re: the miseducation of a barbie doll

2 Nov

in her poem, “the miseducation of a barbie doll,” jasmine mans challenges women in the entertainment industry who deploy physical aesthetics in their mechanisms to attract listeners.

read/listen: Jasmine Mans Explains “The Mis-Education of a Barbie Doll”

i have several responses to this poem, several of which are certainly praise. the two, however, i would like to address here can be summed up by the following points: 1. nicki minaj’s “barbie” only constitutes one image she projects through her music, and 2. even if, barbie were nicki’s only image, why can’t barbie be an acceptable way of being? and with that, why does barbie inherently mean all that jasmine suggests it means in her poem?

nicki minaj has several “alternative personalities” she invites us to see in her music, each of whom have actual names and histories – barbie is one of them. to focus exclusively on one misses the point. and this is one of the reasons why i dig her – nicki (the artist) is fully human, complicated, and not one-dimensional. she does not have to say anything new or profound for that to be refreshing and meaningful to me. i do not know which of these egos are “real” to the artist, if any of them are, but i do not find it fascinating (and refreshing) that nicki can talk about enjoying sex, without actually be involved in actively pursuing it – if she were saying anything with her sexy image, it is that one can enjoy being sexy without having sex. and for all of you who believe young people can’t hear the quiet profession of her chastity – you’re probably wrong, that is if the youtube views of her interviews are any indication of to what parts of nicki minaj’s voice people are listening.

my second point has probably emerged from my growing frustration with so many of the voices within the social justice, critical media literacy circuit reprimanding artists because they do not widely promote more responsible (read: their) perspectives. these channels (of which i am admittedly a part) are preoccupied with identifying in what ways artists like nicki minaj do not meet the “phenomenal woman” criteria. and i believe in doing so, we neglect something else. primarily, that it is also important (and maybe even more critical) to invigorate efforts to help readers of texts and addicted pop culture consumers be more thoughtful. in other words, instead of silencing artists and limiting any creative movement (an idea that frightens me), i am an advocate of empowering a movement that helps individuals become stronger critical consumers and thinkers.

to be sure, it is daunting to think about the ways the original barbie and her predecessors, in all of their varied forms, contribute to some of the most destructive behaviors among women and young girls. esteem issues, the hypersexualization of our bodies, irresponsible sex, misinformed understandings of heterosexual and same sex relationships – the list, of course, goes on and jasmine mans has certainly implicated nicki minaj as part of the problem.

i think jasmine is wrong about nicki minaj. but i am not writing in defense of nicki minaj, but in defense of womanhood. and jasmine seems to believe there is a legitimate or “better” way to be female. i am not against discovering our best as women – i certainly want us to know that there exists more than our objectifications. still, i am fervently against constraining each of our varied forms to fit some narrow, pristinely righteous vision. we would all have to agree on that single vision, which i am not certain is even possible, nor desirable. each of our ways of being may not promote the sort of virtue and goodness and socially conscious political projects that challenge our racist/homophobic/sexist existence (past and present). we are all wrapped up in the mess of it. but the answer is not for each of us to become or to identify with the same voice. but to develop a language that can includes us, while simultaneously challenging and complicating our perspectives.

no, nicki is not lauryn hill or assata shakur, as jasmine points out in her explanation of the poem. and while i personally revere both lauryn and assata, they are not the only [valid] ways of being female, conscious, and fully human in this world. i value nicki and her barbie too. hell, i need nicki and her barbie – there are parts of me who i identify with them as well.

i appreciate that jasmine has her eyes and ears open, and is fearless in openly holding artists accountable for their artistic choices. but i dare jasmine mans to answer my question. why is barbie something I should not want to be? it might seem obvious or even laughable, but i promise i am not being facetious. anything so obvious concerns me, anyway. if we ever get a chance to talk for a while, i’d also like to ask, why must pretty also mean broken, and hypersexual? more, given the savvy business woman that nicki minaj is (even if we were to oversimplify her marketing strategy to selling sex), why project the dichotomy of powerful and chaste, versus oversexual and ignorant?

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One Response to “re: the miseducation of a barbie doll”

  1. Vanessa Irvin Morris November 2, 2010 at 6:50 am #

    I’m feeling what you are saying. I am weary at our constant critiquing of one other, and am really yearning for black acceptance of black peoples, black woman acceptance of black womanhood, black man acceptance of black manhood, and vice versa of all that mixed in and shaken up together. I yearn for when we have discourse of acceptance that we shout about, that we proclaim loudly – acceptance of the good, bad, amazing, and ugly – all in the name of – it’s all good – because we are what?what? dang – HUMAN.

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