A closer look at the hyper-sexualisation of black women in the music industry by Martha Dahhling.
It’s clear when it comes to music, sex sells. This is a problem that transcends race (Katy Perry’s Bon Appetite offers a recent example).
However, this seems to be particularly problematic when speaking of black female artists.
The ability to maximise one’s sex appeal seems to act as filler for actual talent. Artists seem to derive greater (if not their only) value from their sexual appeal. I don’t really want to point the finger at any artists in particular (although a particular artist does spring to mind) but a pretty face and a hot body really are substitutable for vocal talent in this day and age.
Such a combination, coupled with the willingness to exploit one’s physical attributes for album sales allows mediocre artists to gain popularity which often doesn’t reflect their actual talent. Baffling really. Now that is not to say that this is the case for all black female artists, but ask 10 people on the street if they know who Erykah Badu is, then ask them if they’ve ever heard of Rihanna.
The fact that sex sells is already problematic, but this is specifically so when it concerns black female artists as it perpetuates and reinforces the negative stereotypes that already surround black women. I’ll save you from a lecture on the existing stereotypes as I’m sure you’re already very familiar with them. Instead, I’ll break down exactly why this is problematic. When black female artists achieve success by capitalizing on their body parts, body parts that are natural to many black women, this reinforces the message that it is okay to objectify and eroticise the natural body parts of black women.
When Nicki Minaj creates a song centralised around her curves (read: big butt) or Beyonce lyrics highlight that her man should stay with her because he won’t find a girl whose sex is as good as hers, it normalises the fetishisation of black women.
This is further reinforced by the way in which black female music artists are objectified within their industry. This objectification within the industry is potentially the most damaging – not only to outside perceptions of the artists themselves, but also to female progression within the industry. How many times is Drake going to refer to Nicki Minaj’s ‘ass’ and ‘titties’ (to use his words)? Or we can throw it back to The Game’s ‘Shoutout’ to Mya in ‘Dreams.’ This level of hyper-sexualisation disturbs me the most. Female artists are seen as mere sexual objects by their so-called industry peers, further normalizing the hyper-sexualisation of black women. Furthermore, it represents the structural inequality within the industry. I mean Mya has a beautiful voice and Nicki Minaj definitely has some lyrical prowess, but their industry peers can only talk about how fat their asses are? Really?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue in the comments below!