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Sexism in Hip Hop Music Why is it there and what can we do about it?
Introduction Hip Hop has been under attack for the past 10 years or so. One of the reasons is sexism. But why is sexism so rampant in Hip Hop? Is it how they feel? Entertainment value? Going for shock? Do women deserve it? Is it fair to single out Hip Hop? Hip Hop defends themselves though. They say Hip Hop is not responsible for sexism. That may be true, but is that a good reason to use it, or is it just an excuse? Are there solutions to help us reach some middle ground to make everyone comfortable? What are they?
It Obviously Exists in the Music… Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx –Gold Digger First line of the song is “She take my money when I'm in need” Part of the chorus “Now I ain't sayin' she a gold digger, But she ain't messin' with no broke niggas” Ol’ Dirty Bastard –Got Your Money “If you wanna look good and not be bummy, girl you better give me that money” The chorus sang by Kelis “Hey, dirty, baby I got your money Don't your worry, I said hey. Baby I got your money” 50 Cent –In Da Club When I searched for these lyrics, it gave me a “clean” option. Here is a taste of the original “I'm into havin' sex, I ain't into making love So come give me a hug if you into getting rubbed I singled out these songs because I really enjoy them, as do so many others. And they get a lot of radio play with the “clean” versions
Women are Guilty Too… Missy Elliott – Get Ur Freak On Not too bad “Then come and get me now (bounce) Is you with me now (bounce) The biggie biggie bounce (bounce)” Lil’ Kim – Shut up Bitch/Chick Somewhat worse, but I really like this one! Part of the chorus “I heard she mad rich, I heard she dead broke, I heard she sniffin' coke, SHUT UP BITCH!!!!” Enjoying her big pay day “All this petty chitter-chatter only make my packets fatter” Khia – My Neck My Back Probably the most shocking I ever heard coming from a female artist I am going to put the clean version on here. Fill in the blank yourself “My Neck, my back,Lick my ... just like that” Except for “Get Ur Freak On”, I hadn’t heard these songs before. Funny how women get silenced when talking about their own power and sexuality.
Sexism is as Old as Time… The Stone Age 10,000 BC and earlier - Hunter-Gatherer Society Men hunted while women stayed back and gathered, were considered somewhat equal Before Early Civilization 10,000-4000 BC - Neolithic Revolution Men worked outside the home more – perceived as more important work Early Civilization and Beyond Emerged by 3000 BC - Patriarchal society emerged The Code of Hammurabi – 282 laws mostly pertaining to family and marriage Men could have affairs and concubines, while women could be killed for adultery A Bit More Recently In This Country… Women’s Rights Movement Beginning in 1848 with right to vote coming about 50 years or more later Women's Liberation Movement Beginning in the 1960’s
The Double Standard… It’s ok to demean women if you are: Nelly – His song “Tip Drill” spurred controversy for women at Spelman College - Nelly unwilling to listen to students concerns Jay-Z – “Say Hello” lyrics - will stop using the word ‘bitch’ when incidents such as the Jena Six end Other Hip Hop Artist such as Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Nate Dogg, etc. John Mayer – Blues and Pop type rock star who made several racially and sexually charged comments, and still adored by many Barney Stinson – Loveable and tolerated womanizer on hit TV show How I Met Your Mother It’s NOT ok to demean women if you are: Don Imus – “Nappy headed hoes” incident Clarence Thomas – Supreme Court Judge who ‘allegedly’ harassed Anita Hill Arnold Schwarzenegger – Multiple affairs while married and Governor of California Anthony Wiener – NY Rep caught in “Sexting” scandal
“A fine line between demeaning and fun and wit” “Is it to be taken literal, is it to be you know, dissected and are we like …no its more just like fun, witty moments” “Hip Hop has moments of comedy in it”
Michael Llewellyn of BET
“We are running a business” “Again at the end of the day those that tune in on to our network ... are doing so by choice. If there is something that you see that you don't want to see, simply don't watch"
Hip Hop Artists Making a Difference… The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 1998 Album Her songs “Forgive Them Father”, “When it Hurts so Bad”, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”, and others from this album. Disappointment in “SNL” skit ‘Pimp Chat’ where she was asked to play a ho’ Hip Hop Artist Master P taking responsibility "Personally, I have profited millions of dollars through explicit rap lyrics. I can honestly say that I was once part of the problem, and now it's time to be part of the solution.“ Pioneer of Hip Hop, Russell Simmons takes a stand “It is important to re-emphasise that our internal discussion with industry leaders are not about censorship. Our discussions are about the corporate social responsibility of the industry to voluntarily show respect to African-Americans and other people of color, African-American women and to all women in lyrics and images.“ “The words 'bitch' and 'ho' are utterly derogatory and disrespectful of the painful, hurtful, misogyny that, in particular, African-American women have experienced in the United States as part of the history of oppression, inequality, and suffering of women”.
What Can we do About it? Michaela Angela Davis Head of Essence Magazines’- “Take Back the Music Campaign” Black Girls Rock! Board Member Suggestions from Tricia Rose, writer of The Hip Hop Wars Develop and promote a serious progressive attack on sexism in Hip Hop Support the young men and women invested in Hip hop who want to challenge sexism Educate all youth about gender equality Self Growth and Awareness Volunteer to work with children at local church or school Be aware of the things you say and how they affect others, even when it is not serious Be open-minded enough to realize that you might be wrong Have the tough conversations when it is appropriate to do so
Key Thoughts…. While they may not be the source of sexism, they certainly are a source of it, and it is up to each individual artist on how they want to treat their source. First, they have to accept that they are part of the problem, and then be willing to be part of the solution. Whether they like it or not, these men and women of Hip Hop are role models and have the ability to shape and inspire millions of people. It is up to them how they want to use their voice. And while it is up to the artist on how to use their voice, it is up to all of us to help shape society. Wherever you can contribute, however you can contribute, when you feel it is appropriate, do your part!
Thanks everyone. I enjoyed our time and our conversations. What can I say? It’s been “real” (Lame, I know, but it’s 3:30 in the morning, give me a break!)