Why Erykah Badu Won't Just Stop Tweeting About Short Skirts, Explained

Bryan Steffy/Getty Images for Nu-Opp, Inc
Bryan Steffy/Getty Images for Nu-Opp, Inc

Who is Erykah Badu?

Erykah Badu is an iconic neo soul artist who single-handedly forced tens of thousands of Black men to delete men named “Tyrone” from their address books, which subsequently ruined the name Tyrone for tens of thousands of Black men. RIP the name Tyrone.


Also, on a more superficial level, she’s become perhaps just as well-known for her status as this modern-day Doula Medusa hybrid.

Huh? How so?

She’s been romantically linked to a few high profile artists — most notably Andre 3000 and Common — and each of these men have undergone drastic changes after being with her. For instance, before Erykah, Dre was a jersey and fitted cap-rocking rapper from Atlanta. After Erykah, Dre starting dressing like the future.

You mean like the rapper Future?

No. The literal future. And not even someone from the future. Dre didn’t dress like he was from 2316. He dressed like he was the year 2316.

Anyway, this has given Badu a bit of a mystical aura. A woman whose eyes you dare not look into because her iris will twerk on your soul.


Yes. Really. I've never met Erykah Badu before, but I'm both in love with and scared to death of her.


Scared to death?

To quote Verbal Kent, "Keaton always said 'I don't believe in God, but I'm afraid of him." Well, I believe in God, but the only thing that scares me is Erykah Badu's eyes.


I see. So, why is she in the news today?

You know that Kanye song “Real Friends”? Well, Erykah Badu is in the news today because she apparently doesn’t have any right now. At least none willing and able to tell her to take 27 Window Seats and chill for a minute.


What happened?

Last week, as a response to a news story about a school in New Zealand with a dress code policy dictating that girls wear knee-length skirts so they won’t distract boys, Badu tweeted her agreement, stating “I agree. We are sexual beings. We should consider everyone. Young girls are attractive. Some males are distracted.


And then, after receiving criticism for that tweet — which many people believed reinforced rape culture by implying that males (men and boys) have uncontrollable sexual urges that need to be quelled by conservatively dressed women — she tweeted:

Males should be taught to be responsible for their actions from childhood. It's not ok to "prey" on young women. But do I think it is unnatural for a heterosexual male 2b attracted to a young woman in a revealing skirt? No. I think it is his nature.


And then, after receiving criticism for that tweet — which many people believe reinforced rape culture by implying that a woman’s or girl’s choice of attire can determine whether she’s sexually assaulted — she tweeted:

Incorrect. An inclination to be attracted to women of child bearing age is natural. PEDOPHILIA is deviant behavior.


And then, after receiving criticism for that tweet — which, since child-bearing age can be as early as nine or 10, implied it’s natural for grown men to be sexually attracted to toddlers — she tweeted:

An older healthy non deviant male's attraction to flowering young women is as natural as a developing young girls attraction to older men.


And then, after receiving criticism for that tweet — which doubled down on the toddler tweet by throwing in some “girls lust over grown men” garnish, as if they’re the same thing — she tweeted:

Be careful w/feminism, veganism, sexism, racism, socialism, liberalism, naturalism, formism … "Formism kills form by hugging it to death"


And then, after confusing everyone with that, she tweeted:

In 8th grade I was attracted to my bball coach when 1 year before, I had no such thoughts. But My body was changing. My skirt got higher…


Which used her own experience as a basis for her belief for why young girls should dress in a way to attempt to quell their sexual natures and retroactively prevent men and boys from thinking of them in a sexual nature. Which, again, misses the larger point that there’s nothing women can do to prevent that from happening. And that its not on the woman or girl to prevent men and boys from acting in a sexually inappropriate or criminal way against them.

She said this all on the same day?

No. These tweets are just a few of the dozens left over a span of a week. Which, well, let me put it this way: Kawhi Leonard just won NBA Defensive Player of the Year. But no one has ever defended anything harder than Erykah Badu defends her opinion. She’s the Twitter equivalent of Dikembe Mutombo’s finger-wag.


So, to be honest, I don’t see a problem with Badu’s tweets. It is true that men have sexual urges and that young women’s attire can distract men. How is any of this a problem?

If we were on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, this is where I’d call a friend. In this instance, the friend would be Shamira Ibrahim, who wrote on Badu last week for VSB and has a much better answer to this than I would.


From “How Hotep Thinking Like Erykah Badu’s Robs Black Children Of Their Childhoods”

It’s a false nuance to suggest there can be proactive measures done to help children and teenagers not get raped; a prayer cloth isn’t the barrier between whether or not an adult man will make the decision to try and touch you, and I don’t know what would make you think otherwise. It is hurtful and it is wrong.

Normalizing the compulsion of people who are gifted with the responsibility of guarding children’s lives — whether in an official capacity or a familial one — is not being “realistic.” It is allowing for a space in which predators can have a space in young lives.

It is not a kid’s job to accommodate adults in not sexualizing them. And no matter how nuanced you try to make it sound, the fact of the matter is that all roads outside of “targeting and raping children is wrong and the rapist’s fault only” ultimately lead to that end point. Folks are squinting their third eye so hard trying to find the 2nd side to the story that they are landing cross-eyed, Badu included. Which also ultimately serves as an upsetting reminder that our default inclination to associate iconic neo-soul artists with the attribute of being “woke” is not as accurate as them just being hotep as all of the fucks.


Interesting. What's that bit at the end about neo-soul artists and being woke?

Well, Badu is just one of the many "conscious" artists — from singers like Jill Scott and Lauryn Hill to rappers like Lupe Fiasco — who've made a habit out of doing and saying things that would suggest they're less progressive and forward-minded than their music might lead you to assume they are. It's a dynamic where fans (wrongly) presume the music created by these people makes them above reproach; that since their music has the appearance of being smarter than most music, the artists creating this music are smarter than most people. Naturally, this can create an air of intellectual invincibility. Where even if Badu had people around her to let her know how problematic her tweets are, she wouldn't listen.


Ah, I see now. Well, I’m glad you have friends like Shamira.

As am I. I only wish Erykah Badu did too. But maybe they’re just scared of what happened to Tyrone and they just wish to stay in her phone.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


Mrs. Leah

I see it like this, a dog is a dog is a dog and no I am not calling all men dogs. You can walk by it and get no response or get a slight head lift and maybe yelp or growl. But wave a piece of meat in the dogs face you walk by and watch him do what a dog does.

Men ARE visual beings. When a woman exposes herself to him his nature will react. That does not mean he will pounce her or rape her but you will get his attention most of the time and distract him from his initial thoughts or doing even if just for a minute.

Just because we can’t control the actions of a predator does mean a young lady should not be taught to cover up and look decent. Especially aged appropriate.