So if you don’t know what twerking is, it’s about time that you found out. Especially because according to the Huffington Post, last week was the “twerkiest week of all time ever.”
Maybe it’s because Myley Cyrus performed the “Twerk that Changed the World” with Robin Thicke at the MTV video music awards in a nude bikini as he sung his summer anthem, Blurred Lines. (See my post earlier this summer about how this song has been accused of being ‘rapey’.)
Maybe it’s because within 48 hours of Myley Cyrus’ performance, the word “twerk” made it into the Oxford dictionary, defined as: “dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance” (as of August 2013). (Check out slate’s commentary)
Maybe it’s because you’ve seen this INSANE video of an epic twerk fail, posted by a user attempting to make a video for her boyfriend, but instead she ends up smashing a glass coffee table and setting her clothes on fire.
Or maybe you’ve seen the parody YouTube video, Captain Kirk watches Miley Cyrus performance.
Still confused about what ‘twerking’ really is? You’re not alone!!
Well, maybe urban dictionary‘s definition will provide a more accurate explanation: “The rhythmic gyrating of the lower fleshy extremities in a lascivious manner with the intent to elicit sexual arousal or laughter in ones intended audience.” In essence, some sexy dancing.
My question is, where does the HANDSTAND come in? I mean, people have been ‘dancing to popular music in a sexually provocative manner with thrusting hip movements’ at least since Elvis, if not the beginning of time. But the handstand? I think that’s what got 33 students at Scripps Ranch High School suspended for posting a twerking video filmed on school property.
So, have you explained twerking to your parents yet? No? Well, this hilarious (yet at times racist) NY Times op-ed may help, and it’s important to remember,
A critical first step is to acknowledge that twerking is a normal part of life and that there is nothing shameful in their questions.
Which is actually a great message for sexuality educators as well. Your students may be wanting to twerk, have tried it out at home (hopefully without burning candles nearby), or watching YouTube videos of people twerking. And if twerking hasn’t come up in your classes yet, you might as well be prepared. Here are some suggestions for finding out more about what your participants know, and helping them process this twerk freak out:
– Simply ask, “what comes to mind when you hear the word ‘twerk’?”
– Check out some twerking youtube videos so you have a good handle on the wide variety of interpretations of twerking. (WARNING, it could be rather explicit if you simply google ‘twerk’)
– Have participants think about the various perceptions of twerking, such as what the twerker may be seeking, what the twerkee may be experiencing, and what the twerk bystander may be observing.
– Ask students why twerking is causing such a ‘freak out’ in the media.
– Explore scenarios in which twerking may be appropriate (at a dance club) or inappropriate (at a job interview- except if it’s for a hip-hop backup dancer).
– Ask students to consider how twerking can relate to World Sexual Health Day (celebrated this past week, on Sep 4, 2013)- this year’s slogan: “To achieve sexual health, picture yourself owning your sexual rights”.
Just remember, we all twerk in our own ways. Some with nude-colored bikinis, some standing on their hands, and some just swaying from side to side. At the end of the day it’s all sexy dancing. And, if you want to reach your audience, don’t put down their twerk- your twerk may be different, but it’s still a twerk.