Performing at an after-party for the 2008 MTV Movie Awards, M.I.A. interrupted her set to announce she’d donate her $100,000 appearance fee to build schools in Liberia–a pretty respectable move, I’d say. Her activism, fueled by her early life spent as a refugee of Sri Lanka, isn’t always well-received though; her support of Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers and the brutal murders of red heads depicted in her music video for “Born Free,” for example, have been anything but celebrated.
The femcee from the UK released her video for “Bad Girls” on Friday (Feb. 3), directed by “Born Free” director Romain Gavras. Controversial? Yes. Intentionally? Of course. Don’t like what she has to say? She’ll most likely greet that sentiment with something along the lines of her hand gesture at Super Bowl XLVI’s halftime show. And that’s because when it comes to oppressed peoples and their oppressors–like, Saudi Arabia, the only country who bans women from driving–there’s only one thing to do in M.I.A.’s eyes: get behind the wheel to drive her message home at full speed.
In May 2010, a Saudi woman got behind the wheel of her car and put the video of her driving up on YouTube. The activist, Manal al-Sharif, was arrested, released 10 days later, and then started the #Women2Drive campaign that captured international attention.
This past Saturday (Feb. 4), still without a driver’s license, al-Sharif and another female activist told AFP they had filed suit against the Saudi government for banning them from driving.
If her video released one day earlier is any indication, M.I.A. is up for more than just honking her horn in support. The clip–filmed in Morocco–depicts women in Arab garb getting behind the wheel, performing stunts (also known as hagwala, a wild form drifting popular among Saudi men) in luxury cars, and holding machine guns almost half their size as men look on.
Its message is similar to that of Beyonce’s “Run The World (Girls)” in many ways: women can and will sit in the driver’s seat of society. However, in true M.I.A. fashion, she goes straight for the jugular. She wants the world to know exactly what the problem is and who is causing it. In “Bad Girls,” she delivers not only a stunning visual that Kanye West and Rihanna can get behind, but a video with a message sure to strike a chord in everyone–good or bad.
What do you think? Does M.I.A. effectively challenge and illustrate Saudi Arabia’s highly oppressive law against women? Watch the video below, and let us know in the comments!
+ WATCH: M.I.A. “Bad Girls”
Get all the info on the behind-the-wheel action at Women2Drive on Facebook.
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