Rapper, business mogul and Hollywood celebrity are among the adjectives that describe Nicki Minaj. She’s also labeled by many as either a feminist or anti-feminist. Her style of dress, lyrics, music performances and videos, album covers and public statements simultaneously garner praise and stoke criticism on behalf of the women’s movement. With her fourth LP slated for release in June, she shows no signs of slowing down.
Below are three arguments showing that Nicki Minaj empowers women and three showing that she weakens their cause.
Nicki Minaj Empowers Women
She’s opened doors for women in a male-dominated genre
Nicki Minaj has not only opened the door for other female artists to enter the male-dominated genre of rap, but she’s won multiple awards and nominations to prove her rapping talents and skills – and she’s still a strong player in the rap game. The fact that her albums and singles have (sometimes simultaneously) hit the top of the Billboard Charts – and, she became the first woman to ever appear on the Forbes “Hip Hop Cash Kings” list – has shown other women and girls that they, too, can excel in industries they thought were only for men.
She displays her sexuality in an empowering way
Nicki Minaj’s performances exemplify female empowerment. She uses her sexuality to make money, and she clearly enjoys her own sexuality. Making it acceptable for women to shed their inhibitions and enjoy men’s bodies is a positive message. This comes through in tracks like Anaconda, which also shares a broader message that women can make their own choices and control their own fulfillment. Minaj appropriates an aggressively sexual male track, “baby got back,” and tells her female audience to care more about themselves than about society’s demands and beauty ideals. More importantly, she shows women that there is a difference between being sexy and being sexually available.
She speaks her mind
Critics may take issue with how Minaj dresses, speaks or raps, but she consistently stays true to her style and beliefs. Her rap lyrics speak about the challenges of providing for family, sexist industry double standards, racial injustices, haters, opening doors for women in a male-dominated genre, and more. In interviews and on social media, she consistently encourages young women to practice safe sex, support other women, maintain positive relations with their families, and get an education so they, too, can break boundaries.
Nicki Minaj Weakens Feminist Cause.
She enforces sexist stereotypes
The way Nicki Minaj unashamedly displays her body, in general and in her performances, gives off an overly sexualized view of women. Whether intentional or not, Minaj enforces sexist stereotypes suggesting that a woman’s value is directly proportional to how she looks and how men judge and assess her attractiveness. In this regard, she is damaging to feminism in that she encourages onlookers to objectify her and women in general.
Ask yourself: Are the adolescent guys or girls who happen to watch the Anaconda video (or many other similar videos from Minaj) absorbing empowerment or a strong visual “piece of ass” mentality for them to expect and emulate?
She uses her body for profit – sexual marketing is not sex-positive feminism
Minaj uses her body for sexual marketing, which is far different from using her body to promote sex-positive feminism. Take, for example, her Anaconda album cover, which blatantly uses her body and the idea of sex to sell her music and brand. While making money certainly isn’t anti-feminist, the way Minaj chooses to objectify her body to make money is a damaging example to set for other women. Plus (not doubting her personal honesty, but examining her public persona), her confident view of her body seems insincere, if not downright artificial. The poses, the clothes and her movements all seem to go much more naturally with a male-oriented sexual fantasy world, and fit corporate and cultural conditioning.
She breaks down female camaraderie
Minaj has made a name for herself because of her many and long-standing celebrity feuds – most of which have involved only women. What’s more, some of her lyrics have led to additional controversies surrounding her affinity to shame skinny women. These tendencies to publicly pit women against each other, criticize their art, or refer to them as “b*tches” shows a lack of respect and grace for other women in the industry. More importantly, it is damaging to women as a whole, because Minaj is setting an example to others that breaking down camaraderie instead of strengthening it gets you attention.
Bottom Line: The rapper Nicki Minaj has opened doors for other women to enter a male-dominated genre, while confidently embracing her sexuality and identity. On the other hand, her sexuality is heavily employed in her quest to success, which enforces sexist stereotypes, and, even if well meaning, serves to objectify women. Do you think women should look to Minaj as a role model?