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.