A man once told me that a woman should never go broke because of the sole fact that she has a p*ssy. His statement rung like bells in my mind, because there have been times where I felt that my pussy was the only thing of value I had to offer this world. I am well aware of my talents and gifts, but I am also aware that sometimes the world doesn't give a damn.
Since I was 16 and declared my career as a performing artist, I have been juxtaposed against Nicki Minaj both positively and negatively. I have had some men praise me for my boldness in discussing my sexuality, while others say that because I am conservative, I am somewhat better than the other women in my field who sell sex.
Because of this consistent comparison, I found myself on the stage of a strip club in a small town in South Carolina my freshman year of college, grinding up against an older asian man who thought he was doing me a favor by sticking a crumpled $5 bill into my exposed brassiere.
I felt embarrassed and cheap, and wondered what kind of woman could do that to herself. Soon after, I realized that it was me. I was that kind of woman. A woman who was down to her last dollar and had chosen exotic dancing as a temporary means of survival. It wasn't the first time I had considered exploiting my body in exchange for consistent revenue in my pocket, but it was the last time I would act on it.
Though I can't say that I now understand the life of a sex worker, my experience gave me a new perspective about feminism and sexuality in reference to my identity as a woman. True feminism means respecting and demanding true equality for all women, not just ones who think like me or make the same choices.
During the time of my short-lived strip club expose, one of the most popular images of women in the entertainment industry was Nicki Minaj, and though I didn't always agree with her decision to sell sex, I was infatuated with her vision of sexual liberation for women.
Her impact on the industry has been tremendous, and her new album reveals that she isn't done yet. But in a recent interview with Elle, Nicki pulled up with a vibe that I wasn't really feeling. The Queen rapper received internet-wide backlash from critics who claimed hypocrisy. In the interview she said:
"Whether you're a stripper, or whether you're an Instagram girl — these girls are so beautiful and they have so much to offer. But I started finding out that you give them a couple thousand dollars, and you can have sex with them. I was like, 'Yikes.' It's just sad that they don't know their worth. It makes me sad as a woman. And it makes me sad that maybe I've contributed to that in some way … I can't look down on these girls. I may not be having sex with people, but I'm selling sex appeal. "I just don't know if girls who look up to me think that when I'm posting a sexy picture. I'm actually the antithesis of all of that. I'm more of, like, the snobby girl, like the 'Uh, what?' type of girl. And I want girls to be like that. I'd rather you be called snobby or a bitch or conceited — I'd rather you be called that than easy, and a ho, and a slut."
Media has an addiction with the physical and mental abuse of black women. Judging from the combination of twerk and fight videos gone viral, you would think that our kind was in some sort of apocalypse. In my opinion, during a journey to spiritual clarity, Nicki may have fallen victim to this addiction along with the rest of mainstream America.
Criticizing women who are victims of, or have even chosen a career in the sex work industry to reaffirm her own ego is an example of how we as women sometimes feel that by dimming someone else's light, ours will shine brighter, and that assumption is just not true.
Though I can understand her point and appreciate her taking responsibility for the part she's played in our misogynistic culture, her comment was hypocritical, anti-feminist, and completely stood against what made me fall so deeply in love with her artistry.
In the entertainment industry, more specifically in the rap game, black women's bodies have been used as pawns and targets of unwarranted scrutiny. Because of this ideology, some women have fallen victim to the misconception that our bodies are tools for the world's aesthetic pleasures, but Nicki was and is consistently a part of changing that culture.
Women like Lil' Kim, Trina, Nicki Minaj, and Cardi B used their leverage in misogyny to affirm a message to women that our agency is our own. They worked to develop a new narrative for women, which reclaimed words like "bitch", "slut", and "hoe", and took terms that were meant to be derogatory to women and repurposed them in songs that are empowering.
Her comment in Elle seemingly erased all of the work that she so bravely accomplished in helping women encourage their own ideas about sexual liberation and womanhood. Though I haven't always agreed with her method, I always knew that there was a means to her end, one of which was making women feel proud of who they were, despite labels or job titles.
Though I'm sure Nicki's comment was only a temporary lapse in judgement and can be solved easily by a capable publicist, we can all learn a lesson from the clapback she received from the internet.
A real queen fixes another woman's crown without telling the world that it was crooked in the first place. We have some serious healing and rebuilding to do as women of color, but we can never do that by tearing each other down.
Featured image by Giphy