Gender, Social Justice

Nicki Minaj forced me to confront the boundary between political and personal

The feminist community needs to have a conversation about holding our loved ones to the same standards as strangers.

Earlier this month, our queen Nicki Minaj’s brother was arrested for raping a 12-year-old girl. Since then, she bailed him out, to much criticism from the feminist community. As a self-proclaimed feminist and advocate for girls and women’s empowerment, one would expect Nicki to condemn the rape of a young girl. Politics can get cloudy, though, when shit gets personal.

When I first found out about this story, I was almost shocked at myself for not being upset with her and passing judgement. How can I empathize with Nicki Minaj and even understand her decision and still be anti-rape apology? Bailing out a rapist seems to send the message that you don’t think anything done was wrong.  However, my understanding of familial obligation and personal relationships allowed me to see past the political aspect of her actions.

Like Nicki, I have a brother who I love more than anything. And if my brother was charged with raping a girl, I would probably bail him out too. Not because I think rapists should be free, not because I think he’s above crime, not because his life is more important than the victim’s, but simply because he is my brother. I am very family-oriented and wouldn’t be able to let my brother sit in jail on a bond that I could afford.

This is not to excuse or defend Minaj’s actions, but to acknowledge that her decision could not have been easy. It is lazy to accuse her of not really being a feminist and say that she is a rape apologist, as many online have been doing. What is much more difficult to do is to acknowledge the difficulty that we *all* have with applying our politics to the people we love.

Just last month, I got into an argument with my dad over the difference between transgender, transsexual and how “tranny” is an inappropriate slur. After unsuccessfully trying to get my point across, I changed the subject and let it go. It didn’t come up again and we went on with life. If this were someone on Twitter, a classmate, or even a friend, my reaction would have been completely different. I would have read them for filth, blocked them, and probably written them off as intellectually challenged. But because it was someone I love, my radical feminist reaction was toned down.

My experience with my dad is not unique. Many of my liberal white friends have conservative racist parents that they simply avoid race conversations with. I know activists with friends that disagree with their lifestyle choices, but they set their differences aside for the sake of friendship. Their acceptance and love of people who don’t share their beliefs doesn’t make them hypocritical or unauthentic, though. By this same logic, Nicki Minaj’s feminism doesn’t require her entire family to share her beliefs. And just because she was there for her brother doesn’t necessarily mean she condones his actions – but loves him in spite of them.

It is easy to judge the behavior of others when we have never been in their situation. It is easy to make things black and white and ignore the nuance of familial bonds and relationships. But rather than take the easy way out, the feminist community needs to have a conversation about why it is so difficult to hold our loved ones to the same standards as strangers. We need to be open to discussing the ways in which we allow love to take precedence over justice and morality.

These conversations are not easy, but if the feminist community is truly concerned about ending rape culture, they need to be had. Acknowledging that upholding feminist politics can be difficult sometimes is the first step toward making them achievable. Rather than shying away from the boundary between political and personal, we must confront it honestly and unashamed.