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Dear White Feminist Media: Can we finally move past the “angry black woman” stereotype?

The conversations surrounding Nicki Minaj’s recent comments before and during the VMAS on race, pop-culture, and mutual support have been divisive – especially within the feminist media. In-fighting has always been frowned upon. But, holding on to and defending your identity in the industry is essential for survival. It seems with every analytical argument of the events, another comes to refute it.

One thing that we need to all talk about, however, is that evoking the “angry black woman” stereotype is not only unacceptable – but downright offensive.

Shortly after Nicki Minaj called out Miley Cyrus on stage at the MTV VMAS on August 30th, Salon tweeted this:


Salon, which self-identifies as being “consistently on the forefront of innovation” should know better than to use these words. Words that, for anyone writing on social issues, are bolded, underlined and highlighted on the DO NOT EVER USE EVER list. But, it seems like Salon needs a refresher. First, “savage” is linked to a hierarchical thinking system that stems from colonization and excusing systematic inequalities. Second, “laden”? I’ve watched the video more than a couple times now and am still wondering how one “bitch” equates with laden.

More than bad social media management. Here lies a bigger problem wherein the expression and reproduction of Minaj’s image – and other women of color – as overly emotional in a negative light. The article the tweet linked to actually called Miley Cyrus out for cultural appropriation (though bizarrely still focusing all on the white pop star) while still managing to deduce Minaj to an identity of irrationality.

But, this anger and rivalry is the core of the conversation these women keep feuding about and we keep writing about. In her interview with The New York Times, Cyrus attacks Nicki for making the VMA snub about herself rather than about race as a whole. She states, “If you wanted to make it about race, there’s a way you could do that. But don’t make it about yourself. Say: “This is the reason why I think it’s important to be nominated. There’s girls everywhere with this body type.”

What so many people, including women, who experience racial privilege don’t understand is the inability for one person to be an advocate for an entire race or group. Nicki Minaj cannot speak on behalf of all black women, she can only speak about herself and her own role in the entertainment industry. Claiming ownership on the experiences of others would be much more detrimental than pointing out a flaw which she personally experienced, stemming from racial exclusion. Then again, since Nicki is not the only woman of color to receive this kind of racial exclusion, her voice serves as a beacon for those who are going through the same thing. That being said, for Cyrus to demand that she make it about the entire community rather than just herself, it goes to show how ignorant she is on the issue in the first place.

Invalidating Nicki’s identity as being “rude” is just another way of invalidating her identity – period. Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift continue to feud with Nicki (who infamously called out Ms. Minaj without prompt) for not supporting other women – when in fact it’s really just because these other women don’t fit in to the polite mold they’re used to and they would like to replicate.

Salon gave in to this narrative when they posted their “savage” status. Other entertainers give in to this narrative when they criticize real racial inequalities as trivial. And we give in every time we forget that we can’t speak on behalf of one of our grouped identities.

Shortly after, however, Salon “retracted” the status by posting this new one:


It’s part of the media’s responsibility to not give in to tropes, stereotypes and over simplification.

And at the end of the day we still want to know; what’s good Miley?

[image via GIPHY]

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Written by Sarah Foot

Sarah Foot is a native Vancouverite who, conveniently, loves the smell of rain. A recent graduate from Simon Fraser University, she is passionate about the topics of feminism, agency and sexuality. When she isn’t writing up a sweet-smelling storm, you can catch Sarah dancing, petting dogs or on her blog Ink and Jam. You can also follow her day-to-day ponderings on twitter @sarahfoot.

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