To say that women have always been an inextricable part of reggaeton is beyond an understatement, and no conversation about the role of women’s sexuality in the genre is necessarily new. However, as more women artists step into the spotlight and demand much-deserved attention, several of the issues around feminism and agency in the genre are finally getting their due.
As an example, Red Bull recently produced Hasta Abajo: Feminism, Sexuality and Reggaeton, a short documentary that highlights the critical points women have been making about reggaeton and perreo since the genre’s inception. The short film, directed by Jazmin García, was shot during New York’s Red Bull Music Festival this May — an event that included an anticipated performance by reggaeton legend and matriarch Ivy Queen as part of a reunion show with Puerto Rico’s The Noise. García anchors the documentary around Ivy Queen’s prescient 2003 song “Yo Quiero Bailar,” which went on to inspire a legion of women in reggaeton.
“When I’d go clubbing, I’d see all the pretty girls and men would just grab them and take them to dance. It was very aggressive contact, there wasn’t an elegance,” Ivy Queen says in the footage. “All the women were like, ‘Ugh, this guy.’ That’s where ‘Yo Quiero Bailar’ was born.”
Hasta Abajo also includes Riobamba, Rosa Pistola, and Yaya Mala, some of the latest trailblazers who have been pushing the genre forward. The short doc is only four minutes long, but each of the women featured introduce complex conversations around the gender and racial dynamics buried in the music’s sound and production.
“The biggest stereotype is saying that it’s marginalizing women; it’s bringing women down,” Yaya Mala explains. “Demonizing women’s sexuality is really the problem. It’s not what she’s doing with her body; it’s how people perceive it.”
“Perreo to me is a way to express my sexuality through movement,” creative director Chikki adds. “I get to choose who I dance with, I get to choose who I grind up on, and I have control over the situation.”
Watch the documentary below: