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Is the twerk empowering or just more pandering to the male ideal of what female pop stars should act like? EMMA JONES investigates
I'm transfixed, trying to concentrate on a fast-moving image – the twerking butt of pregnant rapper Cardi B.
She's not paused for breath, as she digs her fingers into the stage at Coachella, and shakes it.
Amazing, considering Cardi B is shoe-horning into the space left by Beyoncé the day before, when the Destiny's Child front woman slayed the festival's headline slot.
Prompting some commentators to rename the three-day gig Beychella.
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Not that I think you should compare pears with peaches, or whatever.
But they are female performers, judgements are automatic.
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The critiques are coming in quicker than Beyoncé's costume changes.
'Beyoncé may have given Coachella-goers a treat in the form of a Destiny's Child reunion, but Cardi B just did what Queen Bey wasn't able to do last year — and that's perform while pregnant!' roars an online journalist.
Goes without saying he's a man.
Another says, Cardi B's 'not letting her pregnancy get in the way'. Ummm.
OK, I get it. So, it's a competition, then.
Between women. There's me, just being kind of awestruck, that bums can do that stuff. Both of them.
Of course, the rules on stage are different for men.
If you're a bloke, like Post Malone, shuffling on the stage in his pyjama shorts, rapping over a backing track is perfectly acceptable.
But women have to look flawless.
Sing, dance, gyrate. Seamlessly melding heightened sexuality with references to the civil rights movement and Caribbean history. Phew!
That's why Cardi B and Beyoncé pulled out every move in their repertoire.
Cardi B's spent more on her stage set than she got paid.
The stakes are higher, so you gotta take it up a level.
However, be warned.
Even when you do, like Beyoncé, you can be upstaged at any moment by a minor deviation – in her case, a wardrobe malfunction. She delivered what was, quite frankly, a superhuman two-hour set, but the story on Mail Online was that her top fell down a bit.
Before I have had time to process this, my Twitter stream is telling me Cardi's is the image of self-empowerment that women have been waiting for.
Even when her backing dancers are curled around stripper poles. Every aspect of the 25-year-old's performance has been analysed for me, including her fashion nods to music heroes TLC (and to her former career as an exotic entertainer), paving Cardi's way from the dancehalls to the pop hall of fame.
Her proclamation, 'Fuck him! I get a baby,' is the inspirational voice of a generation kids on Twitter say. 'Fuck him! Get money.'
Point being, she doesn't give one. She's in control.
It's a new one on me. But, like I say, I'm not arguing with that bottom, I'm nodding with it, it's extremely persuasive.
In a post-Kardashian world, women are using their butts emblematically, to get fierce and loud.
Ass has been weaponised. We make the rules, so watch out.
We will get babies and money. We will not be put off in our crusade.
Finance and fertility is the message, right?
Most startling of all, is that motherhood doesn't have to get in the way.
A young performer carrying a baby. Or a 36-year-old mother-of-three – Beyonce gave birth to twins less than a year ago – can make her own rules.
Provided, that is, you have super-human qualities, like Cardi and Bey.
And a great, bouncy ass.
Lily Allen recently recalled how her change from easily-marketable-sexy-young-girl, to slightly-older-female-with-babies, was met with confusion at her record company: 'They couldn't articulate it, but what they were saying was, 'we just don't know how to sell sex now that you are very publicly a mother'.'
Similarly, ex-Everything but The Girl singer Tracey Thorn was angered when she was described as 'a 55-year-old wife and mother' in a recent review of her new solo work.
The songwriter was wondering what being a wife or mother had to do with it.
Can you imagine reviewing a Rod Stewart album, on the same terms? 'The 73-year-old grandad, who has eight children, by five different mothers...'
But as Tracey Thorn says: 'Same old shit.' Just like Rod's last album.
When I became pregnant, in my mid-twenties, I remember a similar experience. A look of unease, passing over the faces of television executives, upon seeing my bump. I was auditioning for a new yoof show.
A fresh-faced blonde, with a flat stomach, sashayed in behind me – I knew then that my televisual time was up.
I wonder whether I'd be able to cut it now.
I turn the other cheek on my chair, to check out my own bum. It's moderately toned, from Booty barre sculpting classes, at the gym.
Even so, it feels like Queen Bey has raised the bar, again.
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