My Anaconda Don’t — On Nicki Minaj and the Male Gaze

This piece was originally written for the now-defunct Cherry Bomb Music for an album of the month issue centering Nicki Minaj’s The Pinkprint.

The male gaze is a concept originally applied to film which theorizes that the camera puts the audience in the shoes of a heterosexual man; it theorizes that we view objects a straight man would. In modern feminism, we often see this concept applied to pop culture objects, such as performances, songs, and music videos.

After the release of Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda”, many feminists asked themselves whether or not Minaj’s use of “Baby Got Back” truly subverted the male gaze, or if her embracing her assets was just more pandering to the gaze.

In an era of sex-positive feminism, it’s important to note that black women and their history with being objectified in media, especially Nicki’s own objectification, is a concept that cannot be left out of the conversation. For Nicki to reclaim her butt for the world to see and to give other women with big butts the agency to be seen as attractive, to be sexual but not sexualized, is incredibly important.

Let’s be clear: “Baby Got Back” was absolutely a celebration of women who didn’t fit into what mainstream media saw as conventional beauty, however, it objectified them and reduced them to their erotic value. I love the song, too, but Sir Mix-a-Lot literally begs his audience — women with big butts — that if they decide to work out, “please don’t lose that butt.”

In contrast, Nicki uses the song and the appeal of her butt — which has been the center of many conversations since her entry into the mainstream — to flaunt power. Where “Baby Got Back” was objectification, “Anaconda” takes that attention (“oh my god, look at her butt!”) and uses it to their advantage, while bragging about her sexual prowess and what her skills get her in return before laughing with a loud, ugly snorting laugh.

The narrative is always on her terms. If there is any objectification, it’s not evident. She is in control of location (“I pull up in the Jag”, “fuck him in my automobile”), and her recounting of sexual encounters are done with her as the center.

At no point does the song imply that it’s for a male audience. Even in her callout to other women who share her body shape, she makes it clear that this song is for them and no one else.

And after all, your body is your own.

Originally published at ohheycarina.com on November 28, 2015.