Music, Pop Culture

Girl power is great, until you start talking race

Never must women of color be the voice of their own revolution.

Girl power! Isn’t it just the greatest? Super cool to have a bunch of girls who have each other’s back and look out for one another, isn’t it? Except this solidarity isn’t always what it should be.

And yes, of course I’m talking about Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift. What else could I mean?

The VMA released its nominations for Video of the Year, and Nicki Minaj’s video for “Anaconda” wasn’t on the list. The song has become an icon since its release, and it’s quite surprising that it didn’t make it. Nicki turned to Twitter to vent her frustration at not being recognized, and other videos being nominated – namely Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” – that reflect more mainstream standards of beauty. The VMAS have a long tradition of not acknowledging the work of black artists – “7/11,” anyone?

Even for superstars like Nicki Minaj. Click To Tweet

Black artists have a massive influence on pop culture and yet seldom are they given the recognition for it. This isn’t a tantrum over an award, like Piers Morgan would like to think. His whole attitude of “Stop whining and shut the hell up. Her video was better,” is exactly why girl power and solidarity is needed in the first place.

There sure are a whole lot of I’s in the way Swift spells girl power. Click To Tweet

The issues here are much broader and run deeper than a ‘silly Twitter spat.’ They are indicative of how even though rapper and singer Minaj has a phenomenal platform, she can still be silenced by Swift.

Feminism, in particular calls for solidarity and loyalty. But this “mayo feminism” offers no place to women of color from the diaspora who want to voice their opinions and grievances. There is no place in mainstream feminism for the multitude of women who aren’t white. Women of color are great to show inclusion, to depict how ethnically and racially diverse a group is, but they must be just that, a representation of a cause; never a movement.

Never must women of color be the voice of their own revolution. God forbid if women of color talk about the exclusion and silencing they face.

Feminism, in particular calls for solidarity and loyalty. Click To Tweet

Emma Watson could be mistaken for 2014’s feminist of the year. This year, Taylor Swift has taken her place. It’s a new year with no changes. When Minaj was venting on Twitter, she was pointing to a much deeper issue, and her frustration was at institutions that glorify and celebrate one type body type and one standard of beauty: white, skinny with a super-sized smile. Did Swift come in the line of fire? Yes, because she features a wide array of Victoria Secret Models in the “Bad Blood” video.

But Swift tweeting that she’s had done nothing but love and support Nicki, and then going onto say that it was maybe the men who took the spot of “Anaconda” only shows how entitled white feminism can be. This wasn’t the time to say that women are taught to hate and compete with one another. Solidarity should never override people voicing their opinions.

It’s a new year with no changes. Click To Tweet

Taylor Swift then only made it worse by inviting Minaj on stage if she won. It shows how clueless she was as to what exactly Minaj was talking about, something she has since acknowledged and apologised for.

“I thought I was being called out. I missed the point, I misunderstood then misspoke. I’m sorry, Nicki,” she tweeted.

There sure are a whole lot of I’s in the way Swift spells girl power.

Since Minaj has accepted the apology and has graciously laid the debate to rest, so shall we. But we must remain aware of the uphill task it remains for women of color, to not just co-exist in a bubble, but to love and celebrate who they are. Even for superstars like Nicki Minaj.