Unfair play (Anibal Santos)
The music industry is an ever-evolving entity. It pushes envelopes, is an outlet for social commentary, and by nature reflects the ideas and culture of those who create and listen to it. Hip-hop and rap are the most relatively recent expressive manifestations of this industry. They were conceived on the streets, and because of this, hip-hop and rap are incredibly innovative and unique.
A part of the culture of hip-hop and rap centers on an antifeminist, unrealistic representation of women. Change is necessary, but we’ve lived in a patriarchal society for as long as we’ve existed. It has taken centuries for women to make incredible gains in terms of legal and societal rights. It may take just as long for society to realize that the consistent degradation of women in hip-hop and rap is not okay.
Some disagree. Brandon Sloan, 18, Cinema, Television and Radio major said, “I think it’s just musicians making money. I don’t think their goal is to belittle women.”
However, just because it may not be their goal to belittle women, does not mean it doesn’t happen.
Much of the hip-hop dominating our airwaves specifically transmits sexism. The word “woman” is frequently replaced with “bitch,” and prefaced with “mine” or “your.” For example, in “Drank In My Cup,” by Kirko Bangs, when he’s talking about cavorting with another man’s girlfriend, he says, “Your bitch know what I’m talking ’bout.”
Giving women worth based on their looks objectifies women and perpetuates an unattainable body type. As can be seen in “Wut’s Luv?” by Fat Joe and “Ass,” by Big Sean, the ideal body type is extremely skinny (“your waist anorexic”), with what can only described as an enormous derriere.
“Women are seen as either the virgin or the whore, and you see the equivalent in hip-hop,” said Saddleback College women’s studies professor Margot Lovett.
In Drake’s “Make Me Proud,” we see an extremely positive archetype of women in hip-hop, but it sets a standard that is impossible to achieve. This standard puts a high value on sexual loyalty, something that is not expected of the men in hip-hop and rap.
Furthermore, women tend to be an accessory of money, fame and power. “They pay me respect, they pay me in checks, and if she look good, she pay me in sex,” says Big Sean in “Ass.” Because of this, images of men telling women what to do are abundant and unacceptable. “Tell a bad bitch do whatever I say,” says Big Sean in “Clique”. 2 Chainz expresses a similar sentiment in “I’m Different” when he commands, “Bitch sit down, you got a bad [attitude]”.
A documentary entitled “Dreamworlds 3; Desire, Sex & Power in Music Videos” explores these themes as well. “Just as music videos tell us a story about female passivity, it tells us an equal story about men being tied to power, intimidation and force,” stated the documentary. It argued that violent behavior towards women is portrayed too often in music videos, and provided case studies to back it up (no pun intended).
Of course, not all hip-hop and rap is like this. Despite a general trend of mainstream misogyny, “Adorn,” by Miguel is a favorite on mainstream airwaves and is all about love and respect.
There is plenty of hip-hop and rap that serves to stimulate the mind. Common, A Tribe Called Quest and Lupe Fiasco all produce intelligent, socially conscious content. Lupe Fiasco recently fronted an all-out attack on the term “bad bitch” with his song “Bitch Bad.” Even Tupac, the patron saint of west coast hip-hop, asks an important question in “Keep Ya Head Up:” “Since we all came from a woman, got our name from a woman and our game from a woman, I wonder why we take from our women, why we rape our women. Do we hate our women?”
If truthful and intelligent rap exist, why do we subject ourselves to misogynistic dribble? Images of sex and violence provoke notions of inner primal instincts and fit well with heavy hip-hop beats. Plus, fat cat executives and producers possess the ability to create truly catchy compositions.
“Mainstream hip-hop can be disrespectful regarding women and sex, but I accept it because I enjoy listening to the music even though I don’t agree with the lyrics,” Said Tessa Hemnes, 20, Fine Arts.
The problem is the possibility of the public taking the things that artists like 2 Chainz say seriously. According to a 1997 Psychology of Women Quarterly study, adult males with no previous exposure to “gangsta” rap were shown to believe that sexual relationship between men and women were adversarial in nature after exposure to sexually violent lyrics.
“The term of a controlling image is a negative stereotype about a group of people and where its most harmful is when people who belong to a group begin to internalize it, ” Lovett said.
These artists have the right to freedom of speech. However, that does not mean that what they legally have the right to say does not have social ramifications.
It is imperative hip-hop and rap fans make it clear to the industry that the constant degradation of women in their lyrics is a major negative force. Make it clear that sexist language in mainstream hip-hop and rap have no place in a progressive society.
Tell the artists, producers and your particularly impressionable friends that you’re sick of it.
Ask more frequently the question Queen Latifah asked in her 1993 song “U.N.I.T.Y.,” “Who you callin’ a bitch?”