The misunderstood distinction between a feminine and a feminist role model has generated a presupposition that all successful women are perpetuating feminist goals of gender equality by, as individuals, being successful. This is problematic for a number of reasons, and short-changes Minaj’s genius and integrity. Anaconda therefore must be examined with honest regard to the recent mainstream phenomena of a narcissism-induced defence of the commodification of the self. Minaj’s genius as a feminist scholar must be summarised independently of the objectively repulsive means by which sh* articulates the full extent of h*r emancipatory struggle.
As a deliberately provocative interpretative dance, ‘Anaconda’ attempts to destabilise the popular third-wave conflation of female wealth and status with feminism. The production flies in the face of other academics’ deliberately impenetrable feminist and post-Marxian academia, opting to illustrate Minaj’s messages of equality and universal love via the common pop-culture medium of ‘music video’. This medium extends the social dialogue on feminism beyond the dusty spines of untouched library books and passionate undergraduate social-media warriors, and for this in conjunction with the eloquent metaphoric title “Anaconda” Minaj ought be commended.
Assuming her typically self-referential, satirical role-play (a semi-autonomous cog in an ever-expansive subliminal network of patriarchal subjugation) Minaj exaggerates a broad social acceptance of the commodification of feminine sexuality as a means of exploring some very important questions: has the patriarchy’s commodification of feminine sexuality compromised its utility as a vehicle for feminine empowerment? Is all female success an example of feminism? How and why do second and third-wave feminist theories disagree on the value (or harm) of dancing for whitey?
While the visual component of the dissertation is deliberately ambiguous, Minaj dispels any doubt as to her work’s intended purpose by layering spoken-word poetry over an electro-percussive stimulus. The catch-cry repeated throughout the performance, “My Anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns hun” is an allusion to Betty Friedan’s concept of the Feminine Mystique. Friedan writes of the patriarchy’s false notions of femininity as a ‘mystique’, or artificial hetero-normative gender construct that leaves little room for any individual pursuit of economic agency or otherwise. Minaj begs us question: what kind of Anaconda don’t want none just because the hun in question don’t ‘got buns’?
This subverts what so many female artists on our televisions and radios have used as a way to gain success in what is still a society presided over by the expectations of white men. While so many mainstream female artists use the patriarchy’s two-dimensional conception of female success as a means of generating personal capital, Minaj wants her audiences to examine whether or not these pursuits of individual female happiness are actually examples of feminism.
In creating the illusion of conformity to a patriarchal expectation that popular female artistic endeavours are no more than a lap-dance, Minaj turns what so many young women take for granted as an example of ‘feminism’ upside down.
The artist wants young women to ask themselves, ‘is that all there is? Ought we really celebrate women using the patriarchy’s cookie-cutter mould of feminine utility in order to pole-vault ourselves into elite status? In what universe does giving Drake a lap-dance on camera constitute a step in the right direction towards gender equality? Is the ability to control a man’s erection so revolutionary as to be deemed the next step in feminine empowerment?’
No, says Minaj, not on my gender-neutral watch. Women have the ability and the agency to decide for themselves how to make music designed to generate more money than curiosity without putting vacuous, grey-haired ideological mimicry on a pedestal and churning out more soft-core pornography for MTV.