On Amber Rose and feminism that meets people where they’re at

Amber Rose’s feminism poses a great opportunity to consider the ways in which feminism fits into the lives of different kinds of people. 

I have been a Rosebud since before Amber Rose herself used the word to describe her fans. Six years ago I was writing little blurbs fangirling over her on my basic blog. Since then, my understanding of media industries (and, thankfully, my writing) have become more nuanced, and yet ‘Muva’ remains one of my most beloved pop culture figures.

For all intents and purposes, I love Amber Rose for all the reasons that there are to love a pop culture figure in today’s media landscape: she’s stunningly beautiful, and her style is distinctly edgy and fun, she has crafted her image with the perfect amount of “I don’t give a fuck” nonchalance. She’s definitely gotten extra brownie points from me creating a clothing line with her make up artist/bestie, Priscilla Ono, and including a plus size collection (spoiler alert: it wasn’t that great). She also engaged in a Twitter beef of epic proportions with Khloe Kardashian, proving that she just might be the crowned Queen of Clap Back. And then of course, there’s the fact that she self-identifies as a feminist, a celebrity move that the rest of us feminists can never seem to get on the same page about.

Amber Rose calling out slut shaming on twitterRose was thrust into the spotlight in 2008 after being in a very public relationship with Kanye West. Since their split a few years later, she has maintained relevance through modeling, a series of endorsement deals, the upkeep of her signature blonde buzz cut, and a subsequent relationship and marriage to rapper Wiz Khalifa. Like many women, Rose has found herself in an industry that relies on her ability to adhere to a specific standard of feminine beauty and attractiveness. Prior to her relationship with Yeezy and her deal with Ford Models, Rose was a stripper in Philadelphia, a job she began as a teenager in order to support her family. Her career has flourished because of a successful performance in front of a male gaze.

Much of the cultural commentary about Rose, and women like her, is sexist and slut-shaming. During an interview with the Breakfast Club, Kanye West reached an all-time low when he implied that he had to take “30 showers” when he and Rose broke up because she was so dirty and tainted. And this certainly represents the way many people feel about Rose, especially since she has become a mother. Before Kim Kardashian posed nude for Paper Magazine, Rose was breaking the internet with Instagram videos of herself twerking at photoshoots and at home in celebration of her then-husband’s new album release. Since her divorce, she has been snapped going topless on beaches, twerking on Chris Brown at a concert, and partying it up at Carnival, much to the pearl-clutching horror of those who insist that her role as a mom should require her to denounce any old ties to her body and sexuality.

To address these criticisms and double standards (her ex-husband Wiz has since appeared in provocative pictures with porn stars and nude shower selfies), Rose has called on feminism. Embracing the term MILF, Rose insists that mothers don’t give up their rights to sexual autonomy and identity. Despite her infamous hourglass frame, Rose supports that self-expression and appreciation of women of all sizes, including her friend Priscilla and Tess Munster, and she also went to bat for Gabby Sidibe. I get that for many of us this may seem like entry-level feminism: women of any size should be able to wear what they want, date who they want, and do what they want with their bodies. But coming from someone whose job requires that she publicly flaunt her stuff on the regular, I can appreciate the willingness to engage feminism on a public platform. She is even planning to organize her own Slut Walk, a move that has already been criticized because of the protests’ disregard of the experiences of women of color. But with Rose’s primary niche being Black culture, I think there are possibilities for her to constructively intervene.

While Rose is hardly embodying “radical” feminism, I think that there is room for her and her brand of woman empowerment. While many would question the merit in maintaining a career like Rose’s (for the record: I am NOT among those many — being constantly poked and prodded with makeup brushes, wearing heels, and having no privacy does not sound like easy work to me.) the fact remains that she deserves to be able to do her job without defending her integrity on the basis of gendered respectability. I’m glad to see her demanding her right to that, and I think that it’s a testament to how feminism can meet people exactly where they are.

Feministing's resident "sexpert", Sesali is a published writer and professional shit talker. She is a queer Black girl, fat girl, and trainer. She was the former Training Director at the United States Student Association and later a member of the Youth Organizing team at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She received her bachelors in Women's and Gender Studies from Depaul University in 2012 and is currently pursuing a master's in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. A self identified "trap" feminist, and trained with a reproductive justice background, her interests include the intersections of feminism and: pop culture, youth culture, social media, hip hop, girlhood, sexuality, race, gender, and Beyonce. Sesali joined the team in 2010 as one of the winners of our So You Think You Can Blog contest.

is Feministing's resident sexpert and cynic.

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