Big Freedia’s (pronounced FREE-da) most well known song is called “Azz Everywhere!” It’s fitting, as a Big Freedia show features ass-popping just about everywhere. Video clips from her shows look like they could be part of a low budget rap video, or shot on a wild night out at the club. The dancers are face down, ass cheeks clapping in the air. For those of you who don’t know, ass clapping is exactly what it sounds like. So what differentiates Big Freedia from misogynist rappers who rap about butts and perform in the midst of scantily clad women? Why would a Fem 2.0 columnist be writing in praise of Big Freedia?
Although Big Freedia is anatomically male, she refers to herself with female pronouns, and has crowned herself the “Queen Diva” of the New Orleans bounce music scene. Her fluid sexuality and prideful adoption of feminine characteristics mean her deep-voiced commands to “bend over” don’t feel derogatory. The refrain in her song, “Gin In My System” is “I’ve got that gin in my system / Somebody’s gonna be my victim.” By all accounts, that sounds incredibly offensive. However, Freedia performs the song in a call-and-response style, letting the audience fill in the “somebody’s gonna be my victim” line. It isn’t predatory because everyone is participating willingly, and no one is targeted.
When Big Freedia encourages audience members to rush the stage during her performances, she does not single out “sexy ladies,” or even “ladies”: she makes a point of inviting everyone. In fact, she’ll remind men to come up if there are none on stage. The professional dancers vary in sex, race, and personal style, setting a precedent for those who join the stage. At her November 2011 show in Brooklyn, every size, age, shape, and color of ass imaginable was represented on stage.
Big Freedia has command over everyone on stage, which gives an air of protection to participants. One would think this type of show would attract men who find it acceptable to grab any woman’s ass. The Queen Diva does not tolerate that kind of behavior. I have read that Big Freedia has interrupted performances in the past to tell men that they need to back away from women.
The performances exude sexuality for sexuality’s sake and the dancing is not specifically for anyone else’s amusement. Everyone who participates in Big Freedia’s stage antics is having fun and smiling, taking pride in themselves and their bodies. To dance at a Freedia show is to be comfortable in your body and to be confident in what it does—specifically the back portion. At the same time, the dancing is a collective act. The audience cheers for its own members who entertain them on stage, and the brave ones on stage are there to soak up the appreciation. The encouragement goes both ways.
If you have not been to a Big Freedia show yet, I highly recommend you check one out before they start to cost more than $10.