Taylor Swift is the white folks’ version of a “strong black woman,” only she doesn’t have to worry about the “black” part.
These days, the multi-platinum pop music ruler’s defiance, feminism and steadfast business acumen have become just as mainstay as her chart-topping records. The masses rightfully praise the 25-year-old singer/songwriter for her willingness to secure her well-earned keep, no matter how big her opponents are (hi, Apple and Spotify). But Taylor Swift’s proverbial neck-rolling, finger-snapping, arm-folding demeanor led her into some murky waters last night–with an actual strong black woman.
On the date of its release, Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” video broke the Internet before Kim Kardashian could balance a champagne glass on her sparkly rear end. Even ahead of the nearly five minute clip’s debut, the single’s cover art–featuring Nicki’s robust derriere in all its pink g-string glory–had social media on tilt with a slew of reactions and memes. It was this divisive display of overt sexuality that yielded a “yaass” here, and a “I fear for my daughter’s future” there, that eventually garnered 18.9 million views on Vevo in a single day (a record at the time of the feat).
Contrary to the foulest of slander, Nicki Minaj is no dim bulb. It is with whole-hearted certainty that I say the self-proclaimed Head Barb in Charge knew exactly what she was doing. With shock value, a legion of loyal fans, thirst buckets and willing spectators in tow, “Anaconda” and Nicki Minaj’s big ol’ booty shook its way to the No. 2 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100. It still remains her highest charting single ever. Aware of the criticism her exhibitionist approach to marketing her latest track gained, she was also locked and loaded with a poignant defense: curvy black women are dubbed “inappropriate” for the same nudity that slimmer women of other races are praised for on the covers of Sports Illustrated.
When the time came for the success of “Anaconda” to be given what Nicki believed to be its due praise, the video was snubbed for a Video of the Year nomination at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards. The rapper dusted off her campaign, highlighting herself as an artist of a different “kind” (read: skin tone and build):
If I was a different “kind” of artist, Anaconda would be nominated for best choreo and vid of the year as well.
— NICKI MINAJ (@NICKIMINAJ) July 21, 2015
When the “other” girls drop a video that breaks records and impacts culture they get that nomination. — NICKI MINAJ (@NICKIMINAJ) July 21, 2015
If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year
— NICKI MINAJ (@NICKIMINAJ) July 21, 2015
Fast forward, and Ms. Swift intercepts Nicki Minaj’s rant with a faux “Oh no she didn’t…”
Hey Taylor, two things. One, Nicki’s rant was directed at MTV and “the establishment,” not you. And two, this issue is not about pitting women against each other; it’s about the mainstream pitting black women against everybody else. In 2015, a world class athlete, Serena Williams, wins Wimbledon for the sixth time, and is demeaned for “large biceps and a mold-breaking muscular frame” by The New York Times. Fresh off her 21st major title, and one win away from nabbing all four majors in a calendar year, and Twitter users are concerned with whether or not she “looks like a man.” The disparities in body image with regards to black women are real. No, we don’t expect you to understand or care. Yes, we do expect you to stay in your lane.
Further than the physical, black women are forced to walk a tightrope everyday with regards to our passion being mistaken for anger. For proof of this, please refer to how a slew of outlets covered your reaction to Nicki Minaj’s VMAs gripe. The black, female rapper is painted as the aggressor, while you, Ms. Swift, play her unsuspecting victim:
“Nicki Minaj Picks a Feud With Taylor Swift After MTV Video Music Awards Snub” – E! Online
“Ryan Seacrest: Taylor Swift blasts @NICKIMINAJ for #VMAs jab!!!!!”
“UPDATE 4:45 p.m.: Headline has been updated to clarify that Nicki Minaj’s tweets were not directed at Taylor Swift.” – Ryan Seacrest
“T-Swift is one of only two other ‘girls’ on the shortlist, and ‘Bad Blood,’ with its many model cameos, is the only one full of slim-bodies girl assassins. And T-Swift isn’t here for that” – Cosmopolitan
“Taylor Swift Responds to Nicki Minaj’s VMA Nomination Diss!” – Just Jared
“Nicki Minaj Slams VMAs Nominations, Seemingly Throws Shade At Taylor Swift” – Gossip Cop
“Taylor Swift calls out Nicki Minaj after her Twitter rant about ‘Anaconda’ MTV Video Music Awards nomination snubs” – NY Daily News
“Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this post, an insensitive juxtaposition of photos of Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj was used. It was a hasty choice for which we apologize. The piece has since been updated.” – Entertainment Weekly
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) July 22, 2015
You celebrated your record-breaking sales week of 1989 with a video mouthing Kendrick Lamar’s “Backseat Freestyle.” You nabbed K. Dot himself for your “Bad Blood” remix. You sang Young Buck’s “Shorty Wanna Ride” at the Shorty Awards. You rub elbows with Beyonce, Jay Z, and now Kanye West. You catapulted “Super Bass” up the charts with an impressive rendition of Nicki Minaj’s bars. And yet, you’re still blind as ever to our experience, as evident by your complete oblivion of the plight at hand. No matter how many raps you memorize.
By no means Taylor is this your fight. But please, step out of the ring when the rest of us are duking it out.