Hip-hop is the latest expressive manifestation of the past and current experience as well as the collective consciousness of African-American and Latino-American youth. But more than any music of the past, it also expresses mainstream American Ideas that have now been Internalized and embedded Into the psyches of American people of color over time. A part of the learned mainstream American culture is sexism and misogyny. Hip-hop culture is frequently condemned for its misogynistic exploitation of women, but this misogyny has its roots in the culture in which we live.
Hip-hop but can be explored and used as a valuable tool in examining gender relations. It brings to surface the issues that face many young people, such as discrimination, peer relations, and self- worth, that can be considered in order to bring about change in the misogynistic aspects of hip-hop culture and American culture, in general. For young people that do not hold sexist Ideals, mainstream hip-hop may influence them to do so as It spreads and continuously gains popularity.
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And others are directly and Indirectly supporting an environment that allows sexism to continue. Exploitation of women In hip-hop culture has become an accepted part of It for both the artists and audiences alike, and many critics blame the music without looking any deeper. When going to any hip-hop related event, my friends and I normally expect that we will be disrespected verbally and physically, and have to prepare ourselves accordingly.
We have to be careful in choosing what clothes to wear, how we carry ourselves and what we say. I have often wondered why it is so acceptable (for men and women) and what the roots of the values expressed in the culture are. Hip-hop culture, started by black and Latino youth In New York City, (by definition) encompasses rapping (and now singing), deejay, break-dancing, and graffiti- writing, but has evolved to be much more than that. It Is now a lifestyle for many young people mostly between the ages of 13 and 30.
It now Involves music videos, fashion, language, the club scene, and the general way in which young people interact with one another. Hip-hop culture is widely used in commercials (Coca-Cola, Burger King), fashion advertisements, video games, TV shows, and there is even a hip- pop exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The most powerful and influential part of hip-hop culture has come to be rap music, a form of poetry that is said over musical instrumentation. In recent years rap music has developed a reputation of being brutally honest, violent, and misogynistic.
Much of the music and many videos specifically transmit, promote, and perpetuate negative Images of black women. All women, but mostly black women In particular are seen In popular hip-hop culture as sex objects. Almost every hip-hop video that Is regularly run today shows many dancing women (usually surrounding one or two en) wearing not much more than bikinis, with the cameras focusing on their body commonly contain name calling to suggest that women are not worth anything more than money, if that.
Women are described as being only good for sexual relations by rappers who describe their life as being that of a pimp. In many popular rap songs men glorify the life of pimps, refer to all women as they think a pimp would to a prostitute, and promote violence against women for ‘disobeying. ‘ Of course, not all rap songs are misogynistic and all black men do not speak and think this way, but large percentages within hip-hop culture do. The name calling disrespects, dehumidifies, and dishonors women.
If a man labels a woman with any of these names, he may feel Justified in committing physical or psychological violence against her. The name-calling may also be representative of the way these men are thinking and feeling the anger, disdain, and ill feelings toward women. Joan Morgan, “ho refers to herself as a hip-hop feminist, reveals, “Yeah, assists are hurtful the real crime isn’t the name-calling, it’s their failure to love us—to be our brothers in the Nay that we commit ourselves to being their assists. [l] Many black men within hip- pop culture who battle racism and oppression themselves everyday have been conditioned by society not to trust or love, and if they do not love themselves, it is difficult for them to love women or anyone else in a healthy manner. Misogynistic hip-hop does not only expose black men’s pain, but it also shows the issues that black women may want to deal with. Much of the sexual exploitation in hip-hop culture is done with the consent and collaboration of women.
A significant amount of misogynistic hip-hop consumers are women, and hundreds of bikini- donned women show up for the music video shoots as unpaid participants. 2] Dance clubs and backstage of concerts are flooded with women who express willingness to do anything sexually with a man to get drinks, money, Jewelry, or Just to feel privileged and wanted. Omen, especially black women, have less access to power, material wealth, and protection and so have historically used sex (in prostitution and various other domains) as the “bartering chip” to gain access. 3] Misogynistic ideas and practices from the past have been passed down to today’s hip-hop youth. For example, during slavery the black woman was often forced to have sexual relations with any male clatterers, overseers, and slaves) that desired her. Black women were sometimes used as breeding instruments to produce more human property, and at other times forced to have sex to pay the for food, the safety of her children, or to be treated less harshly on a day to day basis. They were “paying” with their bodies as a survival strategy.
Out of this emerged the stereotype of black women as promiscuous and oversexed, and this shaped some black women’s sexual morality. Some started to look at themselves as society viewed them, and some accepted that they had no control over their own bodies. When trying to fit into white society after slavery and take on ascribed white gender roles. Some black men wanted black women to have a economic providers. They have been, for the most part, unable to meet each other’s expectations, but these same obsessions are demonstrated in hip-hop culture.
Some Omen want men to be the economic providers, and use their sexual power to receive economic gain from men. While some men within hip-hop want women to be passive and have learned to manipulate women by offering money and power to them. In a study done about black male/female relationships of the hip-hop generation, any black men in the hip-hop culture that were interviewed valued economic resources and used these resources as a way to manipulate and control women. And some women negotiated with their bodies for things that they wanted. 4] In order to gain access to these things and to get the love and attention from men that they Ant, some women felt they must cater to the exploitative images of what men want and think women should be. Many women defined their own worth on what they can do for and get from a man. Some women were willing to take risks with their bodies, minds and hearts hoping to ease their socio-economic status and gain security for their children’s future, and they have learned to use their sexuality to do this.
Vibe Magazine talked to four Omen in the September 2001 issue who all regularly had one-night stands or on- going sexual relationships with rappers. One of the women Vibe talked to is Nikkei, a 30-year-old woman who has had many lovers in the hip-hop industry. Vibe said, “0 her lovers read like a Who’s Who of Her reason for partaking in multiple insignificant relationships with rappers was, “I’ve got nothing to offering education, no good Job, no nothing. So why would a man want me, other than sex? I felt I had to give, so I used myself.  Many women like Nikkei are put all of the blame on themselves for being used by men. They assumed and accepted that men would oppress and disrespect them. As another one of the women described, “If you had the right kind of man that wasn’t controlling, and you were like a team, it’d be check out there’s no man out there like that. “ The four women described a new low in relationships between men and women within the hip-hop community. Men thought that women were only worth giving them sexual favors, and women thought men are only worth giving them money.
Censorship of hip-hop music is not the solution. Instead, the solution is to change the culture, system, and ideology so misogynist lyrics are not written. There are female hip-hop artists and consumers who are trying to fight against the hip-hop misogyny, but many times they are not taken seriously. Some female artists try to work within the current male-dominated industry and play the expected misogynist role. Others are seen as misusing sex and feminism and devaluing black men, or Just “shooting’ off at the mouth. “ Education is the first step in changing gender relations in the hip-hop community.
People first need to be made aware that women’s rights are being violated verbally in that hip-hop youth interact with one another everyday. Each individual can remember the roots of his/her own internalized sexist ideology. Knowing the history of this ideology, we can keep history from being repeated. A change in the hip-hop culture’s collective consciousness can spread to the larger population, or vice versa. En need knowledge to act and speak out against the exploitation of women, not only in hip-hop culture, but in all cultures everywhere.