Nicki Minaj and the Foolish Belief That This Is Feminism

nicki minaj

Today, I read an article on PolicyMic in defense of the obnoxious Nicki Minaj album cover that sent the blogosphere into a feminist frenzy. We all saw the picture, and anyone with half a brain can clearly tell this isn’t a move to enhance body image, sexual expression, or self-esteem. Instead, it’s a marketing ploy based on the perpetual need to use sex to sell music.

I’ve stated time and time again that sexual expression does not come with a price tag. As soon as sexuality and body image converge to sell a product, and is mercilessly backed with corporate dollars and infrastructure, then it’s not about sexual expression. It’s about profit. Plain and simple.

Despite my gripes about how the feminist movement is thoroughly being muddled and ripped apart thanks to corporate inclusion, I’m more discouraged by “feminists” who erroneously stand behind the destruction of the movement they profess to love. Don’t get me wrong … feminism, as a theory and practice, is open to interpretation and varying perspective. My feminism is not your feminism, and I respect that. But when it’s clear that an action or statement goes against female empowerment and gender equity, and is further tangled with corporate schemes, then I can’t help but fume.

For example, when Policy Mic’s Derrick Clifton wrote that Nicki Minaj took a “bold stand” with this photo, I couldn’t help but cringe. There is nothing bold about posing ass first to sell records. There is no statement being made other than sex sells.

An obvious publicity stunt following the heels of her Iggy Azalea brouhaha, Nicki Minaj is clearly trying to reclaim her first female of new school hip hop throne, with this blatantly tacky display of “bottom bitch-ness” that’s been defining female rap artists for the past two decades.

I am fervently against the slut shaming, too. Yes, Nicki’s photo is disheartening, but calling her out of her name does nothing to correct the societal ills that enable female artists to make such poor choices to begin with. The issue is larger than Nicki’s ass; its redolent of and evidence for the patriarchal social design and cultural conditioning that cripples women politically, financially, socially, and emotionally.

I also understand the argument that it’s not Nicki’s job to be a role model. At a quick glance, it’s not… however, when a person chooses to enter into the public forum, then there is some inkling of inherent responsibility. Entertainers who position themselves in the public eye do bear some of the brunt. Celebrities must be mindful of the people who watch them. After all, that’s what they’re paid for. Yes, parents are the first stop for raising their children; but to suggest the media (with its bright colors, big billboards, and billions of dollars used to sell sell sell) has nothing to do with the malleable mind of a child is just ridiculous.

The first world feminist movement is fragile, partly because we allow ourselves to get distracted. I find it particularly interesting that when celebrities are involved, we split about what it means to empower women sexually, politically, and culturally. The nature of first world feminism is so muddled because we do not have a clear consensus of what it means to empower women. Furthermore, we are inured with corporatism because it’s the literal structure on which this country was built. Corporatism is hard to get away from in the first world, and in turn, stands in stark conflict with feminism.

I ask my fellow feminists to be smarter. I ask my fellow feminists to be more savvy about the explicit forces designed to weaken the movement with pretty colors. I ask my fellow feminists to be open to the possibility that not all women are working to empower us, and instead are reinforcing the very ideas and images we’re supposed to be fighting against.

It’s really not that difficult.

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Arielle Newton, Editor-in-Chief. Get at me @arielle_newton. Get at us @BlkMillennials.

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7 responses to “Nicki Minaj and the Foolish Belief That This Is Feminism

  1. Distasteful. No wonder Black Women don’t get respect by exposing their ass in a video, or a pic on Facebook or any other social media. What happened to Queen Latifah when she was making albums? She wasn’t exposing her body to prove a point, she was using her words and her lyrical style that makes her who she is. There’s other female rap artists that doesn’t depend on showing their boobs and instead use their talent and their message across. Where are they you ask? They’re unsigned because producers like you said want to show skin instead of talent because sadly sex sells.

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  2. The TV is dangerous and you shouldn’t let your kids watch it unless you train them to think critically…as you do in this article…or else they will be programmed by the words and images they see….now yeah sex does sell and somebody probably convinced her that hey swimsuit models show their a$$ and it’s all good so why can’t you (I saw her post that up on Twitter) but at the end of the day they’re both about sex selling….hell centuries ago in Europe when all the women were covered up, the church used sex to sell religion….they commissioned all those artists to paint naked pictures and sexual paintings because they were used to bring people into the church to sell them Jesus…..fast forward to today…sex sells toothpaste, soap, taco bell, beer, cars, candy bars, disney movies, everything…….

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  3. I like your article. I think it’s fascinating if not disturbing to note that when Hugh Heffner brought playboy magazine to the world he (has been credited with) accidentally “liberating the woman” from the fifties “prim and proper”. While the objectification and male fantasy of playboy can hardly be called feminist, it was this break through in cultural sexuality (albeit exploitation) that has been seen as a partial gateway to burning the bra in the sixties, that feminists saw as a form of bondage (before under-garments were comfortable and women could breathe in them). The dance of Josephine Baker in France was scandalous, and yet her contribution to dance and art and feminism is irrefutable.
    When I first encountered the cover image, I knew instantly Nicki was demonstrating she has a better ass than Iggy and so she kicked her ass with ass.
    I recently read an article about Nicki Minaj and Big Freedia regarding Bounce… regarding the original “twerking” which was called something much different… about where culturally the “ass thing” comes from beyond “marketing” and how when Nicki goes blonde barbie or Big Freedia plays with a female persona, they are challenging identity roles and gender roles and by acting like they are not “supposed” to they are politically expressing freedom. It was a convincing article, even if one doesn’t agree these artists are getting away with “deconstructing the boxes” we/they are in.
    I don’t know if Nicki is a Feminist. But I think she’s a quality artist. Artists can rarely be good role models and subversive at the same time… And where the pop music industry dwarfs “artist” and Nicki can often look like a cog, I believe she owns herself and everyone can “kiss her ass”. I think that’s what she’s saying. Ad then she’s saying “You know you want to.” and then… “But you can’t”.
    So even though I agree with your article… I also feel maybe we need to allow Nicki to sell her sex. We don’t have to buy it.
    Sorry this is soooo long winded. I just kinda adore Nicki.

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  4. I agree it is not feminism in the definition that you give…I do not agree with the pic from a moral standpoint…But from a financial standpoint I would wonder if Nicki is doing anything financially…I wonder where she ranks among all female performers in total net worth, and other business categories…She is very diversified in the marketing department she has tapped a market I think that even has Beyonce rethinking her marketing strategies….funny enough Beyonce got her on her remix real quick though….

    But there is the sentiment, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (somewhere in a book, the Bible I think)

    They say that is where you put something to hide it from a “black person”? right lol… There is some truth in some statements

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  5. Call me crazy, but it seems like the majority of “feminists” just want women and men to be equal…in terms of debauchery.

    It’s really nothing but brainwashing if you ask me.

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  6. Just saw this for the first time. Great article and love the shout out to Real Colored Girls (who are sadly on to other things, but both of them still do great interviews and are active on twitter!).

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