Dealing with misogyny in hip-hop
What’s up fam,
The Michigan Policy Summit is over so I can get back to blogging more regularly. Below is a draft of a piece I plan on submitting to The Global Journal of Hip-Hop Culture. Please read the prompt (in italics) and provide any relevant feedback. I look forward to reading your comments,
Stay up fam,
p.s. Shout out to Eboni, a long time reader of the SuperSpade that was at the Summit,
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
“Sex and Hip-Hop Beyond Misogyny”
Many have stated that sex sells with regard to commodities, hip-hop culture in particular. However, in recent years the industries surrounding sex and hip-hop have developed a symbiotic relationship. For example, rappers often use strip clubs to premiere records and circumvent mainstream radio payola. In turn, the porn industry employs rappers to promote its DVDs and Web sites. This connection not only allows the two industries to benefit financially, but also results in their mutual exploitation.
Traditionally, hip-hop scholarship and commentary has focused on the misogynist and sexist nature of cultural products. That is, until now, academic debates about how sex is addressed by the hip-hop community have centered primarily on topics such as the treatment of the video girl, Nelly’s “Tip Drill,” depictions of rappers as violent, sexual predators, etc.
For the forthcoming issue, “Sex and Hip-Hop Beyond Misogyny”, Words. Beats. Life: The Global Journal of Hip-Hop Culture invites scholars, students, and practitioners to submit nuanced takes on gender and sexuality within hip-hop culture. Topics may include sex trafficking, sexual education, hip-hop and sex in film and literature, queer hip-hop, boyhood and girlhood, and representations of the body. We hope to push ideas about sex and hip-hop beyond simple investigations of misogyny in this issue.
The title and prompt for this call to papers suggest a certain fatigue regarding the issue of misogyny and an overall sense of “Can we talk about something else?” The answer is no. Misogyny is the hatred of women so whatever nuances of hip-hop one chooses to explore, hate must never be ignored, no matter how circular the discussion may be at times. Having a different conversation other than misogyny doesn’t take it away and while it may be easier to get folks around a less divisive issue, the hatred in some hip-hop is deleterious to women and girls everywhere, women of color in particular.
Having said that, a more appropriate title of the journal should be Sex and Hip-Hop Before Misogyny. Rather than debate “simple” investigations of misogyny, let’s explore the two most powerful solutions to hate that simultaneously serve as the foundations of hip-hop: education and love. In the context of misogyny, education is critically important for young men to understand that women are not objects designed for personal use but this understanding is largely influenced by the climate created in the home and the immediate community. Misogyny in men is rooted in a self-hate that is spewed towards women. When the type of education needed to combat self-hate if not present in the home, boys develop maladjusted coping mechanisms that become magnified against the backdrop of a hunger to be heard and good bass line. The solution, in my opinion is creating outlets at an early age where boys who enjoy hip hop can tell their own stories in a way that is both therapeutic and helps them see the women in their lives in their complete humanity.
As far as love is concerned, something can be said for something someone told me once regarding men; “Too many men respect the women above them (their mothers) and below them (their daughters) but don’t respect the women on their level.” I found this analogy extremely powerful and in the context of misogyny, I think it is tragic that so few people combat a common, if not dominant theme in hip-hop music where often times a man’s sole purpose for pursuing a woman is to have sex. Very often, I don’t see this void of respect towards women filled even amongst “conscious” rappers. No longer should we excuse misogyny in hip-hop as one speck of paint in the broader portrait of hip-hop culture. And because hatred can function like a virus, refusing to deal with misogyny head on risks corrupting all of the other seeming pure virtues and perspectives within hip-hop. What is also troubling is that too many hip-hop critics depict the misogyny in hip-hop music as part of the show, the same way in which many, not all, rappers talk about all of the money they have amassed. What may be part of the show is being accepted by reality by young girls and boys as the standard by which they should interact with one another.
All of this points to the need for record companies to value more wholesome and positive depictions of women rather than objectifying them. In the meantime however, those of us who support more positive diversity within hip-hop must insist on individual and collective solutions that force everyone to face the disastrous impacts of misogyny.