"Can one woman achieve so much and still remain sane?"

The hot new video that my students are showing me features a sexy undulating woman in a cage. She is wearing a flesh-colored body stocking; it looks as if she's naked, except for the black leather belt and requisite black high heels. In this video, particularly during the cage sequence, there is a lot of dyed-blonde hair-flipping. In addition there is panting and growling.

Fifty years of the women's movement, and this is what we've got: a girl on her belly in a cage in a sort of "Girls Gone Wild" meets "Animal Planet" scenario.

I'm so proud.

It's not that I'm bitter, but doesn't this new video-the singer is Shakira and the song is "She Wolf"-- remind you of the proposed cover for Smell the Glove, as discussed by the band members of Spinal Tap?

You remember: Fran Drescher is the band's publicist, and she's saying, "You put a greased naked woman on all fours with a dog collar around her neck and a leash... You don't find that offensive? You don't find that sexist?" The band's manager dismisses her by saying, "This is 1982, Bobby. Come on." And she says, "That's right. It's 1982. Get out of the 60s. We don't have this mentality any more."

Yeah, right.

Obviously all my students know who this young woman is (not Fran Drescher, the singer Shakira), but I hadn't until Samantha and Karen introduced me to the video. I was fascinated by one scene where the singer apparently dislocates her hipbone so she can wrap her leg around her neck in order to, apparently, suck on her knee.

"Do you think that's special effects?" Sam asks.
"Nah, I've seen people do that in Cirque du Soleil," says Karen.
"And I've seen my cat do it when she has fleas," I add.

"Not that you're bitter," Karen and Sam cry in unison.

To be honest, I'm more amused by the video than my two younger friends and colleagues. There's a part where she makes a "growl" that's sort of funny.

Karen, however, is thoroughly outraged, not to obscessed, by a long interview in yesterday's London Telegraph.

Interviewed on September 1, 2009, by Julia Llewellyn Smith, the 31-year-old singer/songwriter of "She Wolf" is described as follows: "In many ways, Shakira embodies the having it all dream women today are supposed to live up to: world domination, babies, followed by more world domination; semi-pornographic gyrating, while also being a modern saint, and PhD student."

"So does having it all now mean being trapped in a cage or gyrating on what looks like a giant colon (that's one of the first backdrops, pre-zoo) wearing a leotard that only covers one leg?" asks Karen. I should probably mention that Karen is an actual Ph.D. student, now finishing her dissertation. She's coming up to her defense and doesn't find a lot of time to work on her backflips these days.

In the Telegraph, we find the following line: "Can one woman achieve so much and still remain sane?"

I would pay actual cash money to hear the tone of voice Ms. Llewellyn Smith would use to say that line aloud.

(I did a graduate degree at a woman's college at Cambridge University and met smart women with what the Brits refer to as "double-barreled" surnames who went on to become journalists and I can imagine very few of them saying "Can one woman achieve so much and still remain sane?" about the writer of "She Wolf" without irony.)

While Karen and Sam are discussing the fact that the essential divide of women into madonnas (not the singer-the religious figure) and whores hasn't changed in the last 2,000 years and
as Karen is quoting from Freud's "The Most Prevalent Form of Degradation in Erotic Life" ("Where these men desire, they cannot love and where they love, they cannot desire"), I'm thinking that you could actually do an interesting feminist version of she-wolf.

There's something to be said for women who run with the wolves, etc., and to celebrate in the cry to release the genuinely predatory, sexually voracious, insatiable, ruthless, powerful, female.

But neither the song nor video indicates that this is what the young hair-flinging and ambitiously gyrating singer is doing.


1. Ummm, she's in a cage. It's no fun being the predator if you're in a cage. According to Karen, "It kind of defeats the whole idea of being predator."

2. What she's doing is sexy because she's sexy, but the moves themselves are weird. It looks like a yoga class gone horribly, horribly wrong. Sam suspects that she is "secretly working for that pole dancing/jazzercising company."

I think the REAL reason-for me, personally--that this song can't be a feminist anthem releasing the She-beast, Her-wolf, or Wolfess is because the song contains perhaps the worst line I've ever heard in a pop song (and that's saying something).

The she-wolf complains, before abandoning her domestic bed and familiar lover to enter the colon, cage, and club:

"I'm starting to feel just a little abused like a coffee machine in an

That's an actual line.

You see why I'm bitter? Let's have coffee. My machine doesn't mind.

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