When you hear “feminist” who do you think of? Elizabeth Cady Stanton? Alice Paul? Susan B. Anthony?
Do you ever think about Bell Hooks? Angela Davis? Toni Morrison? Or even beyond that, do you think about Beyoncé? Nicki Minaj? India Arie?
If it is not already clear what I’m advancing, it will be very soon.
It is no secret that white feminism is the feminism that goes down in the history textbooks. It’s no secret that white feminism is homogenized such that women of color and queer women are relegated to the margins of its scope. It’s no secret that due to the privileged placed upon white feminism, any denomination of feminism outside of the aforementioned is valued as less.
But what is less discussed is that we have a new wave of powerful voices currently practicing and producing feminist works that are going unacknowledged and unappreciated. One can easily deduce that this is a product of white feminism and its exclusion of those that do not fit its phenotypic standard.
One of the reasons why this remains so problematic is because to this day, many deny the existence of innate whiteness in feminism. If you are one of these people, stay tuned. I will be serving a very clear example of how famous women of color perpetuate the same ideals of the revered white feminists before them, yet are degraded for these same actions.
For example, let us discuss Virginia Woolf, arguably one of the most reputable modernist and feminist writers of the 20th century. Woolf has been lauded for the feminist notions in and outside of her work, one facet of which has been the value and validity she places in female friendship. This is something she blatantly argued, having said, “If one could be friendly with women, what a pleasure—the relationship so secret and private compared with relations with men. Why not write about it truthfully?” This is a deliberate articulation arguing that friendships with and among women is something that is not accepted, but rather hidden and lied about.
Now, put on your thinking caps: who do you know that is at the forefront of the media, is vocally feminist, and cherishes (or publicly glorifies) friendships with/among women? I’ll tell you two: Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj. For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll be focusing more on Minaj, for in my opinion, she is much more subject to stigma as a black female artist. Although being the most successful female rap mogul of our time, Minaj has been over-sexualized, critiqued, and degraded by the media, even by other self-proclaimed feminists.
If you concur with the contentions of these media sources, I urge you to reconsider your stance on feminism, because Nicki Minaj functions as the quintessential definition of what Woolf advocated for. Her collaboration with artists such as Beyoncé, who is a very vocal feminist (having also collaborated with great feminists such as Chimamanda Adichie) has publicly portrayed her appreciation of this relationship, and has represented it in her art.
This can be seen in “Flawless (Remix)” when she says “The Queen of Rap, slaying with Queen B… we A-listers, we paid sisters…” This quote is one of many lyrics by Minaj that not only praises women, referring to them as “Queens” but also by grouping them as “we” such that the identity they share (as black female artists, plausibly) can be empowering. Beyond this she also brings attention to the the two artist’s economic success, reaffirming the feminist notion that women are more than capable of being just as successful as anyone else, if not more.
Ultimately, I hope that you all will be able to value black female artists such as Beyoncé and Minaj, and give enough attention to their work such that your analysis can leave room for feminist action. Doing this will require discarding the same racialized and gendered stigmas that allow Minaj to be disregarded as a valid and qualified feminist.