When I saw the boring video for Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda”, I felt like this weird activity of shaking ass while giving me Rambo stares was somehow supposed to be feminist. I wasn’t a wrong. Plenty of people thought the same, and were serious. All of these people missed the point. A girl called Meghan also had an ’empowering’ song too, with a music video that contained very little skin and a really big guy.
This is all about the message in the songs, not about the musical quality. As a musical piece, “Anaconda” is terrible. It’s a pop song devoid of hooks and a rap song devoid of actual rapping. It’s more of a bad spoken word track. Coil have poppier stuff than this.
Anyway, “Anaconda” is not about the beauty of being ‘full’. She mentions about how guys like “something they can grab” and not “bony”, but somehow everyone in her music video has an hourglass figure. Tits and ass, especially the ass are everywhere. The ‘hourglass figure’ doesn’t mean thin. It means that the ass and the tits are much bigger compared to the waist. This is what’s considered the most attractive body type. Guys talk more about ass and tits than how thin some girls are.
The lack of ‘male gaze’ means nothing. Men or no men doesn’t make them any less sexually suggestive. The music video doesn’t have guys staring at her ass, but I’m encouraged to stare at it. Is there any other reason for showing so much? They may pose as amazons, work out and not smile, but this is just another fetish. Some people get turned on by tough girls, and what Minaj is doing is catering to those whose fetish is tough girls. A chainmail bikini won’t suddenly make you strong, and doing facial expressions like Rambo won’t make it any less of a fetish. At least Nicky Da B wasn’t serious, and that video had a bigger variety of asses plus an androgynus rapper.
Even its lyrics fall to stereotypes. All Minaj is doing is give a voice to the female MRA’s claim to fight – the kind that relies on looks to get money and doesn’t have much more than that. She doesn’t explore this trope or subvert it. She talks about how much she gained because of her ass, namely money and clothes. The only people who are shocked are people who find any sexual expression shocking.
Then comes Meghan’s song, which is a whole different thing.
Unlike Minaj, there is little to no sexualization in the music video. Meghan doesn’t even show cleavage. The lyrics are a longer and less vulgar of Mr. Exquire’s line, “Big belly, still take my shirt off like Nelly”. There are no hourglass figures. Meghan is trying to look pretty, but in the same way male singers will also try to look good in music videos. She doesn’t present her body as sexually appealing and doesn’t encourages us to look at it. She cuts that crap so we’ll focus on the words.
Reading all this, I feel bad for writing so much about women’s bodies in an article about music. This shows you how effective Minaj’s and Meghan’s “feminism”. Isn’t feminism’s aim to let women function outside of their gender? In all of these songs, the looks are considered good because men like them. In “Anaconda”, Nicki tells us men like something they could grab. Meghan’s mom tells her boys want some booty to hold at night. In the end, there isn’t much straying from the status quo. Nicki and Meghan just insist that men like hourglass figure/’chubby’ better. It’s the same message that Jason Derulo has.
None of that is actual expression. Sexual expression is Missy Elliot wanting a guy who can keep going, Lilly Allen getting annoyed at crappy sex, Peaches’ sexual aggression or Goldfrapp’s tenderness. Each of these women expresses her sexual experiences or tastes without the politics. Perhaps the biggest problem is that we turn sex into a political thing, and suddenly how many kilos we carry or what we do in bed becomes just as important as war and global warming.
This doesn’t mean women shouldn’t talk about women’s issues. I think feminism is still relevant today and there’s plenty of misogyny going on. “If you’re X, then I’m Y” though, is not the way to respond to a problem. The problem is not that thin is considered beautiful and ‘chubby’ is considered hideous. The problem is we pay so much attention to the shape.