At the end of the day, Nicki Minaj and Rita Ora want more equality.
Is that so much to ask?
Nicki Minaj posted an except from Marie Claire, pointing out times when white women in music pushed the boundaries of acceptable sexual expression and were subsequently celebrated. Britney’s diamond scene in “Toxic,” Emily Ratajkowski’s scantily clad self next to a fully dressed Robin Thicke in “Blurred Lines” and Miley Cyrus completely naked riding a wrecking ball. Minaj thanked major news outlets in a recent Instagram post for their support before pointing out the industry doesn’t treat black women’s sexuality within music videos the same as it does white women.
Marie Claire, thank u ❤️ Time Magazine, The Guardian, New York Times, Complex, Vibe, Karen Civil, TV Guide, etc. The list goes on of news/media outlets who used their voice to help me make a very obvious point. Thank you so much. Nothing to do with any of the women, but everything to do with a system that doesn’t credit black women for their contributions to pop culture as freely/quickly as they reward others. We are huge trendsetters, not second class citizens that get thrown crumbs. This isn’t anger. This is #information. It’s all love to MTV. Kisses to my fans and thank you for my 3 nominations.
Marie Claire, thank u ❤️ Time Magazine, The Guardian, New York Times, Complex, Vibe, Karen Civil, TV Guide, etc. The list goes on of news/media outlets who used their voice to help me make a very obvious point. Thank you so much. Nothing to do with any of the women, but everything to do with a system that doesn't credit black women for their contributions to pop culture as freely/quickly as they reward others. We are huge trendsetters, not second class citizens that get thrown crumbs. This isn't anger. This is #information. It's all love to MTV. Kisses to my fans and thank you for my 3 nominations. #ThePinkprintTOUR tonight in VA! Over 15 thousand people. I can't wait to see u guys. 😘❤️
Rita Ora shares a similar sentiment about music, but towards the unfair standards women face competing alongside men. Ora explains in a new interview with Ebro on Hot 97 her upcoming album embraces the theme of “pussy power”:
“It’s really about how we get judged for the things that we do and how men don’t. I know it’s part of society, but I think we can still stick together as females. And also, I feel like at the moment, females have never been closer—pop stars, specifically. It’s an exciting time for females in this industry.”
Is it, though? Because it appears it’s every man (and woman) for themselves.
There’s Taylor Swift, who has simultaneously sung the praises of feminism while taking her female-feud anthem Bad Blood to the top of the charts. And there’s Bad Blood’s subject matter, Katy Perry, who just wants to point out Taylor Swift is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. OH, and drags MTV in defense of Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” snub.
— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) July 22, 2015
Not every statement/fight/observation women make has to be a political statement. A feud between two women is not a “catfight”, nor is it the end of feminism, it’s two people involved in a disagreement unless they make it about gender somehow. Which to Swift’s credit, she did not (Bad Blood’s lyrics are gender neutral) but perhaps slipped up here with the “I have more female friends than you” music video. On the same note, Nicki Minaj discussing race representation in mainstream media is not necessarily calling out the white women she’s compared to, but using them as measures for her personal experience with being female and black in a white male dominated industry (or world, even). BUT maybe indirecting Taylor in such an obvious way was bound to set Taylor off, considering she’s the only white woman in the VOTY category in the first place. Use the @ button!
It’s important to note that while all women deal with sexism, the way women of color experience sexism is different. Throughout time, while white female sexuality may have been routinely objectified and detached from women themselves, it was also upheld as the “ideal” and used to degrade black female sexuality by comparison. We see a watered down version of this in the media all the time with the pictures typically chosen to depict white and black women when they clash:
An action Entertainment Weekly highlighted when they chose to alter their images to something more balanced yesterday.
Black women in entertainment have battled to hold onto ownership of their bodies, personality and sexuality. This is a theme Nicki introduced as part of her career map when she first started becoming famous:
“I don’t know where I fit in the spectrum of rap yet, I think now I’m kind of proving myself, but before, people thought of I was more of a sex symbol or wannabe sex symbol. Now they’re seeing. That’s why I make the goofiest faces, I don’t want people to think I’m up here trying to be cute. I’m trying to entertain, and entertaining is more than exuding sex appeal. I don’t think that’s fun. I don’t find it fun watching someone trying to be sexy. It’s whack. I’m trying to just show my true personality, and I think that means more than anything else. I think when personality is at the forefront, its not about male or female, its just about, who is this weird character?”
Taylor is not affected by race, obviously. People do not define her by her race the way some define Nicki by hers. Swift’s Tweets were evidence of this because she failed to understand (or even notice?) the racial elements of what Nicki was addressing, and instead assumed Nicki’s words were a personal attack against her as a woman. They weren’t. Minaj was attempting to address a long running race problem within the industry itself.
Katy…well…if she’d been that overly affected by Bad Blood, she’d have piped up before now. It seems she’s taking the small opening she has to try to sway the wavering public opinion on Swift which, for the better part of the last two years has been firm in its renewed adoration of her and her music (only after tearing her apart via sexism/slut shaming for the first 5 years of her career, can we just collectively chill with that already!?).
If Perry truly cared about Rihanna receiving recognition for her work, she might’ve spoken up earlier when Rihanna was literally silenced by CBS for being a victim of domestic violence or when the Grammys executive producer referred to the awards show itself as “the victim” for not being able to invite Chris Brown to the ceremony due to his restraining order. Both Perry and Swift could do well to speak up about “women sticking together” when it does not directly benefit their own careers somehow (and perhaps after sorting out their own tired feud first??).
This piece is not saying white female entertainer don’t get criticized for displaying their sexuality. Just that the tone of the criticism differs where race is involved. For example, the reaction to twerking dancers in Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” video (or Miley’s “We Can’t Stop”), compared to Nicki Minaj’s own twerking in Anaconda. Do you notice there tends to be a more personalized negative reaction aimed at black female entertainers themselves when portraying extreme sexuality in a video? Whereas a white female entertainer is often disassociated from the elements she’s embracing (or appropriating) and dubbed “acting” ghetto or “trying to be” ratchet (or the more blatant “trying to be black”). Even the terms used – ghetto, ratchet, thot, or ‘white trash’ – all hold racial connotations of their own.
This is all within the ballpark of what Nicki was addressing with her initial VMA reaction tweets – and something she has brought up in the past. Taylor and Katy, in pure ignorance, inadvertently diverted a discussion they had no part in back around to their own petty feud (and egos), therefore proving Minaj’s point: the industry is fixated on white women – for all the wrong reasons.