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Why we shouldn’t be so hard on IG models

The video vixen is now an internet celebrity. Gone are the days of relative anonymity, with only one or two women recognized by name, the rest amplified only with the occasional interview in King Magazine. Now, hip-hop’s pretty girls are online and very visible before they ever land themselves on any rapper’s video, or arm. The Miracle Watts’ and Lira Galore’s of the world are main attractions on Instagram. With millions of followers, they’re sought after to advertise products, host events, and appear in various photoshoots, videos, and magazines. Joining the ranks of Amber Rose and Blacc Chyna, the new class of baddies aren’t strangers to the hostilities of being too sexy in the spotlight. Perhaps unsurprisingly, commenters leave hundreds of critical comments on these models’ pages. Many either attack the women for their assumed sexual practices or denigrate their work as mere partying.

It’s certainly not the average life of American Black women, or women in general for that matter–but when these women are criticized for their line of work, or worse, assumed to be unemployed vultures, it raises some flags and speaks to ways sexism works to define what kind of work is and isn’t appropriate for women.

First, comments about the intentions of these women and their glamorous content is often pointed at their assumed sexual ethics. Because of their dress, their assumed to be promiscuous, revealing a not-so-subtle slut shaming. Video vixens are often delegitimized based on the fact they have gained some recognition and capitalized of it by using their looks to be sexy and desirable. This often involves posting pictures in skin tight dresses or lingerie, striking poses that show off their bodies from different angles. This is a problem for the sexist who loves to look at these images, but can never respect the women in them. Female nudity and (assumed or suggested) sexuality should remain mute and dormant until activated by some male gaze or desire. This problem is only exacerbated by the fact that the primary platform for these models is Instagram, where slut shaming has taken on a bold life of its own.

Second, and perhaps more important, is that these negative comments ignore the actual labor that these women, and others like them, perform. In a culture that loves to reduce Black women with too much access to wealth as groupies and gold diggers, the idea of an internet celebrity gaining notoriety for doing the same thing we do everyday–post selfies–makes many people uncomfortable. But it is still legitimate work. The video vixens put in time, energy, and expense to cultivate an image of wealth, beauty, and constant fun–an image that they cash in on through party hosting and promotion deals.

Here’s the bottom line: getting paid to be pretty is a real job. And despite what pseudo-traditional internet users might want you to think, it isn’t a career choice that was born with the advent of the internet. Ask Pamela Anderson what being pretty with a nice body can get you. And in many cases, it’s a better financial opportunity than your average desk job. But for women of color and/or women who pursue this line of work in an ‘urban’ settings are steeped in racist, sexist stigma and moral crusades about the wrongness of “using your body for money.” Neoliberal capitalism has created certain standards for its subjects that include notions of productive citizenship. The result is that there is some work that has been deemed appropriate and thus productive for women while other kinds of work aren’t. Intentionally profiting from an eager male gaze and being a sole beneficiary of your own sexuality is on the latter list. So while we love to look at these women, we refuse to see what happens outside the frame.

 

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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The Trump Administration is getting into the holiday spirit by pushing a new regulation that would let restaurant owners steal workers’ tips, taking an estimated $5.8 billion out of minimum wage workers’ pockets.

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The Trump Administration is getting into the holiday spirit by pushing a new regulation that would let restaurant owners steal workers’ tips, taking an estimated $5.8 billion out of minimum ...