In case you’ve missed all of the chatter on Twitter and other forms of social media, Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift exchanged some seemingly heated tweets yesterday centered around the MTV Video Music Awards Video of the Year Nominations.
This year, the following five videos have been nominated for the prestigious award:
Beyoncé – “7/11″
Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud”
Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Bad Blood”
Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk”
Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
(It is also important to note that Nicki’s “Anaconda” video has received two nominations this year and her collaborative track, “Bang Bang” was also nominated. In the last ten years, women of color have won Video of the Year award three times: Rihanna has won it twice, in 2007 and 2012, and Beyoncé won it in 2009.)
Their Twitter war was trending all day with many heated discussions stemming off of the tweets exchanged. Here is how the fiasco began:
@NICKIMINAJ I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot..
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) July 21, 2015
And so it began.
It is fairly obvious that Nicki Minaj’s tweet could have referred Taylor Swift’s video. But it may have also been directed at Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ video or Ed Sheeran’s. Since Taylor Swift’s video does, in fact, feature a bevy of beautiful models and actresses, a majority of whom happen to be slim, it can easily be seen as having referred to her music video. While Taylor Swift’s video does feature slim, white women, it also features a diverse range of women of color including Selena Gomez, Serayah, Zendaya, and Gigi Hadid (who is half-Palestinian). Nicki Minaj’s tweets are both unnecessary and necessary; unnecessary because she singles out the people nominated versus the people doing the nominating. Necessary because she does highlight a racism problem.
However, the big issue here is not what the two women themselves said. Instead, it is about what people and the media decided to do with their mildly-warm, rather than heated, Twitter exchange. Nicki Minaj was merely sharing her completely valid disappointment that she was not nominated for Video of the Year and Taylor Swift appeared to have entered the conversation without thinking that venting is a common side effect of disappointment!
At the end of the day, the Twitter “war” was not as incredible as the media made it appear. What was really a major problem was how the media portrayed the feud. By using images portraying Nicki Minaj with comical facial expressions contrasted with Taylor Swift’s smiling face a huge mistake was made: it made the whole situation all the more about racism and further exacerbated the situation, thus leading social media to concentrating even more on this small Twitter spat. By the end of the day people had taken sides, Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift were both trending, and fierce advocates began popping up on both sides.
While Nicki Minaj’s words remind us all of the very genuine racism problem in the music industry, the media’s comparing of these two women’s actions appear curious to me. Albeit in different ways, both Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj are attempting to highlight problems in the music industry–even though their methods are different. Why must one’s actions be seen as better or worse than the others? Why can’t we focus on the problems they bring to light and the problems inherent in the reporting surrounding such situations rather than spending time discussing this petty exchange? The media should, instead of comparing the women negatively and attempting to find a right and a wrong, be focused on the problems that both women are attempting to bring to the public’s attention.