That’s how Taylor Swift saw it. A diss directed at the Princess of Pop, by Rap Queen Nicki Minaj. In July of 2015 MTV announced their nominations for Video of the Year. Those nominees were Taylor Swift for her video “Bad Blood,” Ed Sheeran for “Thinking Out Loud,” Kendrick Lamar for “Alright,” Bruno Mars for “Uptown Funk,” and First Lady President of the United States Beyonce Carter-Knowles for “7/11.” Upon hearing these nominations, Nicki
Minaj felt some type of way, and rightly so.
If you follow pop culture, you know. Anaconda was everywhere this past year. Everyone re-mixed it, Ellen Degeneres did a parody, socks, pillows, t-shirts, tote-bags, memes bore the iconic image of Nicki Minaj in a squat position looking back at it. Feminists everywhere adopted the slogan “my anaconda don’t.” The visual in the video of Nicki Minaj teasing the camera in a fun sexy way in a kitchen with a banana before aggressively biting down on said banana is such a strong and important statement. She is a beautiful sexy being, but one not to be objectified. Madam Tussaud forever immortalized this video in wax in her Las Vegas museum, or at least until the sun explodes and melts the entire Earth.
Nicki’s video and image in this video is iconic, and it deserved to be recognized as such. Instead she was nominated for Best Female Video and Best Hip-Hop Video. Let me tell you why this is bullshit. Nicki’s video was relegated to categories that are confining of her artistry. Best Female video, competing against other women, and Best Hip-Hop competing against other hip hop artists, confined to her black womanhood instead of being in competition against the best of the best in the pop music industry. Video of the Aside from Nicki’s video being deserving, which we could argue for or against all day, she had a good point in her tweet. The nominated artists in the Video of the Year category, save for Kendrick Lamar, are all artists that are generally adopted and favored by white audiences. They have a certain sound, style, and message that are acceptable, if not “respectable.” They don’t often push the envelop or are considered “provocative.” They are the type of artists you could show your grandmother.
Nicki on the other hand, is provocative. Anaconda’s lyrics are sexual, her image is sexual, everything about her embodies what makes White America uncomfortable. Why is Nicki sexualized though? Perhaps because she has a big butt and is comfortable with her sexuality, oh and the fact that, historically, women of color have been deemed “closer to nature” and overly sexualized since the dawn of time. Perhaps if Nicki had made a video that made viewers more “comfortable” and was more “respectable” and toned down, she would have been nominated? Perhaps if her body, the one being celebrated in the video, fit into more Eurocentric standards of beauty she would have been nominated? We can’t know for sure because we like to pretend we live in a world where ~we don’t see color~ (which is problematic in itself), but we can ASSume.
And now…back to this b**** that had a lot to say about her…Taylor…what’s good?
White Media’s favorite feminist, Taylor Swift, immediately took the “diss” to heart.
I don’t like pitting women against each other either, but for the sake of this article, I have to. Taylor’s naive reaction completely glossed over the real issue Nicki was addressing in her tweet, racism and body politics within the music industry, and made it seem as though Taylor was the victim and Nicki was a bully. It honestly reminded me of Audre Lorde’s piece, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House” when she discussed mainstream white feminists complete lack of common sense and refusal to acknowledge difference and intersectionality. Lorde said one thing in particular that struck with me, she talked about how the conference she went to where she was one of two black women invited to speak among dozens of white speakers, how these women hired nannies of color to take care of their children while they were at this convention discussing feminists issues. Completely unaware of, and ignoring the specific types of unique issues and feminism that addresses the issues that concern their nannies of color taking care of their white children.
Hypocrisy, and this is where it gets tricky and where misunderstandings happen. As a feminist, I don’t like to divide us into White Feminists and Black Feminists, because for one it erases all the other feminists out there, and it does “pit” women against each other, a sort of Us versus Them mentality that is problematic. It’s hard not to divide us though. The media loves celebrating certain mainstream feminists: Lena Dunham, Hilary Clinton, Taylor Swift, while simultaneously slut shaming, body shaming, and dehumanizing feminists of color. When this whole situation between Nicki and Taylor happened, so many news sites supported Nicki, but even more painted her as a “bully,” Salon Magazine even referred to her as a “savage,” a term that would never be used against any white person, ever. Taylor was labeled a helpless “victim” by many of the same sites that called Nicki a bully who ignited a “feud.” Nicki’s point was proven through the portrayal of her and Taylor in the media. “Some” bodies are immediately made into a fragile victim, and other bodies are labeled a savage bully.
Fortunately, girl power reigned supreme in the end. Taylor and Nicki apologized to each other for the misunderstanding. When Nicki won Best Hip Hop video of the year (the only woman nominated in that category!) Taylor was front row center cheering her on. In the end, this is what feminism is about, supporting other women, those different and similar from you. It is also important though, to empathize with difference even if you cannot directly identify with it.