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Assism Is Not Feminism

by JAM

 

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People need to understand that women who present provocative images of themselves are not automatically making a feminist statement. This isn’t to say that a woman can’t express herself, but when this self expression is deeply hinged upon supporting oppressive systems it is not a liberation moment. This is why Nicki Minaj can express herself and still glorify Nazi propaganda. Kim Kardashian can express herself #ALLDAY and still glorify the hypersexualization of women’s bodies. Provocative imagery does not automatically equate to activism or empowerment.

feministtheoryThis point of confusion was described by bell hooks in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center:

A central problem within feminist discourse has been our inability to either arrive at a consensus of opinion about what feminism is or accept definition(s) that could serve as points of unification. (p. 18)

This statement feels even more relevant in 2014 as it did in 1984, especially with the emergence of what some are calling “Millennial Feminism.” Across the digital sphere conversations are constantly springing up around feminism. Still, few are actually producing or referring to a substantial definition of feminism.

The fixation on women’s butts, I’ll call it “assism” is a well documented form of objectification, deeply rooted in the commodification of Black women’s bodies. Kim Kardashian accentuates this fixation, layering it with the benefits of whiteness to score on monetary profits. Though Nicki Minaj is Black she comes as close as she can to Kim K by combining anti-black sentiments with the commodification of Black phenotypes to yet again benefit monetarily. Additionally neither of them are bothered by classism as a form of oppression. They are not feminists. Stop trying to make fetch happen.

ButSomeOfUsFeminism is hinged upon an awareness of oppression in conjunction with working towards ending all forms of it. In All the Women Are White, All The Blacks Are Men: But Some Of Us Are Brave, Barbara Smith explains:

Feminism is the political theory and practice that struggles to free all women: women of color, working-class women, poor women, disabled women, lesbians, old women–as well as white, economically privileged, heterosexual women. Anything less than this vision of total freedom is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement. (p. 49)

To refer to Nicki Minaj or Kim Kardashian as de facto feminist icons is to minimize the anti-oppressive backbone of feminism. It’s reductionist thinking. Neither of these women have exhibited any substantial work towards ending sexist, racial, or economic oppression.

While some may point to their open display of sexuality as a liberation moment, this thought process over looks the fact that their displays are based more on the history of women’s commodified bodies under the patriarchal gaze. Yes, they make a lot of money doing this but that does not necessarily translate into freedom. They are riding the constant wave of hypersexualized images of Black women’s bodies with no intention of challenging the status quo. In fact it becomes a competition of who can promote sexual commercial objectification more, who can more closely embody the mainstreamed fantasy of women in sexualized positions.

Yet none of this is new or shocking. It’s actually pretty underwhelming. Another day another booty. Where is the triumph in that? It’s an attention getting tactic but it is not a feminist manifesto or challenge to oppression. The recurring statement is that they were “free” enough to show themselves. However if the only way for them to gain the public’s attention is through a constant stream of butt shots what does that say about society? That’s a far cry from freedom or liberation.

Nicki-Between-Women

Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda was an act of desperation used to counter the emergence of Iggy Azalea. Iggy then responded by appearing alongside JLo in a video for a song literally called, “Booty.”

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Since the emergence of her sex tape with Ray J, Kim Kardashian has been profiting from racialized butt adoration for years.

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The sentiment has been, “You want to see more? Here you go!”

Oprah-Booty-Meme-Ourlegaci

Perhaps for her that’s winning. But is it winning for women overall? It doesn’t challenge the realities that women face everyday as constantly sexualized beings. This imagery plays up the dehumanization and never dares to deconstruct or even acknowledge it. This article is not suggesting a policing of women’s bodies. It’s about recognizing a thing for what it is. Nakedness can be a political empowering statement  but Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj are not examples of that. This may be provocative but it is not feminism.

We already have a plethora of mistruths floating around about feminism. Why add to the list? It’s very dangerous for feminists to automatically embrace commodified sexual images as feminist modules. There are levels to this. Where are the discussions about about intentions and context? It is a teachable moment. But it is not a grand moment in Women’s History.

Sorry folks but assism is not feminism.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

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TWEET ME Field Negro – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • Ferguson verdict in black and white. The right wing "race baiters" are still celebrating the decision not to prosecute Darren Wilson. I suppose that this should have been expected given the fact that we are talking about a white police officer killing an unarmed black teen.


    This is, after all, a black vs. white issue now. It shouldn't be this way. It should be a right versus wrong issue. But sadly, this is where we are in America. How you feel about the killing of Michael Brown depends largely on the color of your skin.


    Wingnuts like Ben Carson blame the president for this. “I actually believe that things were better before this president was elected. And I think that things have gotten worse because of his unusual emphasis on race.” Duh! But I submit to you, my Seventh Day Adventist friend, that race relations got worse because Barack Obama was elected president. Only someone blinded by their ideological ignorance and cluelessness could not see this.


    But back to Darren Wilson. He is now at the start of his rehabilitation tour and ABC won the lottery to get the first interview. (A FOX NEWS gig is sure to follow.)


    In that interview he said some interesting things: Michael Brown was "aggressive and combative" and he was worried that he would "kill" him. He also said that he has a "clean conscience" because he did his job right.


    In Darren Wilson's mind, Michael Brown had to be killed, because he was  "aggressive" and he (Wilson) was looking into the face of a "demon". 


    The grand jury believed Darren Wilson, and not the witnesses who gave conflicting accounts. It was truly a jury of his peers. 


    "What did happen, according to Wilson: Brown stopped running at a light pole and confronted Wilson. The cop said he yelled at the youth to get on the ground. “When he looked at me, he made like a grunting, like aggravated sound and he starts, he turns and he’s coming back towards me,” Wilson recalled. “His first step is coming towards me, he kind of does like a stutter step to start running. When he does that, his left hand goes in a fist and goes to his side, his right one goes under his shirt in his waistband and he starts running at me.”
    Wilson opened fire. He missed a few times. But he also hit Brown, who “flinched.” What Wilson remembered as “tunnel vision” came over him, homing in on Brown’s right hand in his waistband. “I’m just focusing on that hand when I was shooting.” But the shots, Wilson said, didn’t deter Brown, who continued to charge toward him.


    “He was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting him,” Wilson said. “And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there, I wasn’t even anything in his way.”


    Wilson took aim at Brown’s head for the shot that would kill the unarmed teen. “When he fell, he fell on his face,” Wilson recalled. “I remember his feet coming up … and then they rested.”


    Then came the end.


    “When it went into him,” Wilson said, “the demeanor on his face went blank, the aggression was gone, it was gone, I mean I knew he stopped, the threat was stopped.”' [Source]


    Yes, the "threat was stopped". But did it take killing an unarmed teen to stop it?


    Sadly, I am starting to see a pattern here.

















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