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By Ashleigh Shackelford
After hearing Kanye West’s comments in his interview on “The Breakfast Club,” where he spoke on his prior relationship with Amber Rose, I decided that I can no longer defend or support Black men who degrade Black women to uplift non-Black women. Kanye West has proven to be a problematic fave for most of us. From his IDGAF attitude to his ability to make powerful political and controversial statements unapologetically… From calling out white supremacy and award show politics (in defense of Beyonce’s very deserving album) to calling attention to the prison industrial complex and the profiting off of Black bodies in his song New Slaves… He is no longer someone that I can defend because it is too often that Kanye and other Black men use Black women (perceived and actual) as a punch line or as a benchmark for non-Black women’s worth.
In response to Amber Rose’s comments on Kylie Jenner and Tyga’s relationship, Kanye pulled out the misogynoir wild card by stripping Amber Rose of her autonomy, credibility, and worth by saying that her career was only because of the opportunity that he provided by dating her. Kanye goes on to say, “She’s just soaking in the moment. If Kim had dated me when I wanted, there would be no Amber Rose” (biggest eye-roll of the century). So not only is Kanye trying to convey that Amber Rose’s career and worthiness took off solely because of him, but that Amber was actually a stand-in for the woman of his dreams for the almost two-years they dated.
Amber Rose’s value is constantly attached to Kanye West’s career and what exposure his fame brought her as if a.) Kanye West never paraded Amber around while they were together by using her as a sexual prop for his own publicity (from public displays of tongue kissing on the red carpet to cuffing her ass like she was a sexual ornament), b.) Kanye West never dedicated songs et al. on his album to Amber (his shout outs at concerts and song references are the receipts), or c.) Kanye never had legitimate love for Amber Rose in those two years they spent together.
We can argue that Amber Rose would not have the same level of success without the access her relationship with Kanye provided but…wouldn’t the same rules apply to Kim Kardashian? Kim Kardashian’s career started off with the misogynistic consumerism of her body because of her sex tape with Ray J. Kim Kardashian’s career evolved due to her relationships with men more famous than her, but…primarily because she had a sex tape with Brandy’s little brother. So when did Amber Rose’s career path become a gold-digging joke but Kim’s career path praiseworthy? Furthermore, doesn’t Amber Rose’s entrepreneurship, intellect, and personality matter? Is Amber Rose not due credit for her trajectory because she’s actually a person outside of her relationship with Kanye West?
“It’s very hard for a woman to wanna be with someone that’s with Amber Rose,” Kanye stated. “I had to take 30 showers before I got with Kim.” But in needing those 30 showers Kanye…did you ever consider the fact that Kim Kardashian’s sex tape and sexual exposure may make it difficult for someone to date/love/marry Kim? It begs the question: What makes Kim Kardashian so different from Amber Rose? Why is dating/sleeping with Amber Rose tarnishing or dirty but being with Kim is purifying (or at least requires purifying)? What makes Kim Kardashian wifey material and not Amber Rose? Why does Kim Kardashian get a pass for her sexual past but Amber Rose can never escape punishment for hers?
Kim dated Reggie Bush, Miles Austin, Chris Humphries, and Ray J – most of whom were more famous than her at the time they were dating. Her sex tape with Ray J is still making rounds on the internet. Kim has naked pictures leaked online. Kim had a child by Kanye West while still married to Chris Humphries. She has posed nude for magazines and fashion editorials. Kim has sex. She still poses nude and has sex while being a mother. Amber Rose has naked pictures online. She had her son before marrying Wiz Khalifa. Amber Rose posts twerking videos on her Instagram. But one of these women is not like the other. The only thing that separates Kim from Amber is [perceived] Blackness. And Black always makes the difference – in our autonomy, in our humanity, and in our sexual agency.
Amber Rose cannot be virtuous, pure, or carefree. She is not given the right to twerk, date, fuck, or party and still be seen as a good mother (because respectable nuclear family boxes
be damned still frame what’s good and what’s not…). Amber Rose is not given the license to be sexual and still be able to reach the levels of capitalistic and classist access to whiteness and palatability that Kim Kardashian can. Kim Kardashian being half Armenian does not negate her privilege and access to whiteness. Amber’s white-passing Blackness does not read as acceptable as Kim’s white passing presentation does. Amber Rose’s racial ambiguity does not strip her of being seen as Black, and therefore less than. Kim being a white-passing woman of color does not change the fact that Blackness is associated with hyper-sexuality, hypo-femininity, dirtiness, and worthlessness. Amber Rose is marked — she’s imagined as Black…the ho that you can never turn into a housewife. But Kim Kardashian is imagined as white (or at least white-passing)…a business woman that uses her sexual agency to create a successful empire.
And that Amber Rose is perceived as Black matters. We need to understand that Black women are not given the right to display, share, or present our bodies how we please. Black women are not given the right to body autonomy or sexual freedom. And there’s a loaded racist misogynistic capitalist history behind that and that has marginalized Black women to an extreme in which we’re always stuck between denying our sexuality to remain respectable or embracing our sexuality…and yes…being the ho’s society tells us we already are. It was our sex and bodies that made this capitalist system. To that end, it is a revolutionary act for Black women to claim our sexuality with agency — even where it is scripted in ho locution. Be clear: this goes beyond Amber Rose. Black women take and make our right.
I’m here for Amber — from her purposefully and mockingly hashtagging #Thot #Whore #assonfleek and #GoldDigger underneath her more revealing Instagram photos — terms which are meant to marginalize her right to exist and sexual autonomy. To her publicly addressing that she is not only still a great mother while twerking in the club…but a great person. But beyond and to include Amber (not as Black but as interpreted Blackness), Black women owning their bodily autonomy and demanding their humanity is not only radical and necessary, but as Black feminist Audre Lorde notes, an act of political warfare.
Ashleigh Shackelford is a community organizer, pop culture enthusiast, and part-time blogger. She identifies as a queer Black fat femme woman and focuses her work on empowerment through body positivity with gender, sexuality, and race. She is a lead organizer for Black Action Now and creator of Free Figure Revolution. She graduated with her degree in Business Administration and Political Science at Virginia Commonwealth University.