Here’s why Nicki Minaj’s bit in ‘Say So’ is so disappointing
It has been A Week for queer women
This week has been quite a week for queer women. Last Wednesday, Netflix released A Secret Love – a truly wholesome documentary about Terry and Pat, an ageing lesbian couple who had been together for 65 years but hid their relationship from even their closest family for 62 years.
It was a breath of fresh air. Too often mainstream talk heavily sexualises lesbian and bi women and trivialises them as an extension of straight men’s sexual fantasies – just look at the controversies surrounding Liam Payne’s song Both Ways last year.
Previous depictions of queer women on screen (although often groundbreaking in their own ways) tend to be focussed on narratives like the internal conflict surrounding coming out. These can perpetuate the idea that this struggle is intrinsic to being queer when for many this isn’t the case. I love Orange is the New Black as much as the next gal, but it’s pretty hard to use this as an example to normalise being queer when the entire first season is devoted to Piper cheating on her fiancé – oh, and they’re literally in prison.
A Secret Love does touch on these themes but it is outweighed by the overwhelming sense that these two women are just ordinary old ladies. They could probably be your grandparents, epic and adorable love story aside.
But, what pop culture gives with one hand, it takes with another.
The next day I opened up Spotify and was excited to see the Nicki Minaj remix of Doja Cat’s Say So. Roughly one minute in, I heard the lyric: “Used to be bi but now I’m just hetero.” Nicki, hun, what are you doing? Did you not get the memo? You were literally a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race this season… We trusted you!
Let’s be clear: one Nicki Minaj lyric is not the root-cause of homophobia or biphobia. It’s part of something much bigger. This lyric feeds into an idea that far too many queer women are familiar with: “its just a phase.”
This is one of those statements that no one quite knows where it came from, but we’re all familiar with it. It’s the idea that your feelings for other women are temporary, and you just need to get it out your system whilst you’re young before settling down with a nice man. It’s also linked up to patriarchal ideas about a woman’s place in the world.
That’s why non-sexualised examples of queer women in the world around us are so important.
One of the biggest reasons queer women are scared to come out to their parents (and other family members) is they worry that they had a picture in their heads of what their future would look like. Often, these involve big white weddings, 2.1 kids, a house in the suburbs, and a labrador. But A Secret Love gives a living, breathing example of this pep talk I’ve given both friends and myself many, many times: you can live a normal life as a queer woman.
This toxic combo of sexism and homophobia is in part sustained by the very people that are harmed by it, and that’s what makes it so difficult. Queer women do often buy into it and perpetuate it.
Just this week, my ultimate guilty pleasure First Dates Hotel aired a storyline involving two bi women (who were quite clearly made for each other) going on dates with two men before ditching them to be with each other. Despite the emotional rollercoaster that played out over the two episodes, in the end credits they were still insistent that, despite dating each other, they wanted to end up with a man. I know, right.
We too often have this idea in our heads of what ~the future~ looks like. It’s hard to unlearn it, and as one person, it often feels like there’s little you can do to challenge it.
Sadly, the best way you bring others forward is to just live your life, even if that means going against the grain. This is possibly the biggest lesson to be learnt from A Secret Love. Maybe Nicki Minaj and the gals from First Dates Hotel just need to channel their inner Pat and Terry.
Their battle against adversity needs to act as a reminder that being here and queer is the most direct way for queer women to not be erased from the narrative.