The most publicized drama surrounding this year’s Video Music Awards features Hip-Hop artist Nicki Minaj, and Pop singer Taylor Swift.
After seeing that her videos were not nominated for either Video of the Year or Best Choreography, Minaj took to Twitter to vent about her disappointment of the nominee selection committee for this year. She tweeted about how the majority of nominations for Video of the Year feature women with slim physiques, which notably contrasts with the women in her video, which all have thick body types. Taylor Swift saw this rant as a personal critisism towards her “Bad Blood” video being nominated for Video of the year, and she defensively replied to the tweet by scolding Minaj for supposedly attacking her. Minaj then replies by clarifying that she was not directly referencing Swift, and that she was instead addressing another issue, one that Taylor should have been able to identify and acknowledge. Swift tried to quickly change the subject, but the damage was already done. She had already revealed her ignorance of the subject Minaj was addressing, which is the discrimination against black female artists in today’s context.
The “Anaconda” video broke records by attracting 19.6 million Vevo views in the first 24 hours after being released. This video featured dancing in various fashions, with a large focus directed towards their thick body types. The choreography features dancing such as twerking, and other dance moves that accentuate their non-traditional body types. These features qualified the video for a nomination for the “Best Female Video” and “Best Hip Hop Video” categories, but despite the record breaking views and the appraisal from the media, this video was not nominated for any of the “big” categories such as Video of the Year and Best Choreography. For this reason Minaj publicly expressed her dissatisfaction in this year’s nominee choices, and she identified the problematic discrimination used against her in this case.
The problem that Minaj is addressing is the discredit that black female artists face. While Minaj’s video is considered entertaining, it is not viewed as a legitimate art form. It qualifies for more specific subcategories such as Hip-Hop or Best Female Video, but these categories do not coincide with the white, male dominated culture of today. Hip-Hop has a connotation of black culture, and this paired with the label of female implies a lower-class citizen. This means that anything created by and for these demographics is automatically discredited as an art form. Lorde would describe this as degradation of art, and she would attribute this degradation to the inability to recognize difference as an enriching quality rather than a deteriorating deviation (Lorde). In order to understand a foreign art form, one must understand the culture and background which influences said art. This would lead art to be fully appreciated within its context.
This is a problem that Minaj immediately identified, but others were not so quick to see this inequality. When Taylor Swift defensively replied to Minaj’s tweets, she was demonstrating that she did not fully understand the problem that was being addressed. Swift describes herself as a feminist, but one problem with modern feminism is that many white women fail to address the further disadvantage that face women of color. Because of white privilege engrained into our society, the default for women’s rights benefit white women more often than not. Lorde rigorously critiques this problem, as she explains that ignoring the differences of race perpetuates these inequalities and disadvantages. Instead of helping the progression of all women, this type of feminism only works in favor of white women (Lorde). Failure to address an issue actually does nothing to relieve that issue, even though it may seem so. This twitter instance is an example of how the non-intersectional feminism movement of today creates a façade of progression and security for all women, even though this force is only working towards white women, who naturally benefit and hold power over the entirety feminist community.