It may surprise some of you to learn that I am massive hip hop fan; so much so that I’ve been known forgive all manner of misogyny and general foolishness for banging beat and a lyrical flow. But I’ve heard that when you become a parent you suddenly become more sensitised to the world. You are more likely to cry at tragic news stories, rage against injustices and generally be affronted by the naughty shinnanegans that little our global media.
Is this why, then, when I sat down to watch the new Nicki Minaj video, Anaconda, (at the behest of a feminist friend) my jaw dropped further and further to the floor whilst the rest of my face gradually screwed up into the very picture of disgust? Is it something about my new maternal identity that made me cover my face with my hands and utter “what?” and “why?” in a sort of frenzy of shock and helplessness as a parade of expletives and buttocks were jiggled before me? Maybe. I’m pretty sure I would have found this video offensive 10 months ago but my indignation is reaching new levels of potency. Hence the following rant.
There is a lot of jiggling flesh on offer in this video. Like, A LOT. Various beautiful women lazily shake their ample behinds for the camera. In fact, if you’re not Nicki Minaj then your face is of little import, it seems, cos it’s all about that ass. Other cliched ‘sexiness’ includes an unoriginally provocative banana eating shot and the obligatory fake work out scene featuring a gravity defying pink thong. I’m too weary to get offended by the predictable steamy-girls-winding-together stuff. It’s all so outrageous tha I’m pretty sure Nicki is consciously parodying male rappers who surround themselves with equally faceless smooth-bodied women whilst listing their various sexual exploits.
Just any idea, though, why couldn’t she have done that with a load of oiled-up men for a change? And what os the need for the – frankly creepy – lap dance scene at the end with her mate Drake? We shall never know friends, we shall never know.
Still, this is nothing more than the logical extension of every other pop video for the last 20 years. Katy Perry with her whipped-cream canister bra in California Girls; Britney in Toxic apparently wearing nothing but rhinestones; Rhianna engaged in some act of bandage or other in practically every video she ever makes nowadays (remember Pon de Replay? Ah, those were simpler times). And these are the videos by women, where they get to use actual words and appear to have some agency and everything! Don’t get me started on the offerings of Usher et al, or that video Satisfaction with the women using power tools from about 5 years ago *shudder*. (Though, incidentally, that does have a YouTube content warning if you try to watch it, which Minaj’s latest offering doesn’t.)
But the wider point is that Minaj isn’t doing anything new here. She’s just doing it with bigger bums. Which, apparently should empower me.
So maybe it was the lyrics that offended me. They are filthy, I mean filthy. And I’m no prude. I love a bit of hip-hop, and boasting about prowess in the bedroom is up there with drugs and guns when it comes to subject matter for this genre. But there are A LOT of swears. Dear Reader, I just wasn’t prepared. Too much In the Night Garden has desensitised me to the harsher ways of the world.
Then again, the filth is nothing new either, if anything it’s a reminder of how much misogynistic bullshit we’ll happily imbibe. The whole song is a sample of ‘Baby Got Back’, the 1992 Sir Mix-A-Lot hit that has oddly become a sort of family favourite. You know, despite that fact that it containing lyrics such ‘my Anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns hun.’*; the charming rhyme that Minaj has adopted as her chorus.
Maybe it was the heart-warming scenes of Ross and Rachel rapping the ditty to baby Emma to make her laugh, or the YouTube sensation caused by an all-American couple who did their hilarious surprise wedding dance to the classic tuuuuune. Had you, like me, forgotten how creepy this song actually was? Have a listen, and be appalled. In fact, Nicki, for giving us the wake-up call we all needed. Now go and wash your mouth out, young lady.
There’s no doubt Ms Minaj enough knows exactly what she’s doing. You don’t get to be a female icon of the rap game without some serious smarts. Anaconda has gained the accolade of most YouTube watches in 24 hours, snatching the crown from the equally mind-boggling Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus, and little bloggers like me around the globe are giving her free publicity. She ain’t no fool!
But even though I feel better for her that she has some sort of say in all of this and isn’t just desperately flaunting herself in an attempt to gain affection and/or attention (unlike Miley perhaps), that doesn’t make me like it any more. It doesn’t in any way make me feel empowered. Not even a little bit.
Minaj ‘hit back’ at criticism of her single’s ‘artwork’ (see above) by tweeting a Sports Illustrated cover. Yes indeed, Nicki, you are not the only woman whose bum has been flaunted in order to sell something. Good point, well made. And I’m sure that some people don’t like it because you’ve made this choice as a woman; an empowered black woman at that. Theyare, of course,silly little fools. But, mate, it’s still objectification. I don’t care who’s doing the objectification. I don’t care if you’re objectifying yourself in some postmodern beat-them-at-their-own-game endeavour. I certainly don’t think women doing it is better than men doing it for us. We are the worst at this crap. It scares me that in 10 years time my son will be able to peruse scantily clad women on magazine covers at this eye level. But I am not talking about Nuts and FHM (though boo to you); any women’s ‘fashion’ mag will show you far more perfected female body images. Bleurgh!
‘Perfected female images?’ I hear you cry! ‘Why that’s what she is subversively challenging with her in-your-face championing of the curvier figure!’ Really? Really??? If Nicki Minaj weighs more than me I will eat all of my hats. And my socks as well. She is as slim and artificially perfected as any pop star. Some of her pre-photoshop single cover images have been leaked on the internet. Google them if you like, I won’t put them on here because it’s should be a woman’s choice how and if she shows off her body. I recently bore my cellulite to the world in a post, but I wouldn’t impose that on another woman. Any way, however many ‘touch ups’ have been done post-shoot it is clear that this lady does not jiggle in any place that wasn’t designed to be appealing to the male gaze.
All of this, however, I can forgive. I don’t like it, and I hate that this is the sort of imagery that will saturate my son’s mind in the far to near future. I wish I didn’t feel I had to conceal the existence of music channels from him. (Seriously, I want him to think that CBeebies shows and Pointless are all that TV has to offer for an long as possible).
All of the swears and unoriginal music and objectification add fuel to the fiery maternal rage I am experiencing, but it is none of those things that are keeping me up when I should be having my beauty sleep. It is this section of lyrics that I can’t seem to get out of my pretty little head:
Yeah, this one is for my b*tches with a fat ass in the f*cking club
I said, where my fat ass big b*tches in the club?
F*ck those skinny b*tches, f*ck those skinny b*tches in the club
I wanna see all the big fat ass b*tches in the motherf*cking club
F*ck you if you skinny b*tches WHAT?
WHAT? Are exactly my thoughts too, Nicki.
What the asterisk are you going on about? If this is a middle finger up at the white male establishment that has idealised the tall, slim, adolescent girly figure over all others in the past 40 years then it is a bloody well misplaced one. If you really want to challenge the homogenised images of women out there then perhaps you’d be better not to scream obscenities at your less posteriorly endowed counterparts.
I’ll put it this way: Replacing one fetishised, unattainable body image with another is not really progress. Neither is categorising women according to the size of their bottoms, in case you were wondering. *screams into a pillow*
I think my rage has less to do with me being a mother and more to do with being a woman. A woman who struggles with her own body image and gets angry when new female cabinet ministers are analysed by their outfits more often than their politics. But there is a certain urgency to this anger now. A certain direction. It says, no, this is not bloody acceptable thank you very much. Because I have a precious person to bring up who is going to start learning lots of things beyond my control and I don’t want him to learn this crap. I really, really really don’t.
What do you think? Am I missing the point? Do you feel differently since you had kids? Comment below or visit my Facebook page .