Can Women of Color Have a Moment to Celebrate Success Without White Women Making it About Them?

About two weeks ago, Doja Cat, Nicki Minaj, Megan Thee Stallion, and Beyonce helped make Billboard history by being the first four black women to simultaneously occupy the top two spots on the Billboard Hot 100. It was Nicki Minaj and Doja Cat’s first #1, and Megan Thee Stallion’s highest-charting song yet. For black women everywhere this moment could have felt like a victory- I know it did for me. Seeing unapologetically black women topping charts and collaborating was a definite highlight during these monotonous times. How often have we been blessed with a feature from Beyonce herself?

However…yesterday, Lana Del Rey decided it was the time to bring to light her struggles as a woman in the music industry. She writes about how she’s constantly been accused of glamorizing abuse, claiming that she’s singing about the “realities of what we are all now seeing are the very prevalent emotionally abusive relationships all over the world.”

While she’s making a valid point about the level of criticism women face in the music industry, it comes off as tone-deaf and silencing of women of color- mainly because of all the women she named in her post- from Kehlani to Nicki Minaj.

Every woman she explicitly called out, excluding Ariana Grande, is a woman of color. Some people have argued that what she’s saying isn’t about race, but when Lana Del Rey claimed that she “paved the way for women to say whatever the hell they want with their music” she gave herself way too much credit for something black women already have been doing forever.

Women of all shades have always been harshly criticized for taking control of their image and being confident in their sexuality, but that criticism is often even harsher for women of color. Del Rey’s comment acts as if she’s the only one who has faced backlash for her type of music, which is purely false.

To be honest, her commentary represents what I like to call classic white women behavior: taking a positive moment for women of color and somehow finding a way to be offended or make it about their own oppression as women. 

The timing of it all makes her message sound even more Karen-esque, it had to be 10 days after black women were at the top of the charts, and she just had to use the names of other female artists to prove her point. Her argument could have had the same central idea without Del Rey feeling the need to point out a “double standard” of how differently the woman she named are being treated- especially when the double standard barely exists.

In her post, she remarks that “there has to be a place in feminism for women who look and act like me,” as if she refuses to acknowledge the privilege she has as a conventionally attractive white woman in the industry, while many black artists have to work exceptionally hard to prove their worth. 

For years, feminism hasn’t been a place for women of color, which is where the term “white feminism” initially comes from. I’ve always maintained that white feminism isn’t explicitly feminists that are white, they are feminists that only care about the issues and oppression faced by white women, ignoring the struggles of women of color. The duality of being a person of color and also a woman creates layers of identity within feminism, forcing women of color to start their own movements to advocate for themselves.

As expected, Lana del Rey responded to accusations of racism by saying in her post’s caption that it was “bullshit.” Now, do I genuinely think Lana del Rey is racist? No, not at all. But this moment does provide an example of a time when “female solidarity” doesn’t extend to women of color. The fact that Lana could have defended her music without implying that the women she named have it easier in the industry than her or recentering a conversation in a time when black women were on the top of the charts to focus on herself, shows ignorance and lack of sensitivity. Once again, women of color can’t depend on anyone to not throw them under the bus.

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credits: Image from the TheCut.com