The ideal of “having it all”—job, family, happiness—has been in the feminist conversation at least since Cosmopolitan founder Helen Gurley-Brown’s 1982 memoir. It was the subject of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s controversial 2012 Atlantic cover story questioning whether mothers can achieve true work/life balance without wider political and social changes. And it may have been the inspiration for the new Kanye West video in which an oiled-up woman gyrates in a gym, has sex in a shower, and turns into a cat creature among a herd of sheep.
That woman is the singer Teyana Taylor, a rising R&B singer and dancer. Explaining the video’s origin to Vogue, she recalled running into West at a recording studio and chatting with him about being engaged to the NBA star Iman Shumpert, with whom she had just had a daughter. “I was just rambling and rambling about Iman and to him it was a dope moment to just see love like that, to see that you can really have it all,” she said. That day, he asked her to star in “Fade.”
As a greased-up, shape-shifting celebration of family, the Tidal-exclusive video fits right in with a trend West has helped lead. As I noted in this month’s Atlantic, at a time when U.S. marriage rates sit near a record low, four of pop-culture’s most famous figures—West, Kardashian, Beyoncé, and Jay Z—have turned their two respective unions into public spectacles, glorifying a traditional family structure that popular music is often accused of undermining. (Maybe Drake and Rihanna are next to get in on the act?) The “Fade” clip confirms West’s intention is to make domestic bliss look awesome—but also spotlights how pop culture’s portrayals of female power are still largely inextricable from sex.