MONDAY, JULY 27, 2015|
Posted by: Isaiah Taylor
[Editor's Note: Ever since I took over as Baeble's Managing Editor, one of my mission statements has been to foster an editorial environment where a diversity of voices and opinions can be hosted...including voices and opinions that I don't necessarily agree with as well as voices and opinions that intentionally make us uncomfortable because they speak to truths some of us would rather ignore. It feels strange editing a piece that is at least partially directed at me (I was one of those white male voices on Twitter that was criticizing Nicki Minaj's music as a tired pop product when that had no bearing on the conversation about what went down between Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift) but that's what makes Isaiah's contributions to Baeble so special. You don't always know you're being an asshole until someone pulls you aside and tells you you're being a dick. So, thanks Isaiah for letting me know I was being a dick.]
[Author's Note: As a disclaimer: I am aware I am a black man chiming in on a conversation that should be centered on women, specifically black women. So after reading this, or better yet, prior to reading this, be sure to read more black women's experience in entertainment. Thanks in advance.]
Typically, I leave my rants on superfluous celebrity happenings to my Twitter feed, but I couldn't help but notice an overabundance of mayo in my timeline this morning. Nicki Minaj, a popular rapper whom I like -- but not to the point of owning a full album -- was upset. Nicki Minaj was upset that MTV didn't nominate her video "Anaconda" for video of the year. She vocalized her thoughts succinctly on her twitter feed where, apparently, Taylor Swift felt attacked, though no one said her name. Whatever...what I'm grabbing at here is when black women speak, if you're not boosting their voices, assess what you're contributing to the conversation. Maybe not every conversation that you're not the center of demands your input.
I know, I know. You're entitled to your wrong ass opinions, I get it. I have several wrong opinions...daily even. But something else happened in this Nicki Minaj conversation. Several white men -- white men with large voices -- began chiming in with their opinions on Nicki Minaj's music and physical features. Black men, white women followed suit, but the loudest voices -- at least on my feed -- were white men. They were the most retweeted, "faved" and intrusive. How was it "intrusive?" They'd interject their already unasked for opinions in other folks conversations.
Aside from Taylor Swift feeling "attacked" -- and making the offer that if she won, she'd invite Nicki Minaj on stage as some sort of trophy-holding assistant -- white men like Piers Morgan immediately began invalidating Nicki's right to be upset. Before we go further, I just want to illustrate that my request to see white men quiet isn't censorship. It is quite clear white men can say and do anything they want. White men usually dictate most conversations once the focus shifts to their incredibly useful insights.
To be clear, Nicki simply pointed out that had she made a video praising skinny bodies "like them" (Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, other white artists, et al), she would have been nominated. Whether Nicki is right or wrong (she's right) is yet to be seen. That MTV historically rewards traditional white female bodies and white female pop is not a controversial statement and even if you hate Nicki's music, her being upset with MTV -- the company that played her music video the most -- seems pretty damn logical.
Once loud white men chimed in, black men came out of the woodwork -- all men leaped at the chance to show the world how much they hate Nicki's music, her face, her body. Which is strange, because when I'm not a fan of Nicki's work, I skip it. These men zigged where I zagged.
The same occurred with some defenders of Nicki. Same tactic, attacking Taylor Swift's looks. So I got this novel idea, what if men -- especially men who just aren't invested in either party -- found a way to press their lips together? Or, in this case, leave the keyboard untouched.
A conversation about the difficulties of black women sidelined in the music industry can be had without you. And yes, women are more than capable of talking about Nicki's "Anaconda" being the right, or wrong, kind of feminism without you. Maybe...just maybe, you could be silent until spoken to?
Black women exist. Nicki Minaj is one of the most famous black women in the country...no matter how much you want to shove her into that pop-star box and include her with the rest of the dreck. She represents something, something big. When you attempt to silence that, look deep within yourself. Assess why you are so eager to see her quiet. This message should be emphasized for critics who aren't fans of her work. It should be even easier for you to sit this one out.
It is ridiculous that in 2015 I have to give white men a pep talk on how powerful their voices are. Even more ridiculous that this writing is essentially "asking permission" to let a black woman speak uninterrupted. Yet here we are.