Nicki Minaj, a rapper who has so far fashioned a career out of guest-spots on other albums but is finally promoting her own, appeared on Regis & Kelly today. But instead of just getting to promote her album as a professional, Philbin swatted her on the ass and made an uncomfortable sex joke about himself. His co-star, Ripa, asks about her waist size and and the two have a competition over whose is smaller all while grabby-hands Philbin takes every chance he gets to rest his arm around said body part. Video via Huffington Post.
What is Minaj to do? Unfortunately, if she wants a career, her only real choice is to smile and nod, as she does here, and compliment Philbin on his pink shirt. At least that's the conventional wisdom, and it's the conventional wisdom Minaj and many women before her have absorbed themselves. The sexualization of women working for success in all different fields of entertainment probably dictates a lot of the artistic choices they make as well. Though apologists want to use form-fitting outfits or overtly sexual lyrics as excuses for behavior like Philbin's, the truth is those things are symptoms, not the causes, of sexism.
The truth is this is also the kind of overly casual, overly familiar sexualization commonplace on morning TV. There's something about the stereotypes of those who watch these shows -- that they're nonsexual, middle-aged housewives or female retirees -- that excuses these kinds of exchanges as nonthreatening, even when they are clearly out of bounds. Philbin's actions stand out because they're so over the line, but it's equally offensive that Ripa is so ready to remark on her curvature, as if the primarily female audience watching at home has nothing better to do than ogle Minaj's tiny waist with envy.
This also, of course, belies a misunderstanding among Americans of what racism and sexism look like. It's not just the exclusive all-male, all-white clubs or obvious hate-speech but the kind of casual privilege that lets an older, white man touch a younger, black female in a sexual way, and that dictates her continued politeness in the face of such an obvious invasion. And situations like this, by the way, happen every day.
-- Monica Potts
*That's Minaj's explanation of how she came to work with Li'l Wayne.