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.
Robin Thicke has been in the music business for quite sometime, but it wasn’t until last year that he had his first big break with his hit single “Blurred Lines”. With its upbeat tempo, catchy lyrics and throwback sound the song was extremely popular with international audiences and even shattered the record for “highest radio audience ever”. However, the song and Robin Thicke’s now infamous performance of it at the 2013 Video Music Awards have seemingly garnered just as much negative attention as popularity. Social justice advocates all over the internet were inflamed with the misogynist lyrics of the song saying that the songs’ chants of “I know you want it” and “but you’re a good girl” promoted rape culture. And I don’t argue that point, the song is indeed misogynistic and calls to my mind the unwanted encounters I’ve had with young and old men alike while walking down the street. And given that, I can understand why the songs lyrics might upset some people. But what I don’t understand is how Robin Thicke has become the lackey for what is essentially cyberbullying from people purporting to be social justice advocates (SJAs).
In a recent Twitter Q&A Thicke–hosted in order to promote his new album entitled “Paula” dedicated to his wife Paula Patton from whom he recently split and is determined to get back, as Thicke states in the premier single from the album “Get Her Back”– was trolled by said SJAs and hailed as the “poster boy for misogyny and rape culture.” And yet neither T.I. or Pharell Williams, Thicke’s collaborators on the song, have received any of the negative backlash that Thicke has. If all of this relentless teasing is supposed to cause some kind of catharsis in Thicke’s mind and the mind of any other man that thinks like him shouldn’t the SJAs be attacking his collaborators in equal ferocity?
The funny thing about it is that Thicke’s song isn’t any more misogynistic than any other R&B song. Take a look at the R&B Top 10 charts and there are several songs that are equally sexist. For instance, there is Jason Derulo’s “Wiggle” a song about how women are just bodies for men to admire, Derulo was also the author of another hit “Talk Dirty To Me” which fetishizes women of other countries as being exotic beauties with whom there is no need to get better acquainted because they’re just subjects and Derulo doesn’t speak their language anyway. Or what about Tinashe and her song “2 On” which is an ode to getting so drunk and high that you no longer the capacity to make good judgements and end up having drunken sex with someone. Why aren’t the SJAs attacking these artist, hijacking their media events and attempts to promote works that contribute to misogyny and sexism? I think its because for many social justice has become a trend, a fad to partake in when one feels the need to assert their superiority over people they feel to be uncultured and ignorant. Do they really think that tweeting to someone to make fun of them is really going to spur the deep intellectual conversation that needs to take place in order for someone change? I don’t think so, I think these people are just hopping on the social justice bandwagon and that Thicke has decided to lay down and remain in its path.
There should be a female version of this about a girl who just wants to go out and have a good time with her friends but she can’t because this weird guy who thinks he’s hot stuff keeps creepin’ on her. Also, what the heck is that on his lip? Is that supposed to be a mustache?
I think we have a problem in society when a fully dressed man can stand on stage next to his equally talented yet scantily dressed wife being the product of his ingenuity and intellect while she is still confined to being defined by her body.
I’ve never been a Beyonce fan. Now, before you pick up your pitchforks and light your torches let me explain. I’m not refuting the talent or the beauty of the so-called “Queen Bey” just the unquestioning loyalty of her “bey-hive”.
When people talk about Beyonce its as though they’re describing a religious experience. I can not tell you how many times I’ve seen people light up when they start to talk about her, they instantly start to glow at just the mention of this person that many of them have never seen in person, let alone met. And any mining of YouTube comments will disclose to you just how ruthless her fans can be if you dare diss the queen.
So I’m always met with a profound since of surprise (disappointment really) when I listen to her music or watch one of her videos and it doesn’t live up to the hype. This is Beyonce who has been performing for people essentially since she exited the womb, Beyonce who was topping the charts and compared to the likes of Tina Turner and Diana Ross as a teenager, Beyonce who is the perfect example of what every man wants in a woman both physically and emotionally, Beyonce who has entertained a long list of foreign dignitaries and made it onto the President’s shortlist of preferred entertainers. And yet when I listen to her music all I hear are poorly crafted sexual metaphors cascaded in artful arrangements and propped up on dope beats, and in those moments I can’t help but think to myself that, “this is not a religious experience, this is just good marketing.”
I fully understand that Beyonce is an artist and that its her job to be provocative and out spoken but I don’t understand why it is that people just gobble it up. Can we take a moment to think about this, how the poster child for being an “independent woman” is now happily married and yet still makes music for single people? How despite claims of being “more than just his (Jay-Z’s) little wife,” she has essentially become just that. When Jay-Z isn’t himself featured in a song, she’s at least written about him. Can we talk about how she compiled a digital archive of every moment she has ever spent on camera? That alone is erring on the side of megalomania.
Can we talk about how the girl who was at one time reticent to say the word “bitch” now throws cuss words around left and right. And I’m glad she feels “confident to express herself and shit,” but I appreciated it when she had generational consciousness. Part of her fame is propped up on the hopes and dreams of little girls wanting to be her and now she is telling those girls to bow down? And no the addition of “flawless” to the end of that song does not mitigate the initial message “bow down”. You should not command people no matter how spiteful and conniving they have been towards you to “bow down” nor can you dehumanize and call them bitches just because you’ve ascertained an ample portion of confidence and a feeling of self-worth. And being an adult who says that only encourages children to do so. This is not becoming of a wife and mother, and I understand that Beyonce couldn’t care less about what I think of her, but what about Blue? Is that the attitude that she wants her daughter to have towards whatever antagonist she may face? And further more, how is it that at this point in her career Beyonce doesn’t know that the best way to deal with your haters is to stand back and let your success speak for itself? But I digress.
I guess the point to all of this over-analyzing is me trying to explain to the world why I’m not a Beyonce fan and why I probably never will be. I know it seems down-right wrong and somewhat sacrilegious not to be a fan of someone of such talent and beauty but I just don’t buy it. I always expect more from her than what I get.