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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Yesterday's Nicki vs. Taylor Spat Wasn't About Race, It Was About Sexism and the Power of the Ego

Posted By on Wed, Jul 22, 2015 at 9:29 AM

  • "Anaconda", Nicki Minaj

Yesterday, Nicki Minaj had a minor shitfit on Twitter about the fact that she'd only been nominated for three VMAs this year — Best Hip Hop Video, Best Female Video (both for "Anaconda"), and Best Collaboration (for "Bang Bang" with Ariana Grande and Jessie J). It started off quietly enough with Nicki posting:
  • Nicki Minaj, Twitter

Minaj's initial confusion about why her fierce collaboration with Beyonce didn't get acknowledged was a legitimate response, given the quality of the song, the hugeness of both stars involved, and a video that was compulsive viewing. So it kind of sucked when Minaj took it to a weird (oddly sexist) place and blamed someone other than MTV for the oversight, Tweeting: "If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year."

Given the fact that out of the six people nominated in that category, four are men (Ed Sheeran, Kendrick Lamar, Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars), and one is Beyonce, it's pretty clear that body type is not the issue here and that Minaj was taking a very clear swipe at Taylor Swift's (excellent) "Bad Blood" video.

Swift, of course, isn't one to stay quiet, so called Minaj out on singling her out, and doing so in a way that pits women against other women in what is a mostly-male competition:
  • Taylor Swift / Twitter

Minaj then responded to Swift, in part: "Huh? Didn't say a word about u. I love u just as much". A response that was clearly bullshit, as well as being a weirdly high school way to handle dissing someone. Because make no mistake about it: if you accuse someone of being nominated for an award because they're thin, and featured lots of other thin women in a video, then you're telling them they got nominated for having a certain kind of body, and not because of their musical ability. Minaj denied this glaringly obvious fact by re-tweeting @kingcaleb: "It's not even any shade to the other artists. It's just that Minaj is getting snubbed for doing the same thing they're winning awards for."

The great irony here is that Minaj has used her body as a selling point from day one of her career — if she didn't, her ass wouldn't be such a focus in every single one of her videos. If Minaj wants to use her sexuality to further her career, more power to her — but it does put her on extremely shaky ground when it comes to accusing other female artists of using their bodies to win stuff. 

Unfortunately, Swift, not knowing when to walk away from the discussion, replied with one of the most patronizing, ill-advised responses possible (which has since been deleted): 
  • Taylor Swift / Twitter

This is when things took a turn for the racial, with Minaj (accurately) noting that: "Black women influence pop culture so much but are rarely rewarded for it", followed by a Tweet that pointed out that "Ryan [Seacrest] posted a headline of Taylor saying she loves & supports me. But not me saying the same to her. Lol. Their headline says I took a 'jab'? …White media and their tactics. So sad.”

Both Swift and Minaj made valuable points yesterday: Minaj was right to want the world to acknowledge that black women aren't afforded the same privileges as white women, and that this crosses over into media of all kinds. And Swift was right to point out that singling out other women, when the majority of competitors Minaj is facing are male, is counter-productive for them both.

But, the truth is, yesterday's spat, when it comes down to it, was really rooted in ego: Minaj's was bruised because she didn't get as many nominations as she was expecting, and Swift's was in full swing when she asked Minaj to follow her up on stage for no fucking reason.

Perhaps what would be more useful for both artists at this stage would be cultivating an environment where female artists stick together and don't take their anger out on one another. Both have made attempts at this previously, but are still all too ready to lapse into stereotypical "mean girl" behavior the second they feel threatened. The enemy here isn't other women — it's an industry that pushes them all into limited roles, and a media that is constantly looking for a cat fight to leer over. All female artists — especially at this level — should start opting out of both.
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Rae Alexandra

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