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Glitter, Weaves and Feminism: Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Ke$ha as Cultural Icons

November 16, 2010

Ok I get it, let me think I guess it’s my turn… maybe it’s time to put this pussy on your sideburns,” Nicki Minaj nonchalantly opens her verse on the otherwise all-male track Bedrock. Possibly the only successful female rapper of the moment, she holds her own as an array of rappers – including heavyweights Lil Wayne and Drake – fawn over their imaginative dream woman. Minaj, on the other hand, continues; “he says I’m bad – he’s probably right. He’s pressing me like button downs on a Friday night. Ha ha ha!” On this year’s Monster, a collaborative effort with both Jay Z and Kanye West, she tears up the track, closing it with a verse that puts both Jay and Kanye to shame –  a fact they both don’t deny. The stand-out line? “You can be the king, but watch the queen conquer”.

I once made the mistake of saying that I thought acts like Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj were positively defining a generation and doing more for youth (women in particular) than anyone else has in recent memory. This was quickly followed by Katy Perry wailing “I wanna see your peacock, cock cock cock. Don’t be a chicken, stop acting like such a biatch” at us through my car stereo. Everyone in the vehicle ripped me to shreds, but I stood by my statement, and still do.

I can see why people are quick to dismiss these women as the latest marketing trick or, in extreme situations, nothing more than today’s politically correct answer to whores. Scrap that. I can’t. That thought process only demeans women and makes everything these girls are fighting for (actively or passively) inconsequential. What I’m saying, pretty much, is that criticizing Ke$ha is downright OPPRESSIVE. Through her grease and glitter, she has managed in one self-written album to capture the voice of a generation. Who hasn’t taken their clothes off at a club or gotten a pedicure on their toes, toes while trying on all their clothes, clothes? Exactly. Furthermore, her lyrics pose a refreshingly stark contrast to those that were on the radio only five years ago. In 2005, the biggest songs featured Britney Spears writhing around in her underwear telling her lover she was his slave, or Usher recounting his many sexual conquests. Back then, Christina Aguilera was given props for pushing the barrier by empowering women and giving them a voice. But let’s face it – she did it in assless chaps while talking about getting Dirrty.  Destiny’s Child – up until that point considered modern soldiers of female empowerment – released their latest hit, Cater 2 U. CATER. TO. YOU. Let’s just take a minute.

Okay.

These days, turn on any current music channel and you will be greeted by Ke$ha (who in particular seems to exist solely as a big fuck-you to the societal expectations of females) rolling her eyes at creeps in the club, or yelling at a guy to “quit your chit chat and just show me where you’re dick’s at”. Meanwhile, acts like Bruno Mars and Mike Posner whine about how they are not worthy of their girlfriends. These women have successfully managed to turn the tables and put themselves in the position of power, objectifying men, and giving themselves self-esteem and self worth.

On a more serious note, Rihanna has also given a grim and prevalent cause an important and positive face. After being the victim of violence and abuse at the hands of He Who Shall Not Be Named, she publicly dealt with it in a very real way. I won’t go into details about it, because they’ve been exhausted over the past few years, but it’s the music she has produced since that is relevant to me. Her post-incident album was unapologetically tough and real, both visually and sonically; not once on her ‘Rated R’ album did she feel sorry for herself. Instead, she sang about “lick[ing] the gun when I’m done because revenge is so sweet. Any motherfucker wanna disrespect? Playing with fire gonna get you wet. How does it feel down there on your knees?” Her current album has spawned two Top 5 singles; the first demanding she be treated like the only girl in the world, while the other (the current Billboard  #1 What’s My Name?) playfully challenges men to see if they can “go downtown with a girl like me” and “put in work” – again: positive, empowering songs. Meanwhile, Chris Brown remains pressed and is still complaining and bitching anywhere he can- Twitter, interviews, and through his failing so called ‘redemption music’.

It’s easy to belittle fun and catchy music as nothing more than the flavor of the month, but the most powerful changes are the ones that are subversive, subtle, and accessible. While it may be easy to criticize these women for being obnoxious and worry about the color of this one’s hair or that one’s costumes, the message seems to be lost on the general public. People just don’t seem to understand the power of a pussy on a sideburn.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2011 6:50 pm

    Er…. Excuse me?

    It’s staggering that objectifying men is now seen as “self-esteem giving” and “empowering”. Absolute hogwash. Can’t we just STOP the objectifying of BOTH sexes? of EVERYONE?

    when Ke$ha, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj are seen as “symbols of the new generation” and “empowered women” for using their bodies as sex symbols and marketing immorality…. all I can say is, the new generation is in trouble.

    Sorry, but this is total rubbish.

  2. Jenelle permalink
    February 10, 2012 1:35 am

    I like this post. And I think you make a point. Whether or not it’s “right” to objectify men, their views show the views of our society. And that in many ways women are becoming powerful enough to “use” less powerful men. It may not be “right” buuuut if you can’t beat ’em- join ’em, right?

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