Tag Archives: Women

‘If You Got a Big Ol’ Butt? Shake It!’ Nicki Minaj’s abortion

‘If You Got a Big Ol’ Butt? Shake It!’… But You’ll Be Damned for Taking Charge of Your Own Body

News of Nicki Minaj’s abortion was used by the media as anti-choice propaganda

lyrics-nicki-minaj-superbass-1Nicki Minaj had a massive year in 2014. With everyone talking about her big ol’ butt (her words), which was in full view – literally – across the media, it was pretty hard to ignore her.

She’s been on my radar for several years now (that brilliant voice, those insane lyrics, y’know?), but until last year, I hadn’t given Minaj herself much thought – as a person, a woman, and an icon.

My younger brother (who admires Minaj but is too young to recognise the Sir Mix-a-lot sample she uses in Anaconda) watched our sister and I watch the Anaconda video, insisting he wanted our opinions. I wasn’t sure how to react. Should I be shocked? Why shouldn’t she show off her mindbendingly awesome (mostly plastic) body? Finally we agreed she’s pretty awesome – to feel able to rap about her sexual relationships in a way society normally associates with male artists is pretty out-there.

Thus began my ever-growing admiration for Nicki Minaj. She is honest, hilarious and bloody-minded. Where other celebrities are defensive about their appearance (particularly when it comes to plastic surgery), she is relentlessly loud and proud. Her laughter is infectious. Her songs are bold, unique and articulate.

“I stand for girls wanting to be sexy and dance, but also having a strong sense of themselves. If you got a big ol’ butt? Shake it! Who cares? That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be graduating from college.” (Minaj in Rolling Stone interview)

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Her self-awareness and ownership of her mind and body makes her an inspirational role model for young women – she reassures us that we can be sexy and smart. She appears to have no guilt, no regrets, and no second thoughts.

That’s why I was shocked when the headlines reported Minaj was ‘haunted’ by a teenage abortion.

“Whaaaat?!”

Actually reading the Rolling Stone article, I soon discovered Minaj wasn’t ‘haunted’ by her abortion – she didn’t regret terminating the baby. She was 100% open about the difficulty of a teenage pregnancy for any young woman: “I thought I was going to die,” she stated. “I was a teenager. It was the hardest thing I’d ever gone through.” But that doesn’t mean she’s torn up about the abortion – not by far. Knowing she “didn’t have anything to offer a child”, Minaj still fully supports the decision she made then, and is still pro-choice.

She was – as always – refreshingly honest about her abortion. Despite – or perhaps because of – her honesty (it’s not like anyone need go looking for revealing images of her), her private life has not come into the public sphere very much before – which is absolutely her prerogative. Now though, with the recent break-up of her long-term relationship, her private life is becoming more and more public.

On the album she built up to for the entirety of 2014, The Pinkprint, her personal life is taking the main stage: “One of my goals was to give people a glimpse into my personal life, because it’s something I’ve kept very private,” she told Rolling Stone.

In line with her usual bolshy personality, she is unashamedly upfront about it all: “I struggled with ‘Do I express these feelings?’ And I decided there’s no reason for me to hide. I’m a vulnerable woman, and I’m proud of that.” Minaj is ever more the multi-faceted, open woman she has been to date.

-nicki-minaj-Even more admirable? She’s aware of the role she plays as a female icon, knows her influence and isn’t afraid to use it for greater good. She knows how much her records will get played, she’s aware of every move, every word: “Millions of people are gonna hear it. And you gotta watch everything you say — people find an issue with every fucking thing.”

Which is why she should be applauded for speaking out about her abortion, both in interview and in a song on The Pinkprint:

“It’d be contradictory if I said I wasn’t pro-choice. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have anything to offer a child.”

But how did the media react to Minaj’s open, honest admittance of having an abortion (and knowing it was the right decision for her)? ‘Nope, we can’t cope with that. We’ll have to make out like she wishes she’d chosen the delights of teen motherhood over her insanely successful career as Hip-Hop’s Killer Diva.’ Instead of Minaj’s statements being let alone to stand for themselves (as they well should), the headlines took all the autonomy out of her statements and twisted her words into anti-choice propaganda. Now, why would they want to do that?

The anti-choice movement will use any means possible to prove abortion is bad for women.

Minaj’s case, like many others, has been taken up by the anti-choice movement – with the mainstream media along for the ride – to demonstrate that women will not only feel reticent about the circumstances of their unwanted or accidental pregnancy (eg. Minaj was a teenage girl with an older boyfriend), but that they will feel genuine regret about aborting the baby and wish they had kept it.

I can’t say it any better than Ms. writer Amanda Marcotte already has:

The anti-choice movement’s relentless propaganda about “abortion regret” has done some real damage when it comes to women being able to tell their abortion stories in the public sphere… In this current political climate, talking about reproductive decisions in a nuanced, personal fashion seems impossible to do without feeding the machine that suggests that any feelings of regret whatsoever means that abortion is bad for women.

Too right. So, what can we do to stop this?

More:

On Choice, Contraception and Woman Power

Sources:

Amanda Marcotte for Ms Magazine: Nicki Minaj and the Inevitable Politicization of Celebrity Abortions

Rolling Stone: Nicki Minaj Is Hip-Hop’s Killer Diva: Inside Rolling Stone’s New Issue

(Originally published on Aliljoy.com on 12 January 2015)

The F-word: a plethora of personal feminisms

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I fear I have been thinking as an extremist. Not just thinking, but acting in an ‘if you don’t identify as a feminist then you’re a bellend’ way (as asexblogofonesown put it). Alas, I tend to behave as though everyone believes what I believe and that my beliefs are pretty close to being ‘right’. Doesn’t everyone?

That enjoying baking doesn’t compromise my stance as a feminist any more than my wearing whatever the hell I want or deciding not to shave my legs. But there’s me assuming that my brand of feminism is THE brand of feminism. Frankly, it isn’t.

If I learned anything in 2014, it’s that fourth-wave feminism comes in as many shapes, sizes and colours as women themselves.

How do I know? By reading.

I started with Caitlin Moran (who got me shouting ‘I am a Feminist!‘ at the top of my voice) and spiralled from there. I read Greer; I read Butler. I read Everyday Sexism, The Vagenda, and was given Vagina: A New Biography for my birthday (thanks Mum). I read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech We Should All Be Feminists on my kindle, wondering where Beyonce had got that quote and how she had suddenly become a feminist icon overnight. I argued endlessly about whether ‘Queen Bey’ could or should be seen as such a thing, taking a different stance depending on who I was arguing with.

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As I argued, I felt my own views shift and change. As I widened by horizons I opened my mind to different perspectives, to different variations on the same theme. I never strayed from feminism, but I saw value in and let myself be influenced by the abundance of opinions around me.

Frankly, I wasn’t sure what THE definition of feminism was. Realistically, I found, no amount of reading, researching, writing or even living could tell me that, because feminism has become something large, fluid and out of reach.

I simply held fast to the values that have been with me for as long as I can remember, essentially: pro-women and pro-equality, underscored with a feeling that there’s still a lot of work to be done.

I read fifty extremely varied accounts of what feminism means to fifty individual women, all of whom are successful in their field but have had to call upon feminist backgrounds to negotiate their way through the world. Reading Fifty Shades of Feminism was a crystalline moment for me. It did the opposite of define. The anthology embraced difference. It showed me fifty widely varying personal feminisms.

This plethora of feminisms is wonderful – women from all kinds of backgrounds, all over the world, giving their two cents, making a contribution and getting heard (at last)! Inspired, I said plenty of things in my own way – about hair, periods, contraception, education, marriage… Suddenly I had a real channel for my writing – why had it taken me so long to get going?!

IMG_0961Briefly though, I have feel double-crossed by fourth wave feminism. No – not feminism, but “feminists”. The label is important. The label is what’s been misused, not the values.

I was very worried when confronted by an old acquaintance for whom feminism is an cultural theory that, in his words, has ‘failed us’. He assured my entire Facebook world that the label “feminism” was used for more evil than good in 2014 – to shame, blame and scare people.

As a label, “feminism” has a long history of social stigma. Being a “feminist” has meant militancy, anger, and hatred of any human without a vulva. Being a “feminist” has meant bra burning and unusual amounts of body hair. Being a feminist has been a social faux pas for far too long. People have long felt uncomfortable about expressing their opinions, uncomfortable about labelling themselves as feminists.

I was relieved at the prospect that those ideas might finally be lifting, that humorous and intelligent contemporary writers like Caitlin Moran might actually be changing the way Feminism is viewed. With it came an onslaught of newfound and reborn feminists. ‘Fantastic!’ I thought, ‘Maybe something will really get done!

With them, though, came the extremists. Bra burners became slut shamers… and far worse. There have been accusations of rape with little or no evidence. There have been claims that feminism has the answers to all social problems. And, something I did not know until yesterday: there have been positive statements about the male suicide rate being higher than the female suicide rate. From feminists.

In its growth, feminism has become like any major social organisation, whether religious or political: the extremists get the attention or are most memorable and create a (new) stereotype. People are using the label as if to justify their evil actions, thus rebuilding a (much worse) stigma around the label. (‘Why now?’ my heart cries. ‘We’d only just reclaimed it for ourselves!’)

IMG_0966There’s a problem in the need to claim everyone. Like a political movement or a religious group, feminists want to enlighten those around them. The cost of an all-welcoming, all-encompassing, all-consuming social movement is that not all of its followers will agree on everything. Far too easily, the few can become the stereotype.

Many Christians have told me that they don’t believe someone can be a good person unless they believe in and serve God in their good deeds (perhaps not in quite those words). They couldn’t see that a young woman working herself into the ground for others’ benefit could be praise-worthy, because she was not religious (that woman was me).

Is determination that everyone who values gender equality should identify as a feminist is essentially the same thing?

Do really need to publicly ridicule people for not being feminists? Will we ever accept that not all people who value gender rights equality have to identify as feminists? Are we so desperate to get more fuel on the feminist fire that we don’t care how it burns?

No wonder people are uncomfortable about expressing their values as “feminism”. The label has been compromised. That doesn’t mean feminism has failed us. It’s not obsolete. The values are still relevant. It just means more work. Redefinition (for example, as intersectional feminists*) and reclamation.
We have already reclaimed feminism. A whole plethora of personal feminisms.
*Intersectionality concerns the way multiple oppressions intersect. Intersectional feminism is an attempt to elevate and make space for the voices and issues of those who are marginalised, and a framework for recognising how class, race, age, ability, sexuality, gender and other issues combine to affect women’s experience of discrimination.

More:

The fourth wave of feminism: meet the rebel women on The Guardian

An Open Letter to Kaley Cuoco, Who Has Been a Bit of a Bellend by asexblogofonesown