By ELIZABETH KIEFER
Last week, Azealia Banks called out Madame Tussauds for featuring a likeness of Nicki Minaj positioned provocatively on all fours instead of standing tall and proud with a microphone, like many of her musical contemporaries. She called the figure “underhanded shade” on Twitter, asking if — in light of all of the “Super Bass” singer’s accomplishments — it was really appropriate to memorialize her on all fours.
The “Anaconda” rapper didn’t seem offended by her wax twin. “I love it and I can’t wait to see it,” she wrote on Instagram. (Minaj was unable to attend the big reveal.) But there’s something bigger at play here than whether or not the singer herself appreciated the way she was captured.
Minaj might be well known for her fearless provocation, but that’s just one piece of what makes her an icon. However, choosing to replicate a moment where she’s at her most overtly sexual over one where she looks anything but vulnerable isn’t a choice without its drawbacks. One of which, of course, is the fact that when fans were let loose upon this lifeless version on Minaj, they immediately became the worst versions of themselves — a prediction Banks made at the outset.
“OF ALL THE POSES THIS FAN COULD STRIKE, HE PICKED THE ONE THAT CENTERS AROUND DOMINATING THE LIKENESS OF A WOMAN WHO CANNOT NO SAY NO.”
Barely a week after its induction into the less-than-hallowed halls of Madame Tussauds, Minaj’s figure became a prop for fantasy sex play. In one photo, which was shared by the singer, three women pose around the body, as one grasps faux-Minaj’s breasts, another places a hand on her butt, and a third makes what appears to be a tentative attempt at a rim job. In another, unearthed by Buzzfeed, a man poses near her face, his tongue already out of his mouth.
But it’s the third one, which you can see below, that reveals why the public at large can’t be trusted with a near-naked, life-size version of this woman — or perhaps any woman. It features a man who has climbed on to the table and more or less mounted Minaj, his groin pressed against her mostly-bare bottom, her ponytail gripped suggestively in his fist. Being wax, she is unmoved. That does not take away from the fact that what he is doing is disturbing.
I can already hear choruses of comments and complaints about how this is an inanimate figure that can’t be sexually violated; that taking advantage of a statue isn’t the same things as violating a real woman, and that one doesn’t necessarily lead to the other. Point acknowledged, and — to a degree — taken.
But here is the problem: Of all the poses this fan could strike, he picked the one that centers around dominating the likeness of a woman who cannot no say no. With so many other options on the table, he chose to pretend to enter her from behind and yank her hair. Neither of those things are problems unto themselves, when there is consent. But the representation of them in an instant where consent isn’t even possible is more than lewd and disrespectful: It’s revealing of a dangerous attitude about the state of power relations between men and women.
I hope that someday we will live in a world where Black women don’t have reason to fear for their lives when confronted by male police officers. I also hope for a day when women are not so vulnerable and so often taken advantage of. And, not last nor least, I look forward to a time when Nicki Minaj is memorialized in a way that highlights her talent — and not her body.
But that’s not the world we live in right now. Until we do, a likeness of one of America’s premiere pop stars being jokingly dominated isn’t anything to snicker at. She deserves more respect that that. We all do.