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Rita Ora’s Latest Collab “Girls” is Out, and We Need to Talk About It

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Drexel chapter.

Rita Ora just released her newest single “Girls” today, featuring Cardi B, Charli XCX, and Bebe Rexha, and there’s a lot to talk about. The song caught my attention after Hayley Kiyoko reacted to it on Instagram (without actually calling the artists out by name): 

And yes, that is bad*ss singer/LGBTQIA advocate Kehlani commenting “thank you” under Hayley’s post.

Naturally, my interest was piqued as a huge fan of Hayley and her work (dubbed the Lesbian Jesus by her fans). From the comments, it was easy enough to figure out which song Hayley was talking about. 

To start with, there are some positive aspects of this song. First of all, this is a jam. There’s no denying it. But aside from that, it also tells the story of Rita’s own sexuality:

I ain’t one-sided, I’m open-minded

I’m fifty-fifty and I’m never gonna hide it

Rita told Billboard, “I just really wanted to show a side of me that just represents freedom and the belief [that you should] really be what you want to be…It’s not actually that deep. It really is just about that. It’s a free message, and for me, really fun. It’s just a fun record.”

It’s not often that bisexual women (implied by the “fifty-fifty” reference) get a fun and carefree song to celebrate themselves, and that should not go unnoticed. However, it is interesting to note that when asked if Rita considers herself to be bisexual or fluid, she told People, “I think the way…If people look at it like that, it’s very narrow-minded, and I don’t think that’s what this record is. I don’t think that that even matters. Yeah.” Wait, wasn’t being bisexual and being attracted to both men and women the whole point of the song?

So it’s also easy to see where Hayley is coming from.

Cardi B, probably the hottest name on this track right now, has had some controversies of her own in the LGBTQIA community. She’s been accused of transphobia and got some heat after supporting her soon-to-be-husband’s homophobic song lyrics. It just adds to the issues surrounding this song—not only is Cardi seemingly trying to score some points within the community, she’s also somehow making the queer experience about how sexy she is to women. Her lyrics are specifically tailored to the kind of men who get turned on watching women with other women. Here are just some examples:

Now I could be your lipstick just for one night

It tastes good just rolling off your tongue, right?

I steal your b•tch, have her down with the scissor

Tonight, I don’t want a dog, I want a kitten

It certainly doesn’t help that Charli XCX and Bebe Rexha’s verse turn wlw into predators:

You know I tamed it, and then I named it

I put the lion in the cage and then I laid with her

I’m the hunter and she the prey, yeah

How creepy and threatening would it be if the roles were reversed, and it were a man singing about hunting women down as prey? This certainly doesn’t to anything to paint lesbians and bisexual women in a positive light. It’s actually pretty damaging.

Hayley also points out the implication in the song that girls need to drink wine before being able to kiss other girls: Red wine, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls”—as if girls only get drunk and experiment with each other, rather than form meaningful, lasting relationships.

It is genuinely possible that this was an honest mistake. Like Hayley states in her own post, I don’t believe the artists on this collab intended to create this connection—but once it’s out there, it’s out there. And that goes for the rest of the song too. Whether it was on purpose or not, this song both trivializes and sexualizes wlw and their experiences. 

Image Courtesy of Genius Lyrics

Overall, I think Hayley describes the song perfectly in just one word: tone-deaf. I get that it’s meant to be a “girl power jam.” It just misses the mark for me, and probably for a lot of other people in the LGBTQIA community, who deal with the very real criticism and marginalization of their own sexuality every day. Whether Rita, Cardi, Bebe, and Charli had good intentions or not, they do not deserve to have their sexuality exploited for the sake of album sales.

Her Campus Drexel contributor.