Kendrick Lamar’s video for “Humble” sparked a range of responses from women of color. Their criticism centered on Lamar’s discussion of beauty standards—in which he urges women to “show him something natural.”
I’m so f*ckin’ sick and tired of the photoshop
Show me something natural like afro on Richard Pryor
Show me something natural like ass with some stretch marks
Many women of color felt that instead of being empowered, their bodies were simply being policed by a man once again. Lamar was also criticized for using a light-skinned Black model with tame soft curls as an example of “natural hair” and a different, darker-skinned model for the “stretch marks” shot.
@kendricklamar I'm a heavy fan so it's disappointing that humble neglects to speak on real struggles of black women, not just our bodies.
— kay-luh shaw-ray (@KAILACHARE) March 31, 2017
Meanwhile the 'ass with stretch marks' is a dark skinned black woman. We don't see her face. We don't see her natural beauty. Just ass.
— Thot of The Seven Seas (@SourceDuMal) March 31, 2017
Ultimately, wanting women to be in their natural state does not make Lamar a hero. “In those few moments of Humble, Kendrick’s remarks that rejected photoshop and so on were self-serving,” De La Fro wrote. “It was about what he wanted to see. It was about what he finds attractive. A woman feeling ’empowered’ by his remarks seemed to be secondary and within the context of the song—people ‘humbling’ themselves—it seems as if he might be implying that women who use photoshop are morally bankrupt. I don’t apologize for not being moved by that. It’s incredibly sad that all a man has to say is that he likes stretch marks and people lose their minds and put him on this pedestal. It shows how little we expect of men.”
Blogger Femme Feministe echoed that perspective, and integrated into it the feminist theory of the male gaze. “Are we so starved for cishet men to appreciate actual so-called ‘natural’ beauty that Kendrick Lamar showing a woman’s stretch marks is revolutionary?” she wrote for Wear Your Voice magazine. “And behind that lens is Dave Meyers, a cishet white man filming sections of a black woman’s body. The male gaze—the white male gaze—is there.”
Kendrick Lamar has this thing about him that even when he thinks he's uplifting, there's an underlying current of misogyny in his music.
— Esthetician|Skin Therapist|Hydration Aficionado (@CruzanChoklate) March 31, 2017
“Humble” may be a catchy song with a killer music video, but that doesn’t mean Kendrick Lamar’s opinions about women’s beauty are empowering. Lamar has used his platform to put forth many meaningful messages related to social change—perhaps his next move is taking a moment to listen to the women of color he appears to be trying to speak to.