White feminism, as perpetuated by Taylor Swift

A critique of Taylor Swift by Brown Girls Only has been long in the making, but was derailed by 1989 World Tour concert tickets.That being said, Swift’s behavior towards Nicki Minaj on Twitter confirmed for me that the singer has a long way to go in terms of being respectful, inclusive and mature.

Yesterday, MTV announced the nominations for this year’s Video Music Awards. While Minaj’s video for “Anaconda” had been nominated for the category of “Best Female Video” and “Best Hip Hop Video,” Minaj felt snubbed in that she had not been nominated for the “Video of the Year” category.

“If I was a different ‘kind’ of artist, Anaconda would be nominated for best choreo and vid of the year as well,” tweeted Minaj yesterday afternoon.

“When the ‘other’ girls drop a video that breaks records and impacts culture they get that nomination,” she continued before saying, “If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year.”

Minaj went on to say that she hoped to receive more awards for the “Anaconda” video as well as the “Feeling Myself” video in the future.

Swift decided that Minaj’s first tweet was directed at her, and fired back, “@NICKIMINAJ I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot..[sic]”

In terms of celebrity fights, if this could be considered one, Minaj didn’t mention Swift directly. The point of her tweet was to vent her frustration with the music industry and to voice her suspicions as to why her hard work and creative vision did not receive the accolades that they deserved.

Along with being controversial and playful, Minaj’s objective in releasing the song “Anaconda” was to show love for and give strength to girls and women with bigger bodies. Apart from the European influence that puts lighter skin on a pedestal, the Western beauty standard idolizes thin bodies or bodies that distribute fat to sexualized regions.

While a video like that of Swift’s “Bad Blood” could be an example of the representation problem that Minaj has highlighted, Taylor Swift is not the first pop star to not perpetuate a narrow beauty standard. Empowering bigger women is not “skinny-shaming.” In the West, thin girls and women don’t receive nearly the amount of disparaging comments and bullying for their size that bigger girls and women do. Typically, black women have bigger bodies, so the issue of size representation can be considered a race issue.

Apart from Swift’s unnecessary presence in Minaj’s self-examination and analysis of Hollywood, the fact that Swift felt compelled to lash out directly at Minaj underscores issues bigger than Swift’s thin skin. This sort of woman “talking over” another woman is an example and classic convention of “white feminism.”

What is white feminism? It is not simply being white and a feminist, but rather adhering to feminism that only supports white women without considering that women of color have even more problems to deal with than just gender inequality.

White feminism has held women back for centuries in America. The suffrage movement excluded black women, as social justice warriors from the nineteenth century decided that activists should either try to enfranchise black male voters or white female voters, not everyone.

The first waves of feminism did not pay women of color any mind, which has rightfully made many women of color turned off from feminism as well as opposed to the label. In the early 1980s, “womanism” began to take off as a safe space for black women, as the civil rights movement and the feminist movement had silenced black women in their dual identities.

If anyone is pitting women against each other, it’s Taylor Swift. Like the white feminists of old, Swift gives Nicki Minaj an ultimatum that forces her to pick between her identities.

Swift blames Nicki’s VMA snub on the men as a defense of her perpetuation of narrow beauty standards and contribution to the lack of diverse representation of women.In Swift’s school of thought, either Minaj is content to have two women nominated for “Video of the Year” or Minaj is an ungrateful wretch for wanting more success for herself and empowerment women who are at a disadvantage.

People who have any sort of social privilege should not, by any means, go around beating themselves up for their privilege. However, it is nice when they speak up for others who aren’t so lucky or when they just give oppressed people a space to speak up and have their voice be heard.

As a skinny, conventionally pretty, white woman who grew up well enough off financially, Swift has and has had little to worry about when it comes to oppression. As a self-proclaimed champion of women, Swift’s angry words towards a black female rapper from the rough part of Queens reflect badly on Swift.

Granted, Swift was likely introduced to feminism by the girlfriend of her latest album’s producer, comedian Lena Dunham. Dunham is another self-proclaimed feminist who fails to champion all women. Dunham claims that her HBO television series, Girls, is progressive and unabashedly feminist, but the show severely lacks diversity when it comes to the aforementioned girls.

Like other white feminists, Swift fails to see that Nicki’s feminist agenda is not mutually exclusive to her own feminist agenda. Swift may think that her badass girl gang in “Bad Blood” is so revolutionary, but it is no more revolutionary than the reclaiming of sexuality and the body positivity of Minaj’s “Anaconda.”

Not only do we need more female representation in media, but we need better female representation in media. We need more women who aren’t damsels in distress. We need more women in leather and winged eyeliner, wielding machetes and machine guns, getting into kickboxing matches with their arch-nemeses, strutting away coolly as stuff explodes in the background, with nary a man, definitely not a male love interest, in sight. We also need for these women to come from diverse backgrounds and to all be beautiful in their own way.

Minaj’s fiancé, Meek Mill, is in a heated and cringeworthy beef. What transpired on Twitter between Swift and Minaj is not a beef. It’s simply Swift indicating how ignorant she is to the experiences of other women, and that’s OK. Ignorance can be cured with education, whether that’s reading books and watching panels on YouTube, experiencing phenomena firsthand or having someone tell you about their life.

I can only hope that Swift does not take the approach of serially problematic celebrities by writing off social critique as merely hate to shake off.


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