Everyone is talking about Nicki Minaj’s butt.
Ever since the female rapper released the cover art for her new single “Anaconda” (pictured above) – which shows her squating, backed turned to the camera in a g-string, with her ass in full view – many took Minaj to task for exploiting her body for music sales and shock value.
While it’s no different than all the other times the female rapper got attention for her assets, this go around seems to be a public outcry against what some consider to be a gimmick executed one too many times by the rapper and, on a grander scale, a pushback against the objectification of women’s bodies.
Minaj fired back at her critics, posting an image of three White women showing their butts on a cover of Sports Illustrated. “Angelic. Acceptable. Lol,” she captioned along with the image, seemingly drawing a possible line of bias between Black women and non-Black women as it relates to what’s considered sexy and appropriate in media.
Nicki makes a good point – but not for the reason she probably thinks. There is a bias against Black women and their bodies, and because of it, they are held to a different standard. But a proclivity for a White woman’s body over that of a woman of color is not particularly the reason why Nicki’s explicit photo is problematic.
Nicki isn’t the first Black woman with a gigantic ass, and surely she won’t be the last. From Beyonce to Serena Williams, women of color are often fetishized and worshipped for their natural curves.
But the spectacle of women of African descent donning large behinds is something that dates as far back as the early 1800s.
During that time, Sarah Baartman was one of at least two South African women exhibited as a freak show, where curious and fascinated onlookers would pay to get a view of her God-given buttocks. Her protruding butt caused Europeans to view her as a wild or savage woman. Scholars have long used Baartman’s story to critique the way in which Black women are socialized and understood under the context of racism and sexual politics.
Fast forward two centuries and it’s not hard to see that nothing’s quite changed. Black women and their bodies are still considered to be abnormal, while White women are deemed normal and the standard.
So yes, critics have every right to hold Minaj accountable. The only difference between now and then is that during Baartman’s day, under the rule of slavery, she didn’t have much of a choice. But with a reported net worth of $45 million and accolades galore, one can only wonder why the Grammy-winning MC would continue to use her body to bring attention to her art rather than simply using her sheer talent.
Minaj doesn’t need to theoretically “sell” her body in order to sell music in tandem. She has successfully made it to a plateau in entertainment where, as a Black woman, she can call the shots and begin to take ownership of her career and, more importantly, her being.
While policing a woman’s sexuality takes away from her right to have authority of her own body, as a woman of color, Minaj has the responsibility of using her celebrity and international reach to protect the global perception of the Black woman – and part of that is straying away from stereotypes of lust and eroticism.
But if the rapper’s intent is to deconstruct the othering of the Black woman’s body by using her own booty to normalize or debunk hackneyed images of African-American women through an act of defiance or satire, then maybe she deserves a little credit.
However, no matter how much of a right a woman of color may have in showcasing her derriere, she must always keep in mind that all praise isn’t good praise. Not when it’s at the expense of the humanity of Black women all around the world. Her booty is not a commodity, nor is it an exhibition. It is hers and hers alone.
Originally published on CentricTV.com by yours truly, Gerren Keith Gaynor.