There is a certain truism to the Drake prophetic line, ‘I hate callin’ the women b*****s, but the b*****s love it.” They love it because in the general scheme of the Hip-Hop landscape, there is more power in being a b***h or an aggressor. Traditional thinking in our society suggests that men are the observers and the women the observed. These misogynistic paradigms have manifested themselves in all facets of life from how we date to how we dress, where women are reduced down to body parts and their value is based more on their physical characteristics than their personal characters. As such, some women, in their attempt to leverage some sort of edge over other women and to some extent men, will adopt society’s language for oppressing women, including denouncing other women as “sluts” and “whores.”
Like Minaj, and her predecessors before her, it is much easier, and profitable, to accept the roles of being stimulators of men’s visual or hyper-aggressive nature than it is to fight against hyper-masculinity that keeps them subjugated into tiny, defined boxes of “womanhood.” This is why Lil’ Kim is walking around looking like a Puerto Rican cat and Minaj, at one point, was looking like a reincarnation of the Venus Hottentot, instead of rocking the features they were born with.
And this is not to say that Minaj, or any woman for that matter, should get a pass just because she is a Black woman weaving her way through a male dominated culture. We are not taking it from Vanessa Statten, the white editor-in-chief of XXL, who makes money dehumanizing images, so there is no expectation that we accept it from Minaj. But if we want to boycott something let’s call it all out. Let’s discuss and then boycott all the ways in which these images of women have been commodified to sell anything from overpriced vodka, rims and hip-hop inspired clothing. And let’s not stop there, lets also discuss and boycott the narrowly defined role of what is considered manhood, particularly what is pushed as masculinity in society. We got rappers with college degrees and middle class backgrounds playing the roles of dumb brutes, gun-toting thugs and criminals and polyamourous womanizers. Since when did the life of self-hating criminal become the acceptable mainstay of Black masculinity?
You know there is something to be said for the ways in which people, specifically our people, try to exceed in this society. Since American consumer culture only seems to be able to relate to “others” in the form of stereotypes, there have been no shortage of Black folks, specifically inthe entertainment field, who are willing to trade on those images, at least for a while, until they can reach a certain platitude before crossing over to more mainstream, respectable audience. Nicki Minaj is definitely an example of this but she is by far, not the first one. And she won’t be the last. Whether we like to believe it or not, what we are seeing goes deeper than the objectification of women but the objectification of the Black community in its entirety.
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.
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