Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, and Intersectionality

Tonight is MTV’s VMAs but as many previous ones, this VMA is not devoid of controversy. As the VMA nominations were announced, there were some high notes, and then there was Nicki Minaj. The rap artist expressed her discontent with the fact that her music video for Anaconda was not nominated for Video of the Year. This came as a surprise to her, and I assume many other people, considering the similarity between last year’s winner for Video of the Year, Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball. Both music videos were not only controversial, but they both broke Vevo records and had a large impact on pop culture.

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So why wasn’t Anaconda nominated? Nicki Minaj used Twitter as a platform to express her beliefs. She tweeted about how videos with skinny bodies are praised while videos, specifically hers, along with other black women, are often not acknowledged for their contribution to culture. This could have sparked an interesting debate on issues relating to body image, racism, and sexism. Instead, Taylor Swift took offense to the tweets and decided to respond.

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Instead of sparking debate and bringing a widespread awareness to the issue, many chose to instead focus on Taylor’s response that Nicki shouldn’t be “pitting women against each other.” A topic which often comes up when talking about Swift’s feminist values. Instead of debate, Taylor turned it into something it really wasn’t— a conversation about herself. Not only did Nicki’s tweets not mention anything about Taylor’s music video, it really had nothing to do with the feminism she insists on spreading— this ideal of women for women, instead of the complex issues that surround feminism and women’s rights, including intersectionality. Feminism is  intersectional, meaning that women also face sexism in relation to other parts of their identity. Women have different experiences based on these factors, and there are issues that go beyond just “lean in” and “don’t pit women against each other.”

So what is it about talking about womanism that makes white feminists uncomfortable? Why is it that when black women speak up on injustice they are overshadowed, shushed, and made to look like angry black women? Is it that they just don’t understand that WOC experience sexism and feminism a different way than them? Or is it that despite the fact that society apparently accepts minorities and curvy women, we don’t truly accept them when they’re in a state we’re uncomfortable with them. Despite the fact that more than ever we see scantily clad women, women with big butts, etc, we still find black bodies disgusting? Because white, straight, and cis is still the basis of beauty and worthiness in the mainstream media, other types of bodies are cast aside and seen as strange and gross.

When they are “appreciated” and “celebrated” it is often fetishized instead of being seen as both beautiful, normal, and acceptable. This is something that’s hard to admit. It’s hard to admit the deep seated prejudices we have. Society thinks that it’s accepting of differences, but turns a blind-eye to when instances like this happen. Instead of denying any prejudice, society should be admitting that there is a problem. As open minded as everyone seems to think they are, there are still deep seated misogynistic points of view  within even the most liberal and forward thinking communities. Once admitting this, society can have a real conversation and make steps to rid this prejudice from the our voting and judging practices.

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