I recently took to the interwebs, seeking an answer — What it is about Amber Rose that women (including me) love so much?
Below is the “Director’s Cut” (full version) of my inquiry. Enjoy! (you can read the published version on Playboy.com here)
“Can I interrupt y’all right now because I gotta tell ‘ya – I met Amber Rose!”
Cheryl–23, biracial, freckle-faced and in graduate school to be a physician’s assistant–came charging up to me and Daniel, busting in on whatever we’d been discussing to tell us all about her celebrity encounter.
I leaned in eagerly, wanting all the details. Cheryl had been loitering outside an Austin-area business during SXSW when a black SUV with tinted windows rolled up. Then, like something from a dream, out popped Amber Rose. She was on hand for a scheduled appearance.
“I don’t really care about famous people, but I wanted to meet her,” Cheryl gushed. She got in line quickly but still ended up having to wait for an hour to meet Rose.
“She was just so real,” Cheryl elaborated. “She took the time to talk to every person and said something personal to everyone that waited for her.”
I asked Cheryl about Amber’s shoes, her sunglasses, and her ass. “It was amazing,” Cheryl reported, regarding said ass. “You can tell it’s real.”
I sighed dreamily during Cheryl’s story and squealed like a teenage fan-girl when she produced pictures of herself, grinning from ear to ear, standing with Rose. Throughout our exchange, Daniel – a 30-year-old musician – remained silent, his face a mask of bewildered incredulity. “Isn’t she famous for being someone’s girlfriend?” he asked. The awesome force that is Amber Rose was totally beyond him.
To be fair, many still do not know the full breadth of Rose’s work – it’s not just Daniel. This is due largely to the media’s tendency to conceptualize her in terms of her “ex”-statuses — ex-stripper, so-and-so’s ex-girlfriend, whomever’s ex-wife. In addition to having a rich and storied “ex” past, Rose is currently a mother, author, activist, philanthropist and entrepreneur.
Rose’s work garners an array of reactions. She is an outspoken feminist advocate, specifically tackling the sustained and egregious double standards women face regarding gender and sexuality. She’s a woman who — to borrow a phrase from one hater — “basically started a movement to protect hoes from getting called hoes while they go out hoe-ing.”
So Amber Rose basically started a movement to protect hoes from getting called hoes while they go out hoe-ing, & yall supporting it, smh…
— Twîz. (@SheLovesTwiz) March 15, 2016
Her recently released book, How To Be a Bad Bitch, is an empowering treatise – or, it’s complete and utter garbage, depending on the reviewer.
Regardless of the reaction itself, Amber Rose gets people talking, often about subjects that are difficult, if not outright dismissed. I asked Cheryl and a bunch of others via social media about what they saw in Amber Rose. Here are the points they raised.
Love: Her Take on Feminism
What feminism is and who feminism is for continues to be a source of contention. From a sociological standpoint, suffice it to say that there is no one correct version of “Feminism,” and the whole world could benefit from gender equality and autonomy.
Rose’s manifestation of feminism banks on calling out gender inequalities related to sexuality, while giving zero fucks about the judgment of others. “When you really stop caring about what people say, that’s when you really start living,” Rose recently said.
“I like her take on feminism,” Cheryl said. “My girlfriends and I talk about this a lot–getting pressure to have a boyfriend when we really just want to date. Why is it OK for guys [to play the field], but not females?”
Double standards about women’s and men’s sexual and social behaviors are nothing new, but having such a vocal and visible champion for women’s sexual empowerment, in whatever shape that sexual empowerment takes, *is* new. And people react to Rose’s brand of all-forms-of-sexuality-expression-are-viable-and-valid feminism in a variety of ways.
“I only think some guys [scoff at Amber Rose] because of the double standard when [a woman owns her sexuality], and for some guys that’s a turn off–I don’t know why,” Greg B. explained. “I’ve heard some women throw shade at her too for that matter.”
Love: Calling Out Inconsistencies
Another thing people love about Amber Rose is her zero tolerance policy for sexism. Rose, almost to the point of infamy, has snapped back at chauvinism thrown in her direction and has actively and publicly attempted to start conversations about women shaming other women, as she did with Pink.
Damn Pink we were all born naked society sexualizes our breast and bodies. If a grown mother of 2 is comfortable with her body and wants to show it off that's none of ur business or anyone else's. Now, if u wanna talk to kids and be a mentor to young teens, tell them to go to school and to not use their bodies to get ahead?! I'm all for it! But please as a grown woman let another grown woman live as she wishes. That's our problem! We're so quick to down each other instead of uplifting! Pink, We've seen u damn near naked swinging from a rope( Beautifully) but what's the difference between a rope, a pole and a pic on Instagram? Classism. Because u sing while ur half naked does that make it "Classy" or is it because u have a "talent"? I'm not dissing at all Pink just curious after u said "You'll never have to make a silly excuse for yourself".
“[Amber] doesn’t take any shit about that,” Cheryl said, “And she calls people out on their [double standards].”
Sexuality educator Megan Church agreed: “She owns her sexuality and doesn’t allow society to react without being called out. She is very vocal about whorephobia on many levels.”
But while Rose’s penchant for calling sexism to task inspired a lot of admiration, it also caused people to pump the brakes.
Church balanced out her love of Rose’s strong anti-sexism stance with a counterpoint. Regarding Rose’s response to one of an ex-lover’s many public, sexist attacks, “[S]he did call out Kanye about butt stuff in an uncool way.”
And for some, the #FingersInTheBootyAssBitch hash tag was all it took to write her off: “I didn’t know who she was until she shamed Kanye [West], who I can’t stand, for anal sex, so I don’t have much need for her based on that,” Alyssa Royse explained.
— Amber Rose (@DaRealAmberRose) January 27, 2016
Amber Rose fired back at a public figure with private details in response to that public figure raising private details online. For Kanye West, whose list of curious head-scratching public utterances is now legend, the behavior was par for the course. But for Rose, in an oddly sexist twist, one hash tag was all it took to give otherwise approving people pause. Refusing to stand for such behavior though only made others love her more.
“She just basically was like ‘Oh I’m a whore for letting you inside me, but I’ve been in your butt so who are you to judge?’” N’jaila Rhee explained. “She basically said that, if he wanted to discuss their sexually history, it was fair game for her to as well.”
“Amber is a better person than me,” she continued. “I’d have played ‘Hey Mama’ [the song West wrote for his mother] in the background while a lookalike of his mama munched my groceries and a lookalike of his wife fed me grapes and posted it on Instagram.”
Love: Being a Work in Progress
Another thing people love about Amber Rose is the fact that she’s messy–whereas some public figures seem to only present a polished finished product, she shares her emotions, embarrassments, successes, and failures. In a very raw and public exhibition of emotional pain, Amber Rose cried while addressing the crowd attending the SlutWalk she organized in Los Angeles this past October.
In a world where public figures’ non-response to deep emotional wounds is standard fare, people connect with Rose’s willingness to share a wider scope of experience.
“She ‘owns it,’” explained Karen T. “She embraces her imperfections, her beauty, her quirkiness, her mistakes, and every part of her being.”
In many ways, as real as she may seem, Amber Rose is a specter – none of us actually know her, not really. But what she shares with the world connects with a lot of people. And for many women out there, the public figure of Amber Rose embodies and emboldens a new version of confidence – one that’s messy and pure, a process that we get to witness, rather than a polished product intended to be swallowed whole.
(pictured: image via Playboy)
Reprinted from Playboy.com (3/29/16)
And ICYMI, you can read all my work featured on Playboy right –> here
* * *
Got a sociology question? Need some social justice informed life advice? Contact Dr. Chauntelle right here.