Going off of Melissa’s initial posting of Nicki Minaj’s music video, “Lookin Ass,” I was immediately reminded of Bell Hooks’s, “The Oppositional Gaze.”
I was particularly struck by Melissa’s analysis, “In Nicki’s video, close ups of her body, specifically her butt, represent the typical sexualization of black women. This makes the critique that follows in the video inherently intersectional, as it is about being gazed upon as a black women. And in turn, gazing back” (Melissa McDougall). I agree with Melissa in that the video “gazes back,” and I further that the very way it does this is by acknowledging that it was being gazed upon. In fact, Nicki Minaj puts the male gaze under the same pressures that it inflicts upon women. While it is true that Nicki’s body is sexualized throughout the video, compared to the closely cropped eyes of the man, in the end it is the man who is objectified. The man’s only distinguishable purpose or meaning in the video is that he inflicts the male gaze. He is only his eyes.
On the other hand, the body that he is busy objectifying is applied to a more three dimensional character — our protagonist. In the end it is the male gaze that is essentialized, as the female body is explored. Though Nicki is playing the classically objectified black female role, in doing so she is problematizing it. This reminds me of Hooks’ reading of older black women’s responses to Amos and Andy’s leading female. While some condemned her as “shrewish and racist,” older black women saw values in her qualities which by others were criticized. For some of them, the trope did more to explode stereotype than to reinforce it. In “Lookin Ass” Nicki Minaj holds up a mirror to the patriarchy, inflicting the male gaze upon itself.