Three beloved male performers who shimmy, saunter and pelvic thrust their way across the stage — often shirtless — delighting packed stadiums with their unabashedly sexy moves.
(A girlfriend of mine who went to a sold-out Usher show told me that he selected a random woman from the audience, brought her onstage, sprawled her out on a couch, and proceeded to give her a horizontal, full-body “lap dance” while serenading her with a slow R&B jam. As my friend reports, this woman appeared to be on the verge of fainting in ecstasy and every other woman in the stadium was seething with jealousy.)
These men are sexy. Really, really sexy. In addition to singing (really, really awesomely) they flaunt their toned, chiseled bodies and obviously have a blast teasing the audience into a frenzy.
Nobody is clutching at her pearls in horror, exclaiming, “But what a terrible ROLE MODEL for all the young boys out there! [gasp] How DARE they!”
Double standard, much?
I’m bringing this up because — a few weeks ago — my teenage daughter Emily begged me to take her to see one of her favorite performers: queen-rapper Nicki Minaj.
I’m somewhat familiar with Nicki’s music (I’ll admit: I’ve shimmied in my kitchen to “Super Bass” more than a few times) and I agreed to chaperone Em at the show, but before the concert — like any curious, concerned parent — I did a little research on Ms. Minaj to see what’s she all about.
A quick Google search revealed a few facts:
– She’s the first female solo artist to have 7 singles simultaneously charting on the
Billboard Hot 100.
– She has won 4 American Music Awards, 8 BET Awards, and countless other accolades.
– She is currently the highest-paid rapper in the world (she’ll be raking in a cool $96 million this year). Not highest paid female rapper. Highest paid rapper. Period.
– She is a philanthropist who contributes to organizations like the Red Cross, the Save the Music Foundation, and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
– Most interestingly of all (to me, anyway) is the fact that Nicki has managed to achieve all of this despite coming from a profoundly troubled home. (Her father struggled with drug addiction and once attempted to kill Nicki’s mother by setting their house on fire. Holy shit.)
Despite her business acumen, talent and unstoppable spirit, Nicky gets lambasted in the media (and by women who identify as “feminists”) on a pretty regular basis. Their biggest grievance? Nicki is fiercely criticized for being “too sexual” with her lyrics, her music videos, and performances.
Her butt is too round. Her lips are too pouty. Her costumes are too skimpy. And so on.
Many accuse her of being a terrible role model, a bad influence for young girls, a “slut,” “bimbo” and “whore.” Someone who is “holding back” the feminist movement.
But… wait just a minute, here.
To circle back to my earlier point…
Is anybody attacking Enrique, Mick or Usher in the same way? Do these guys get lambasted for being “too sexual”? For being bad “role models”? Nope.
Men who take pleasure in flirting, teasing, and delivering a sexualized onstage performance? Carry on! Bravo! Men are allowed to be smart, funny, talented, and sexy.
Women who do the exact same thing? Big problem. They are villains. They are “hos.”
They must be shamed and shut down.
Pardon my French, but this makes me really fucking angry.
Here’s my unfiltered opinion:
Nicki’s butt is not the problem.
Nicki’s thighs are not the problem.
Nicki’s gyrating hips are not the problem.
She is not the problem.
We are the problem.
Women who point the finger at other women and cry “Slut!” are the problem.
If we’re looking for someone or something to “blame” for the fact that women and girls are still lagging behind men in so many ways — particularly financially — we need to stop pointing the finger at women like Nicki and start looking in the mirror, at ourselves.
It’s our own unfair, sexist attitudes and double standards about what men and women are “allowed” to be — and our unfortunate tendency to viciously attack fellow women, particularly highly successful women, tearing our sisters down instead of celebrating their achievements — THAT is the problem.
After the concert, Emily created a “Minaj Collage” and printed it out for her high school math binder. She’s always hated math and struggles mightily with it. She just started attending an extraordinarily rigorous school and she’s determined to succeed. Just like her hero, Nicki.
If Nicki Minaj, in all her booty-shaking glory, has motivated my daughter to slay Algebra and rise her to full potential… I most definitely do not have a problem with that.
And if my daughter wants to take hip-hop dance lessons or write rap lyrics or wear pink and green wigs like Nicki, that’s fine by me, too. (She doesn’t. Just for the record.)
Because being a “feminist” means that everything is an option, all pathways are open, and nobody has the right to lock any doors in your face or tell you that you are “wrong” for wanting what you want. Not men. Definitely not other women.
On that note, I’m going to go answer a few business emails and then maybe treat my husband to a private twerking performance. Because I’m a feminist, it’s my life and my body, and I can do what I want.
(This message has been approved by my daughter Emily, except for the “twerking for dad’s enjoyment” part, which I know she would deem “totally embarrassing, mom.” Sorry Miz Em.)