Out Artists Kehlani and Hayley Kiyoko Slam Rita Ora’s “Girls” For Queer-Baiting
Not everyone's feeling Rita Ora's new song "Girls," which features Bebe Rexha, Cardi B, and "Boys" singer Charli XCX.
"I ain’t one-sided, I’m open-minded," Ora sings on the catchy single, which is essentially about drinking wine and kissing girls. "I’m 50-50 and I’m never gonna hide it."
Not one to beat around the bush, Cardi B later raps, "I steal your bitch, have her down with the scissor."
"I always looked at this song as a real genderfluid freedom record," Ora tells People. "It really represents freedom and the chance to be what you want to be—and there being no judgment and just living your life as you want to live it."
Asked if she hopes "Girls" becomes a "bisexual anthem," the 27-year-old British singer replies, "Definitely. I definitely want it to feel like it’s an anthem to somebody. I want there to be a sense of freedom for anyone who listens to it. So I’ll take it!"
But Ora, who admits the track was inspired by Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl," demurs when asked if she also considers herself bisexual or fluid. "If people look at it like that, it’s very narrow-minded, and I don’t think that’s what this record is," she protests. "I don’t think that that even matters."
While some listeners have dismissed "Girls" as a harmless summer bop, others claim the song is queer-baiting, trivializing queer sexuality, and playing into harmful bisexual stereotypes.
Hayley Kiyoko, whom fans lovingly call “Lesbian Jesus,” unofficially came out when she released her music video “Girls Like Girls” in 2015. She posted on social media that Ora's "Girls" has her "overwhelmed with thoughts."
“It’s important for us artists to move the cultural needle forward, not backwards," Kiyoko writes. "I literally have a knot in my stomach right now."
"I fully support other artists who freely express themselves and applaud male and female artists who are opening up more and more about their sexual identities," she continues. “But every so often there come certain songs with messaging that is just downright tone-deaf, which does more harm than good for the LGBTQ+ community. A song like this just fuels the male gaze while marginalizing the idea of women loving women."
"I don’t need to drink wine to kiss girls; I’ve loved women my entire life. This type of message is dangerous because it completely belittles and invalidates the very pure feelings of an entire community. I feel I have a responsibility to protect that whenever possible."
Kiyoko concludes, “We can and should do better.”
Kehlani, who came out as queer last month on Twitter, has also shared her thoughts on the track, tweeting, "Hate to be THAT guy but there were many awkward slurs, quotes, and moments that were like ‘word? word.’”
“Don’t make this personal," the singer writes, adding, "there. were. harmful. lyrics. period.”