive here is that Cook is decidedly an ally. And for the time being, the rest is none of our “B.I.-IZ-NESS.”

Have a nosh on the concept while you nod your head to Fatboy Slim’s video, “Weapon of Choice” feat. Christopher Walken.  (Yes, Hunty’s: come back and share your thoughts with us after the jump-off.)



Admired and Desired: Checking In With Margaret Cho

I’m the One That I Want: Can We Reclaim the Word “Tranny?”

“I refer to myself as gay, but I’m married to a man.”

– Margaret Cho

LGBTQIA identity isn’t about who you do it with. Until, of course…it absolutely is.

Margaret Cho (“Drop Dead Diva,” “I’m The One That I Want’) is as scrappy as she is electric. She’ scrappy because she’s taken so much guff, sharing her multiple talents on and off-screen (she acts, sings, directs, writes, designs clothes, is a walking tattooed work of art and is a standout standup comic). Cho can transition from an elegant purr to a lioness’ growl with no hesitation. She’s electric, because she sings the body electric: she’s sensual, naughty, flirtatious, often bawdy and ultimately playful.

If you’ve seen her comedy flick “I’m The One That I Want,” the efforting in her journey to long term success is palpable. You get the sense she’s had to claw her way all the way up to the glass ceiling and had to brace herself with her back up, and kick the glass away with a pair of steel-toed Doc Martens just to disappear the damn thing.

Cho doesn’t “play the queer card,” or the race card. Rather, she is queering play. She is queering entertainment. When you can let the cameras roll and share  minute details about your open relationship on morning chat shows, ( segue into outing fellow celebs (, put the world on notice that you will get down with anything that moves as you like (just like men do), and always leave ’em laughing…if anything, you could say Cho plays “the laughs card.”

But to what end? Her comedic M.O. Doesn’t feel like a manipulation, rather it’s a weapon.

As she’s currently promoting her latest venture, the MOTHER TOUR (, thoughts and themes come to mind about Margaret Cho’s presence in the world.

There’s Some Tranny Chasers Up In Here

“ A few words about ‘trannychasing.’ I am not a trannychaser. Ok, actually I am a trannychaser. No I am not. I am a trannycatcher! Just kidding!” – Margaret Cho

As a self-confessed “tranny chaser,” Margaret Cho’s taken a good amount of flak for her feelings and affirmed desires, without too much apology. It’s a tough concept to think about, as she’s done so much brilliant work and she’s really been out there on the road, touring with Ani  DiFranco and Lilith Fair, indie all the way for decades on end, fearlessly advocating for queer rights, feminist and race equality, and respect in the entertainment industry.

There’s no doubt Cho is sex positive (she’s on the Good Vibrations board alongside much of her other activist and fund-raising work), queer-identified and trans* inclusive: she directed the highly acclaimed “Young James Dean” video  by Girlyman (, featuring trans* peers and allies, covering lyrics about coming up as genderqueer. And her routines, filmic work and writing boasts a high trans* visibility ratio, including clearing the floor for trans* folks, often guys, to speak as well. She supports fellow trans* comics and entrepreneurs and leverages her celebrity to help folks make a steady income who might not do so otherwise. She will tweet, promote, and help to encourage business ventures for others—often tirelessly.

Folks have voiced concern with her humor about her “trannychaser” (or catcher) jokes and statements, and Cho has formally explained her viewpoint (, stating these are just jokes based on reverence and respect, and that folks are taking things out of context—too seriously.

Fellow Tobi Hill-Meyer states Cho is objectifying trans* men ( as cisgender men often do with  trans* women, fetishizing them and changing people into “things.”

“Trans IS a legitimate gender” is a defense against the objectification idea, posted by Cho’s comedic peer, Ian Harvie (

Harvie wrote on his blog, “ If you believe Transgender IS a legitimate gender, how can you argue that it’s wrong to eroticize Trans people? If you do not see Trans as a legitimate gender, then what’s wrong with you?!I’m Trans, I’m Butch, and identify as a Trans man, regardless of my given biological sex. I absolutely believe it’s okay to be attracted to, exoticize, fetishsize, and eroticize any and all Trans people. After all, a fetish is something that we desire or that turns us on.”

Too, RuPaul penned the song “Tranny Chaser” ( as a declaration of sexuality, desirability, and a playful take on the concept. “Do you wanna be me?” the song bridge begins.  Fully aware of the seduction in the words, RuPaul goes on, “That don’t make you gay.” “Or do you wanna [beep] me? That don’t make you gay….”

It’s hard to laser-focus down to one “right take” on the issue when so many folks in-community with so many different experiences feel empowered by the erotic aspects of being queer and desired. Other bloggers have called Cho’s comments disgusting, meanwhile, she is blowing heteronormative minds open simply by sharing the concept. Rhetorical questions arise: is it better to be vilified, “romanticized, dehumanized, or eroticized? If we’re all “in on the desire,” is it wrong? Is there a happy medium that requires no context?

Cho grew up in San Francisco, which could explain matters somewhat. In the City, you are what you say you are, even if you change your mind about it tomorrow. Middle America doesn’t quite dovetail with such a mindset (yet?).

Issues of class and power can’t be ignored: though they all had challenging beginnings in their careers, now relatively better-paid or well-paid performers, Cho’s, Harvie’s and RuPaul’s experiences differ by definition from that of a queer or trans* man or woman who doesn’t have the same means or sense of empowerment to lead with sexuality, or who might lead a different lifestyle, might have experienced more harassment with less resources and so on.

When these issues arise consider them to be a gift: because they grant us the opportunity to talk about them, and hopefully to come to kind conclusions at the end of the day. There are no easy answers, and let’s hope we can all find ways to continue to ask the right questions and uplift one another, wherever we meet—even if it can never be in the middle.

Let’s hope we can amicably find ways to “agree to disagree,” and let’s keep shining, living, loving and relating.

Can a person really be a “fetish?” Is that even the issue here? Please share your experience.