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Is Nicki Minaj A Feminist Icon?

As any Collegiette who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past year knows, the Feminist movement has been gaining some serious traction lately, and we couldn’t be happier. First we had Beyonce being a boss at the VMA’s and using a solid 30 seconds of airtime to play Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech in “Flawless” (thanks for educating the masses, B), and then our girl Emma Watson recently gave an amazing speech at the UN, and between those two events there was an increase in awareness of feminism. That’s why we were kind of surprised when Nicki Minaj dropped her “Anaconda” video a couple months ago, which in our opinion was basically a huge feminist power play and received a ton of backlash and criticism for it. Many people objected to it and claimed that it body-shamed skinny girls and was anti-feminist. We’ll present both sides to the argument below, but keep in mind that there is one side to the story that’s indisputable- Nicki knows how to TWERK.

No matter your opinion of her, you have to give Nicki credit for being the catalyst for a new wave of female rappers in the male-dominated, misogynistic rap industry. She’s made it possible for post-Lil’ Kim female rappers to get the respect and recognition they deserve, and without her artists like Angel Haze or Iggy Azalea would have decidedly less impact. Moreover, Nicki was able to take a song originally about female objectification and reform it, acting as a sexual subject rather than a sexual object. In a culture where Miley and Taylor are featuring women of color only as twerking props to frame themselves in their music videos, isn’t it a good thing to see a black woman reclaiming her sexual agency and body image without fetishization and objectification?

The idea behind Anaconda isn’t to body-shame “skinny bitches,” but is rather focused on Nicki asserting her own sexuality, and feeling empowered about her body. Plus, Nicki reclaimed the word “bitch” in her work, stating, “I think every woman at one point or another in their life has been called a bitch. For a long time I had a real problem with that word, I didn’t like it and I thought it was derogatory. But I’ve gotten to a place now where I’ve made a lot of peace with it. It’s been so overused and made to seem so derogatory towards women that I’ve adapted it into an empowering feeling for myself. If I’m a bitch then I’m a bitch, if that’s what an assertive woman is to you. So I’ve sort of adapted it as a badge of honor.”

Sure, that one line is a little offensive in the song, but after all, thin women see their body type represented everywhere, and are in no way institutionally demonized by society the way fat people are. Similar to how reverse racism isn’t actually oppressive, because white people are still privileged in society, in no way is Nicki saying “f*ck the skinny bitches” oppressive to slim women, because they still retain their thin privilege. And even so, the song and video aren’t meant as a body positivity message for all women in the first place as they only praise one body type, which is a girl “with little in the middle” but with a big booty.

Although Anaconda may not be the archetypal pro-feminist anthem, Nicki’s clever lyrics, juxtaposed with the suggestive choreography, go to show that she is allowed to flaunt as much of her body as she wants while still maintaining her power. She completely subverts the idea that women’s bodies are intended for the male gaze. She creates a female storyline in response to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s stance that his “Anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun.” With a banana as her prop, she shades the patriarchy and proceeds to chop it up. She gives a lap dance to Drake, but makes him a sexual object instead, before proceeding to bat his hand away because she isn’t even interested in his ‘anaconda’, and she will do what she pleases with her ‘buns’. No matter what the media has to say about Nicki Minaj, her work has always been undeniably groundbreaking and empowering to women who find representation in so few other places. For that alone, she is a feminist hero in our eyes.

Photo/GIF Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

A sophomore at Umass majoring in English.
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