Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Sunday 4 October 2015

Ironic posteriors and the Cotton-Spinners' Gazette

We have been musing this week on the topic of feminism. While this is territory already visited in the Tavern, the chance discovery of an article in the Guardian - where else? - has led to a certain boggling of minds.

It concerns a French artist and a series of drawings inspired by the work of one Nicki Minaj, a hip-hop artist whose performances are something of an eye-opener for those of us who had stopped watching music videos by the late 80s. Camille Henrot has 'reworked' the single 'Anaconda' into 'a piece of social commentary' described in vintage Guardian style:
One of the drawings is called 'My Anaconda Don’t' – a lyric repeated throughout the song. Each snaky, filigree-like ink line seems as if it's a riff on postcolonialism, adding up to a poignant collision of high art and pop culture.
Those of you who have been paying attention to the youth scene will doubtless know already that there was a public rift between Minaj and 'pop princess Taylor Swift' (nope; me neither) when the video of 'Anaconda' missed out on some kind of award. Minaj appears to have suggested it was 'cos she is black' but, having taken a look (here, if you really must - but don't say I didn't warn you), I can think of other reasons.

I can appreciate, for example, that Minaj wishes to ridicule the objectification of women, but I have to admit to some difficulty in seeing exactly how this is achieved by writhing around slathered in baby oil and pouting at the camera, patting the rear of a shapely bikini-clad dancer or crawling on all fours around a seated man, however ironic the intention.
“I like to think she created Anaconda to evoke criticism. She has abused the typical ‘black music-video girl’ archetype to the very end, to catch attention and create hate – if only so we too can realise our aversion to the sexualisation of women.
Now I can't speak for the male of the species, but it seems to me that, presented with four and a half minutes of Minaj's ample and impressively mobile buttocks undulating in a variety of insubstantial garb alongside a quartet of equally callipygian acolytes, the response is not necessarily going to be "Goodness me; the objectification of women is a terrible thing!"

While the lyrics - as far as I understand them - are full of mordant, if crude, irony directed at men who judge women by their physical attributes, this message seems to have entirely escaped the visitors to a Las Vegas waxwork exhibition who amused themselves taking a variety of inventive and explicit pictures of each other with a replica of the singer depicted, mid-twerk, on all fours .

Henrot - along with, presumably the Guardian - is in no doubt, however, hailing Minaj as a feminist icon. In fact, the Guardian seems to have something of a Minaj obsession, which suggests that its journalists believe an oiled and gyrating posterior can have impeccable feminist credentials as long as it is intended ironically - it's a very long way indeed from the earnest articles I devoured back in my boiler-suit days.

As it happens, another issue altogether may be tipping the balance in Minaj's favour (a tip of the tricorn here to JuliaM); given the paper's perennial preoccupations, it is perhaps something of a giveaway that, even in the piece on Henrot's drawings, the critic manages to shoehorn in a load of post-colonial guilt for good measure.
In her new work, the elegant line drawings inspired by the sweatiest, most sexualised scenes from Minaj’s video play with the ghosts of colonialism and racial stereotyping in contemporary culture.
The Manchester Guardian as was - there's nothing quite like it!

(If you did watch the video, you might enjoy this parody as an antidote.) 


  1. A lot of colonialism was about preventing them from murdering each other and incidentally unlucky persons and traders who got in the way.

  2. "Now I can't speak for the male of the species"

    This male asks - what would the reaction be if Rupert Murdoch's organisation produced it?

    I think we know the answer and we also know that this kind of performance is merely low level porn. The producers know it too.

  3. Demetrius, it's definitely one of those damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situations.

    AKH, that's the aspect that really makes my blood boil - the hypocrisy of dressing such material up as 'empowerment' when it's really about money and exploitation.

  4. Minaj, of stomach pumping and illuminati fame - that same Minaj? High Priestess who never quite led all yoof astray.

  5. JH, you have clearly followed her career more closely than I.


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