Hotten-THOT Venus

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Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda cover

I’m conflicted. But before I explain why I should give a little bit of background. 

In recent weeks Nicki Minaj stirred up quite the buzz when she released the cover art for her new single “Anaconda”. The cover features Minaj wearing only a bubblegum pink bra/thong set in combination with raspberry blue Jordans squatting down in order to accentuate the curvature of her butt. The photo got quite the reception, hyping some about the impending single, causing others to go on an Instagram/Photoshop spree, while others bashed the image as hyper-sexualized

Now cue my conflict. Minaj responded to critics by posting photos of scantily clad white women in similar positions with the caption, “acceptable” before finally posting a picture of her cover art with the caption, “unacceptable”. And for a second there I was in her corner, Nicki Minaj had seemingly uncovered a paradox in the way the bodies of white women and black women were perceived. But then it occurred to me that perhaps she was barking up the wrong tree. 

I’d like to go with the prototypical feminist response and simply say that, “its her body and she can display it how she wants”. And there is truth to that, eventually people will have to accept that breasts and butts are all just flesh and everybody has them. But at the same time I can’t help but feel uneasy when I look at this image. It doesn’t make me feel empowered instead its quite the opposite. Looking at this image I can’t help but think of Saartije Baartman also known as Hottentot Venus. Baartman was put on display as a freakshow attraction, a display of the perfect foil to that of the pristine white woman. She was considered to be such an abnormality due to her protruding buttocks and extended labia minora that upon death her genitals were pickled and put on display at a French museum. So what I see when I look at this image is the legacy of this hurtful display, the perception of a black woman’s body as so foreign it needed to be displayed as part of a freak show. 

The image also reminds me of a double standard that I’ve noticed in recent times, not in the perception in the bodies of black and white women but rather in the perception of black women of status versus ordinary  black women. In short if Minaj takes a picture like this, or if Rihanna wears a see-through dress or doobie to an award show then all of sudden it is considered an edgy feminists move but if an ordinary woman was to do any these things she would be considered a THOT or called out as ratchet. Why is that? I in no way mean to debase what these celebrity women have accomplished but everyday women lead the charge for equality with the struggles they face. With how they choose to present themselves to society, so why do we praise these women simply because they have a platform. 

So yeah, I’m a little conflicted. I feel as though women should have the right to display their bodies however they want and yet I want desperately for black women to be distanced from this abnormal, hyper-sexualized image that society has placed upon us.

The Aftermath

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I read an article today in the New York Times discussing the latest wave of math reforms to hit country as part of the Common Core curriculum and how similar attempts at reform in the past have failed us as a nation. I must admit the article brought tears to my eyes as I recalled my many years as a frustrated student in math class.

Time and time again I would sit in class knowing that I was a capable student and yet feeling stupid and helpless when it came to my inability to solve the simplest of problems. Like an attack dog I was trained to read problems for the keywords that would guide me to whatever pre-prescribed problem solving strategy had been taught in class that week. I was never taught to think for myself when it came to math, only to jump through the proverbial hoops of standardized test that the state demanded our teachers train us for. As I read this article it was refreshing to see that shortcuts that I developed on my own to understand and perform math tasks were not a reflection of my failure as a student but rather my brain working to learn something the curriculum failed to teach me.

This article also reminded me of the struggles that I faced as a student from a working class home, who didn’t have parents who were able to reinforce at home what school had attempted to teach me. Many of my middle class peers in the Pre-AP and AP courses that I took had already been exposed to higher levels of math and different manners of thinking from their affluent and business savvy parents, but I didn’t have that safety net. So I often worry about the generation of boys and girls in today’s K-12 public education system, because I want desperately for the school system not to fail them in the same ways it failed me. But I know how difficult it is and how long it takes for even the smallest of things to be reformed. And so my heart goes out to them, the far-too-many students that will slip through the cracks.