The Drama Over Rita Ora’s Song “Girls”: Are We *Actually* Offended? Or Is Being Offended Simply On Trend?

It’s possible to have multiple opinions about a singular topic, right?

Okay, girls. It’s time to get uncomfortable.

As I’m sure you know, because the internet is collectively losing its mind over it, Rita Ora released a new song called “Girls” last week.

I’m uncomfortable because two sides of my head are at war. Part of me is like, cute song! Why are all these annoying ass people offended? And the other part of me is like, actually this song is annoying and wrong on so many levels. As usual, I have a lot of feelings. And so does the lez internet.

Lots of queer women, including lesbian Jesus, Hayley Kiyoko, don’t see “Girls” as an innocent summer jam.

And many celesbians, including Ruby Rose and Kittens, commented “thank you” to Hayley’s post. Thousands of fans commented, elaborating on why they perceived the song to be damaging.

Like, I get it, Hayley. I really do. But also, I don’t.

In the past, I’ve penned essays on why it’s “problematic” (gag) for a celebrity to sing about kissing girls, but to not publicly identify as a queer person… or only vaguely insinuate that they aren’t straight (but refuse to provide us with an actual identity). I’ve also written about why criticizing artists for being problematic is annoying and pointless.

I see both sides, like Chanel. Because there are two sides. Life wouldn’t be interesting without two realities existing at once. Before we all pick a side when it comes to this song, let’s soak in our discomfort.

It’s important to see two sides. It’s possible to have multiple opinions about a singular topic. That’s way more interesting than taking a hard stance one way or another. Now, my dear lezzies, pour yourself a glass of sparkling Rosé and let’s explore our divergent ~feelings~ through a fun little listicle. 

1. There Is Room For Grey Area

There is a larger phenomenon at play here in today’s culture: the refusal to acknowledge nuance, complicated topics, duality, and grey areas. We get rewarded for essays like WHY THIS POP SONG IS DAMAGING and why I’M A LESBIAN BUT NOT OFFENDED BY HOMOPHOBIA – two polar opposites, that don’t leave any room for reality. We pick a side and stay there. The most extreme, unwavering views are the most widely read and shared. I worry that sometimes the writers’ opinions are disingenuous. Are they perhaps just trying to be cool or go viral by being so staunch in their stances?

Here’s the reality: it’s complicated. Is “Girls” that serious? Don’t we have better things to be offended by than a pop song? Also, is it that serious? Don’t lesbians continue to be marginalized in this society unless straight media can profit off fetishizing women loving other women?

2. I Doubt The Queerness Of The Women In The Song

Personally, I am not offended by the song, but I know others who are.

But what I’m actually the most offended by was said best by Patty Aston’s “Sex and The City” power lesbian character: “Sweetheart, that’s all very nice. But if you’re not going to eat pussy, you’re not a dyke.”

We don’t own or even know the sexualities and private lives of Rita Ora, Cardi B, Bebe Rehxa, or Charli XCX.

Still, I can’t help BUT FEEL that perhaps their attraction toward women is disingenuous. I know this is presumptuous – I am self-aware lez, after all. But I can’t help but assume that these sexy singers are “really” queer.

I don’t really care how you identify/what your label is, but if you aren’t gonna actually be with women I’m low-key annoyed. Stay in your lane. At the end of the day, I doubt that any of these women are going to be in an actual, committed relationship with a woman. Do they think girls are hot? Sure. Maybe they even want to kiss them? Sure. But I doubt that they’ve fallen in love with one, walked down a street hand in hand, licked a pussy, or can understand the delicate complexities that come with being with a woman and being queer.

Yes, I know that’s wrong of me (even though you low-key know I’m right). Which brings me to my next point.

They could all very well be some form of queer. They could also just like to get drunk and make out with girls. Maybe it’s for the attention of men. Maybe it’s because they just like to get drunk and make out with girls. Maybe they’re bi. Maybe they’re curious. Maybe they’re full-blown dykes (even though this princess dyke can inherently tell… NO). Maybe the song has everything to do with their sexual identities. Maybe it has nothing to do with their sexual identities.

Hell, every time I drink, I make out with my gay boy BFF. Do I ID as bi or straight now? No. So we have to admit: sometimes drunk make outs are really not that deep and we need not be offended by them because we are humans and messy AF. It’s okay to have a song about it. Straight people have shallow pop songs about getting drunk and making out, so why can’t we have a queer girl version? Stop pretending to be offended that the lyrics are “red wine I just wanna kiss girls.” I am a raging lesbian and I still need a little wine to kiss a woman sometimes. Relax. The lyrics aren’t harmful. They’re fun. We deserve a fun not-that-deep pop song too.

But sometimes drunk make outs do mean something. That’s how some queer women come to terms with their sexuality. If a song like “Girls” gives validity to that experience and some lez closeted teenager needs a little liquid courage to kiss a girl, then I say hell yes. See? This is complicated.

3. Art Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect 

I don’t want to live in a world where we can’t have messy art, music, culture, etc. Not everything is perfect. “Girls” obviously isn’t perfect. But it’s a cute ass song. And you’re probably going to be hearing it a lot this summer. All art is made by humans, and humans are imperfect.

“I Kissed A Girl” is also “problematic” sure, but it’s a f*cking banger. And I’m sure it made millions of girls who were questioning their sexuality feel safe and seen. I know that high school freshman half-closeted me felt a lot more comfortable in my skin by hearing that song, before I even knew what the word “problematic” meant. I’m also sure it also made millions of straight boys feel like lesbian sexuality is on display for them. But you know what? That’s the breaks. And is it really so bad that boys think we’re hot? I mean, two women kissing is probably the sexiest thing this cold, cruel, dark world has to offer so let’s stop demonizing straights for thinking it’s hot.

4. The Patriarchy Sucks

Kiyoko is not as successful as Rita Ora and Cardi B because she’s out and queer. OK? And that’s a sad f*cking truth. But we can’t be mad at bisexual girls because the men in power consider them as still f*ckable and more marketable. These are dark and twisted realities. But let’s not attack female pop stars and “problematize” a simple pop song when the real problem is: le patriarchy.

It hurts that this song blew up within a day and a lot of people still have no idea who Hayley Kiyoko is. She’s written an entire lesbian album. But it’s a reality. Shouldn’t we direct our anger toward the patriarchy who started this whole mess, rather than women just trying to make music? If we continue to blame other women for the patriarchy aren’t we letting the patriarchy win?

5. The Offended Olympics Are Tired, Annoying, and a Little Bit Embarrassing 

I’m really sick of our community bitching and moaning over pop music. I worry that we’re so focused on who is the most offended, the most marginalized, the most outraged that we’re losing our edge.

Whether you’re deeply offended or not by “Girls,” I want you to ask yourself where your outrage stems from, and whether it’s real or performed. Stop acting offended in some quest for validation from the Internet Police. I fear that when we have a full-blown Offense Olympics over a pop song we look a little ridiculous. We take away the small pleasures that pop music gives us. We already have enough performative lesbianism; let’s not perform our offense.

6. It’s A Good Ass Song 

I love the song. It’s a perfect, generic pop song. And sometimes that’s exactly what we need in trying times (don’t times always seem trying these days?). And Cardi B’s verse is, no surprise, fire.

“I steal your bitch, have her down with the scissor.” Same, Cardi.

In conclusion, queers, there’s room for grey area. We can’t water down art by holding artists to black and white expectations. “Girls” is both deep and not deep.  Offensive and not offensive. Revolutionary and outdated. Get comfortable with the duality, because it’s guaranteed that you’ll be hearing this song all summer. And it’s hard not to shake your cute queer butt to it.