Earphones that only work in one ear. Excessive usage of absolute statements like “never” or “always”. When people tell me to do something I was already about to do. Tardiness.
These are a few of the things that annoy me intensely. But nothing will send me into a ranting frenzy faster than the following question: “How can you call yourself a feminist and still listen to Nicki Minaj?”
Alright. Fair enough. I can see why you might say that. She’s always talking about sex, she only sells her music because she dresses scantily and shocks people with how little she is willing to wear and how much she’s willing to say. I mean just look at her “Anaconda” video!
How utterly un-feminist, right? Wrong. So very, very, very wrong.
Let me start off with a short history lesson. While a few outspoken individuals throughout history have always fought for gender equality, the first time feminists were able to organize themselves into an identifiable movement was in the 19th century with the rise of suffragists. Second wave feminists in the 1960s sought to break away from all things feminine, as they felt this was the source of their oppression. This was the era of bra burning, Miss America protests, and so forth.
Third wave of feminism, which started in the 1990s and is still ongoing today, differs greatly from the first two waves. Martha Rampton, professor of history at Pacific University, writes that third wave feminism is defined by “the re-adoption by young feminists of the very lipstick and high heels that the first two phases of the movement identified with patriarchal oppression. Pinkfloor expressed this new position when she said; ‘It’s possible to have a push-up bra and a brain at the same time.’”
One prominent example of this contemporary feminism would be Beyonce. She embodies the multifaceted nature of modern day feminism, as a wife, performer, mother, and businesswoman. She is independent and powerful while still basking in her role as a mother and wife.
Nicki Minaj is not Beyonce.
Her feminism is not one of polished respectability and elegance. It’s defiant, it’s unapologetic. Sometimes it’s just straight up vulgar. But that shouldn’t detract in any way from her role as a supporter of women’s rights.
Modern day feminism, at its heart, a movement of self determination. Whether you want to be a suburban housewife or a CEO or a foul-mouthed, skintight-bodysuit-wearing rapper, or all of the above, the point of feminism is to provide you with the liberty to make that choice yourself. As Carmen Rios, Communications Coordinator at Feminist Majority Foundation, argues, “when [people] make the mistake of questioning Minaj’s depiction of her own sexuality, they fall into problematic matrixes which situate sexual power as antithetical to self-respect or empowerment.” When Nicki Minaj gets on stage in a tiny neon bikini, she’s not doing it for you. She’s doing it because she wants to, regardless of whether people find it too sexy or not sexy at all.
In an interview with Black Book Magazine, Nicki Minaj recounted the following: “When I started making those weird voices, a lot of people told me how whack it was. ‘What are you doing?’ they’d say. ‘That doesn’t sound sexy to me.’ And then I started saying, Oh, that’s not sexy to you? Good. Maybe I don’t want to be sexy to you today.”
Nicki Minaj is an immigrant woman (Sri Lankan and raised in Jamaica) who has fought her way to the top of a male dominated industry that revolves around the degradation and objectification of women. She took on an industry that was designed to weaken her, to objectify her, and built a multimillion dollar empire out of it, all the while still wearing false eyelashes and high heels. Instead of shedding her femininity to gain power or abusing it to gain favor, she takes control of it and subverts every ideal regarding how women ought to behave in the music world. You don’t have to like her music (I know there are times I don’t) , but you can’t deny that she’s doing something groundbreaking. Whether or not you agree with her methods is another matter.
She swears like a sailor. She raps in vulgar detail on songs that you definitely should not be showing to anyone under the age of twelve. She wears outfits that leave little to the imagination. But Nicki Minaj is not an anti-feminist.
If you think that her behavior makes her one, then you’ve really just missed the point entirely.