Muscle Is Respectability

Nicki Minaj Anaconda album cover

“Some use their bodies as tools, all of them use their minds, none of them lead with their sexuality.”

I just read an article entitled “Nicki Minaj’s Feminism Isn’t About Your Comfort Zone: On Anaconda and Respectability Politics.” The article starts out talking about the awaited release of Nicki Minaj’s new CD ‘Anaconda’ and how the cover photo, featuring a scantily clad Minaj, was mysteriously “leaked” over the internet before the scheduled release date. It then refers to the lyrics of the title track, where Minaj raps about sexual encounters with drug dealers who buy her expensive clothes and speaks disparagingly against skinny women, as “feminist gold” and questions whether or not the video, full of twerking and booty shaking, is empowering.

Beyonce in her Partition video

The article takes an interesting twist in bringing into question the role Beyonce plays in the modern day feminist movement, by painting a perfect image of her. She raises money for feminist causes in an attempt to reclaim the social, economical, and political freedoms of the feminist movement. She sings songs about strong women like ‘Run The World’ ‘Irreplaceable’ and ‘Grown Woman’. She is considered the image of “modest respectability and responsibility, one who facilitates the role of wife and mother.” Yet, this “respectable, responsible wife and mother” also sings songs about sexual encounters, albeit with her husband, the lyrics are still racy and her performances, although more subtle, are still sexually charged. Nicki chooses a more gritty, explicit approach that has enabled her to “climb to the top of the charts in a male dominated genre.” The article claims both women, “in the process, have expanded on society’s idea of what empowered women look like” to which I beg to differ.

Top: Beyonce performing at the VMA’s 2014
Bottom: Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda video

While both women do contribute to the feminist movement by displaying a strong work ethic, economical standing, and a degree of independence, the images they portray through lyrics and actions, set the feminist movement and women back. Women have been viewed as sex objects by men since the beginning of time. So to create an overtly sexual image via lyrics and appearance only keeps women in the category of sexual objectivity. Young girls see these images and listen to the music and they want to be these women, young boys fantasize about and want to be with them. So what you get is a generation of young women and men that think Feminism is about sexuality when it is so much more than that. Feminism is about equality among the sexes economically, socially, and politically. No where in the definition does sexual prowess come into play because in doing so, it becomes the sole focus and women again become seen as mere sexual objects.

Beyonce performing at the VMA’s 2014

Claiming to be a Feminist is a strong responsibility, that is more than donating to charities and having the word flash behind you as you perform in concert. It’s about teaching young girls to become equal to their male counterparts, to become strong independent women socially, economically, and politically through both words and actions.

(rt. to left, Gabby Douglas USA Gymnast and Olympian and Misty Copeland Ballerina Soloist for ABT)

It reflects in how you speak, what you wear, and how you carry yourself. When I think of strong women, that represent Feminism, they are great role models like: Gabby Douglas, Misty Copeland, Dara Torres, Mia Hamm, Robin Roberts, Mary Barra, Virginia Rometty, Marilyn Hewson, Indra K. Nooyi, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagen, the women of MCBMI, to name a few. These women are athletes, CEO’s of companies, Judges. Some use their bodies as tools, all of them use their minds, none of them lead with their sexuality. These are the role models young girls need to see and learn more about. These are the women young girls should want to become.

rt. to left, Olympians Mia Hamm USA Women’s Soccer and Dara Torres USA swimmer