White Feminism (& the Nicki Minaj/Taylor Swift debacle)

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 1.53.04 pm Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 1.53.18 pmThoughts on the Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift Twitter “argument”, the important issues of racism in the entertainment industry and white feminism.

In case you missed it, Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj had an awkward exchange over Twitter that has fuelled many articles, twitter rants and people/publications choosing sides. Here are the tweets that started the “feud”:

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 1.53.04 pm Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 1.53.18 pm Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 1.53.27 pm Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 1.53.35 pmPersonally, I feel like Nicki Minaj is being clear about what she is upset about and what she is trying to say. Her music video for Anaconda broke the 24-hour streaming record on VEVO. The video spurned many memes, discussions, re-makes and debates. It also featured and celebrated women of colour and their bodies, empowering women by taking back control and owning their bodies and sexuality in the clip. Despite this, it wasn’t nominated for “Video of the Year”. One argument that people can make is that it’s too “raunchy” and there is too much nudity, etc. But those points didn’t matter when Miley Cyrus was nominated for (and won) the same award for Wrecking Ball; and (in case you forgot) Miley literally straddled a wrecking ball whilst naked in that video. Or how about when Robin Thicke was nominated for “Video of the Year” for a video that featured a naked Emily Ratajkowski? Obviously there is no problem with women and nudity in music videos – the problem is when a woman of colour is confidently showing off and embracing her body.

Therefore, Nicki Minaj’s point is completely valid. Her annoyance and anger is also justified because she missed out on a nomination she deserves simply because of the colour of her (and her dancers’) skin. Who would not be upset about that? Who would have the nerve to question her justifiable feelings? Unfortunately, the answer to that is Taylor Swift. The self-proclaimed feminist (whose video for Bad Blood was nominated) replied:

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 2.14.38 pmWhich leads me to the main thing I wanted to point out – white feminism. A lot of people are finally starting to understand that feminism doesn’t mean hating men or empowering women to the point that they are above men – it simply means empowering women until both genders are equal. What makes me sad, however, is how people fail to see that if your quest for gender equality does not include women of colour, then you are not a feminist. Without realising, Taylor Swift gave a response that is a perfect example of white feminism and the effects of white privilege. Let me break it down as much as possible so that this doesn’t sound like a university essay:

  1. Nicki Minaj is discriminated against and rightly voices her disappointment and feelings over the fact that if a white artist did what Nicki did, they 100% would’ve gotten a nomination for “Video of the Year”. This has nothing to do with Taylor Swift, nor is Nicki Minaj stating that any of the nominees are not deserving. What she is stating is that she deserves to be a nominee too.
  2. Taylor Swift takes offence. But why does she feel attacked? Ed Sheeran was also nominated and his video features a slim, white woman. Nicki’s tweet could’ve easily been “directed” to Ed Sheeran as it was to Taylor Swift. Yet Swift was the one who took offence. So why did she get offended in the first place? We could say one reason is her ego and so she would automatically assume that everything is about her. Honestly though, I think the reason why she got so offended is because Nicki Minaj called out the underlying racism in the music industry, and Taylor Swift (obviously a white person) got defensive. The thing with white privilege is that people who aren’t affected by it don’t really notice it exists because it’s so engrained into the way our society thinks. So when someone who is affected by it points it out, people are quick to put up their defences and say: “I’M NOT RACIST. IT’S NOT MY FAULT. I DESERVE THIS.” Which is exactly what Taylor Swift did.
  3. I can’t get over the irony of Taylor Swift blaming Nicki Minaj for pitting women against each other, when the song and music video she is nominated for is a take down of a fellow female artist. I guess she forgot about that in her haste to ~defend~ herself.

Although a lot of publications have reported a good recount and explanation of what happened, there are a lot of media outlets that are referring to it as a feud and basically portraying Nicki Minaj as a stereotypical, crazy, angry, black woman. It’s a good reminder of how good the media is massively biased and how heavily engrained white supremacy is in our way of thinking. Instead of using Nicki Minaj’s tweets and fair points as a foundation to explore racism in the media and entertainment industry; they’re misconstruing her original words to look like an attack from an angry black woman to an innocent all-American girl. As Nicki Minaj herself stated, it’s “nothing to do with any of the women, but everything to do with a system that doesn’t credit black women for their contributions to pop culture as freely/quickly as they reward others. We are huge trendsetters, not second class citizens that get thrown crumbs.”

The sad thing is that Taylor Swift made way for this to happen. She changed what started out as an issue of racism into “sexism”, yet this only further highlighted her own racism and faux-feminisim – whether she is aware of it or not (I’m choosing to believe she wasn’t aware). Instead of being a true feminist and standing up for a fellow female musician who was wronged because of the injustice and racism in their industry, she decided to make it about her and how she feels attacked. And then she actually tried to make it seem like she was empowering women by doing this… Sorry that’s not how it works. Her getting defensive when a black person points out racism isn’t feminism at all – in fact, it’s racist. A true feminist is someone who stands and fights for the equal rights of every person regardless of gender and ethnicity. People need to stop waving around the ~feminist~ banner until they recognise the difference in treatment between a white woman and a woman of colour; and then they should do something about it.

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