That is quite enough with the slut shaming, thanks.

In the past week or so i have had several melt downs due to a paper i was writing (it’s gone now, yay!) but in the haze of academic hysteria, two things stood out:

1. Public reception in regards to Nicki Minaj’s video clip for the song entitled “Anaconda” and345518-nicki-minaj-le-clip-anaconda-sexy-400x210-1

2. The Beyonce Knowles performance at the MTV VMA’s where she announced herself a feminist, with rave reviews. 2014 MTV Video Music Awards - Fixed Show

So, let’s have the base ideals (in no particular hierarchical order):

Nicki and Beyonce are both:

a) Women of colour.

b) Women.

c) Women in a position of power.

d) Taking back positions of power imposed upon their bodies/selves through physical representations of the body. 

e) Talented humans. 

f) Purveyors of feministic ideals, in terms of sexual, political and social rights specific to what rights they wish to have. (IMPORTANT: Your definition of what feminism is, could not [and probably isn’t] consistent with what someone else’s is, this is mainly due to the interplaying of other social factors such as race, religion and the fact that white women are seen so collectively as the norm that when people use the “feminism” umbrella, it leaves a lot of minority groups out in the rain.)

Now, what has been deemed their differences by media portrayal in the last week or so? 

Beyonce is celebrated for her feminist “coming out” at the MTV VMA’s, if you have not watched this, feel free to watch on youtube before reading on. Whereas Nicki, is deemed a “slut” “hyper-sexualised” “pornographic” further with people stating that she is either “talentless” or “[having to] shake her ass to be famous”. 

Now, being a child who grew up in the ’90’s, i was an avid Destiny’s Child fan. I loved the talent they had/have and the portrayal of independence and that it is not ‘just a man’s world’. Being 11 or so at the time i had no idea of the concept that race and gender can interplay together or the ridiculously oppressive ways in which this invisibility can occur within a given society or even a sub culture that is believed to assist in the gaining of rights for specific groups. 

Beyonce, is deemed with words like “Diva” “performance of her career” “wife and mother” by the current media/society, whereas Nicki is shrouded with words like “slut” “bitch” and “porn star”. Now, for some of us i know owning and expressing a woman’s sexuality can easily be derailed as pornography – especially in the case of black women. 

However. 

What is so different about these two women that one is exalted and one is defamed? Well, I think it has a bit to do with the representations of feminism that they are portraying. Nicki is portraying a strong identifiable black woman, but so it Beyonce; why then, when portraying their bodies in the similar ways (minimal clothing, lots of tight or shiny things that accentuate  their bodies) Why is Minaj not afforded the same type of agency or ownership over her body as Beyonce? Why do people feel they need to police Minaj but not Beyonce?

A lot of Beyonce’s music links to being in relationships, or about female empowerment of some variant, whereas Nicki’s are about the taking back of sexual power, in a very confronting way for some. “Anaconda” shifts the too common normative model of a man conquering the female body – like so much rap music, an example used within the song even parallel’s it with “my anaconda don’t want none, unless you’ve got buns, hun” an homage to the Sir Mix-A-Lot chart buster “Baby Got Back” – to Minaj’s own tales of sex without apology. A key moment occurring at the end of the clip where Minaj is give a lap dance to rapper Drake and just as he is reaching out to touch her ass, she strikes his hand away and struts off. This is a really strong and important message to take away from this, that she can twerk it, work it, flaunt it however she pleases; Her body BELONGS TO HER, she does not owe it to anyone, nor is it owned by anyone. 

No one has issues with Beyonce doing similar dancing but why? What is so different? Or think about it in the light of other female singers who have gotten naked, or semi naked in their clips and not been chastised for their power play.

Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” – nude on a pink puffy cloud.

Jennifer Aniston and her strip scenes in “We’re the Millers” and not being labeled as a stripper but asked how she got into shape for the role. 

Lady Gaga – anything, her body proclaimed as a space of “art” by basically everyone. 

Is it because Beyonce has (perhaps) fallen into the realm of white middle class feminism because so many of her fans “relate” to her music? Or that Minaj is representing a very specific grouping of people? There is a diverse and powerful interplay occurring here, and i find it really interesting that two women doing similar things in the same industry are treated so differently. 

Also just going to leave these here for everyone to have a think about: 

Image 1:

screen_shot_2013-12-16_at_11.19.08_am

 

 

Image 2: 

femeq with types

 

Image 3 (think of the powerful collective use of the word “we” when you read this. What “we” is she referring to?):

BeyonceFeministQuote1200-1024x1024

 

Comment with ideas, critique, or just thoughts if you so choose 🙂 

S xo

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8 thoughts on “That is quite enough with the slut shaming, thanks.

  1. This article brings up some really important questions surrounding the representation of the female body in pop music. I particularly loved your theory of Beyonce being classed within “the realm of white middle class feminism”. Very good observation which can be substantiated with a closer analysis of her music and videos. I think important to note, is Beyonce’s role as a spokeswoman. She has clearly defined herself as a feminist over and over again with the press. Also, her support for Barrack Obama during the presidential campaign adds to her being classified as strong independent woman.

    • Oh thank you so much, Marwan! I did not know of her support for the presidental campaign but yes i agree that would add to be classification as societally ‘strong’. It is all seemingly a very diverse power play.

  2. I recently had this discussion withy brother. We came to the conclusion the reason why people put Beyoncé on a pedestal or “slut-shame” (sorry for lack of better word) Nicki could be because Beyoncé is a wife and mother and that is typically considered the ideal “real woman” and fits the imagined stereotype of a “real feminist”. It’s the age old dichotomy of good vs bad girl, because Nicki isn’t married or settled down she is deemed promiscuous and that is automatically considered negative and shameful. What do you think?

    • Oooh that is an interesting take on the subject Amy! Firstly, don’t be apologetic for using the term ‘slut shaming’ it is perfectly academic and i use it in writing a lot 🙂 Secondly, I completely agree with Beyonce being put on a pedestal of sorts, however perhaps consider the following:
      Yes Beyonce is a wife and a mother, but are these really the ideals held by ‘real’ feminists? (Question: what is a ‘real’ feminist?) Consider perhaps that different women want different rights (due to the variety of oppressions that coexist and interrelate in a person’s embodied experience of life [things like race relations, ethnicity, class status]) and that the marriage model that you are explaining is perhaps more related to the patriarchical model of society, where women must perform certain roles.
      So, like you said Beyonce is portraying a stereotypical act, however she is conforming to a strong societal norm that is perpetuated by a patriarchical society (being a mother/wife), whereas Nicki is trying to break that down by taking back her power saying that ‘man’ (or anyone really) can not own her (sexually free). So the badges that Beyonce wears of “good mother” and “good wife” seemingly over power the fact that she is a feminist.
      Probably the best way to think about this is not in terms of man/woman, but in the various different power plays that are occurring and in which contexts they are validated or denied to create the norms that we see 🙂 Reply if you like 😀

      • That’s true. Thinking about it now, the only reason I can work out why people condemn Nicki and cherish Beyoncé as feminists, is because Beyoncé doesn’t seem like a threat to the traditional patriarchal white middle class Western/Westernised societies. Correct me if I am wrong here btw, I am open to learning about this and would love to be educated and enlightened.
        I feel as though someone like Beyoncé who is not only talented, beautiful but also a mother and wife is relatable to almost everyone and aren’t confronted by her or her performances because “she’s one of us”.
        I can’t put my finger on it but Nicki just threatens the white middle class ideology of what is ‘classy’ and ‘accepted’ with her powerful body, lyrics and performances.
        I find them to be both amazing women and who stand for the same ideas of gender equality, but I guess some deem Nicki “out of control” because she doesn’t share her life or sexual liberty officially with one specific man known to us. Perhaps Beyoncé isn’t considered ‘slutty’ like Nicki because she is married and shares a life with a man and child so her audiences admire her sexuality/sexualisation but don’t take her seriously enough to be offended because she is committed elsewhere? Which is a sad thought to think that women can’t be considered sexy once they’re married and have become mothers, but it is a commonly upheld (and unsaid) belief in the Hollywood industry. Once again, it’s a huge issue which is so hard to tackle so forgive me if I have over-stepped a line somewhere or said something offensive, I’m just trying to wrap my brain around the whole thing! Loved your post anyway 🙂

  3. Beyonce got quite a lot of criticism about her “feminism” prior to the VMA stunt also, so it’s a larger race relations issue within white feminism that luckily the movement is increasingly tackling.

    • I agree 🙂 Power relations are a difficult nut to crack where there are so many intersectional elements that interrelate and alter the embodied experience of self.

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