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.