As a feminist who fucks*, I have no problem with “Anaconda.” I find it delightful.
* It isn’t the male gaze, dominant narratives of sexuality, or hegemonic femininity which reigns true throughout Minaj’s work. It’s her own sexual state of being. And when Nicki Minaj struts out in a string bikini or exudes her own sexuality in the middle of something otherwise empowering, it isn’t an inherent contradiction or a cause for debate. It’s simply a reflection of how many women — women who, often, feel comfortable with and empowered in their choices — are living their sexual lives. As sexual beings, we’re allowed to indulge in self-directed pursuits of pleasure without shame. We’re allowed to be frank about our own exploits. We’re feminists who fuck, and a lot of times it looks like both things happening at the exact same time.
“Anaconda” wasn’t an isolated incident, and it wasn’t Minaj’s first time articulating her own identity nor her last. Throughout her feminist declarations, however, has appeared the same specter of doubt. Feminists refuse to take Minaj’s statements seriously, continuously torn between embracing her sexually raw and eccentric persona with her own self-declared girl-power focus. It’s clear that when Minaj is making feminist statements in a language that resembles mainstream feminist discourse, folks are giddy to jump on the bandwagon — but her oversexualized state of being, her sexual aggression and occasional sexual dominance, often worry them.
This is hugely problematic.
It’s the impossibility to ultimately marry the image of a sexually empowered woman to her state of existence which allows for the distorted view of women’s sexuality to prosper. When feminists honor Minaj’s feminist lyrics, as they did with “Anaconda,” and then admonish her for expressing herself with sexually charged images and videos, they are playing into the same dominant narratives about women’s sexualities that perpetuate victim-blaming, slut-shaming, and the subordination of women.
The proof is in the pudding, respectability politics be damned. Nicki Minaj is a feminist, and she expresses that in her work. In the long run, what Minaj has contributed to the existing and ongoing dialogue of women’s oppression is the perspective of someone who refuses to be defined by any categories she doesn’t claim for herself or constrained by the desires of other people.
Today’s feminist blogosphere can get super hung up on who self-identifies as a feminist and who should be allowed to, but what that conversation ignores are both the variances among us as women and the real, lived experiences of women living in those variances. In a universe in which we are still enslaved to the dichotomy of “slut” or “virgin,” Nicki Minaj has chosen to live within her own spectrum of sexual expression — and she’s proven that at no matter where we land on that spectrum ourselves, we’re still whoever we damn well please, feminism and all.
Nicki Minaj’s Feminism Isn’t About Your Comfort Zone: On “Anaconda” and Respectability Politics. Autostraddle, 8/25/14.
A large part of sexist oppression is narrowing women and their sexuality to “respectable” limits that can be approved of by General Audiences. Fuck respectable. Fuck limits not chosen by me or chosen to confine me into something smaller, safer and easier to drown so someone’s dick doesn’t feel small.