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Nicki Minaj's butt: Feminine Icon























Nicki Minaj’s butt is exactly what we need in the feminist movement. Her alma mater’s rejection of Minaj’s desire to speak to their student population is a step in the wrong direction.
According to Minaj’s T
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witter feed, the rapper/singer was denied the opportunity to speak at her former high school, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in New York City. She wrote, “I wanted to go back to my HS and speak to the students but the new principal declined. No need for me to inspire them, I guess. Smh.”
Now, a week later, Lamont Johnson, president of the Hempstead Board of Education, has invited Minaj to speak at his high school, Hempstead High School. And though LaGuardia High School claims that Minaj’s presence could potentially distract the students, it still begs the question: Did it miss out on an opportunity to send a powerful message to its students?
Yes.
Coming off the hit release of the “Anaconda” music video, Minaj is more prevalent and important than ever, especially to the Black Feminist Movement. Though some critics questioned the album cover and music video — both of which prominently feature Minaj’s large buttocks — those critics are wrong. “Anaconda” is a celebration of female sexuality and, frankly, is a reclamation of the black woman’s butt.
Minaj is a sexual symbol, yes, but she is such on her own terms. She refuses to be confined by the heterosexual male gaze, instead subverting traditionally oppressive iconography for a more liberating ideology.
For instance, in the “Anaconda” video, Minaj performs a lap dance on fellow rapper and Young Money member Drake. However, she does so on her own terms: not to get the man, not against her will, but because she knows her body and the power it holds.
Moreover, Minaj takes the image of the black woman’s behind — an image that has been degraded and debased since the “Hottentot Venus” days of Saartjie Baartman in the late 18th century — and flips it on its head. The black woman’s butt is no longer an alien oddity to be scorned and jeered at but a point of pride that diminishes the power of the oppressor.
And to those who denounce Minaj for her blatant sexuality?
“As a scholar, I am disheartened to see the repeated condemnation of black female sexuality,” said Jennifer Donahue, a visiting assistant professor in the Africana Studies Program. “The racist, slut-shaming responses to the release of ‘Anaconda’ and this unexplained rejection speak to the function of sexual politics in our society and the knee-jerk reactions that often accompany expressions of sexuality, particularly by black women. Reactions to Ms. Minaj’s latest release point toward the larger sociocultural need to control or censor female expressions of sexuality.”
But while I find Minaj’s iconography of the “big booty” to be a subversion of patriarchal rule, there are others who wonder whether this overt sexuality operates within the current racist system.
“On one hand, it is turning the desirability around, but I question that it is in ways that also offer black women respect or dignity,” said Tani Sanchez, an associate professor in the Africana Studies Program. “It seems instead to be a individual lucrative tie into representations of blacks as sexually deviant and abnormal — all of which serves to suggest blacks are inherently so different that they are not fit for average society. The end effect is continued othering. This overt conflation of imagined outlaw sexuality with skin color and body type is long-standing, and it is difficult to see how this imagery serves any larger community purpose.”
But I disagree. Because Minaj remains in control of her own sexualized image, she stands as a strong, autonomous being in defiance of a misogynist society. That is dignity.
No matter the reason, LaGuardia High School’s choice to decline Nicki Minaj’s invitation to speak is ultimately one that sends the wrong message. It denies that Nicki Minaj, a performer who ought to be considered a Black Feminist icon, can be a role model.
At what point did we decide that being in charge of one’s own body, sexuality and career disqualifies a person from being a hero to children? We should go back to that point and try again, so that this time, feminism can take a step in the right direction.
Prince Nnamdi

Prince Nnamdi

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