Misogyny and Hip Hop have become almost inseparable, with black women arguably being on the center stage as victims. But are these misogynistic lyrics and images just an unfortunate coincidence or are they simply reflecting the ‘morals’ of our societies and the cultures that drive them?
Misogyny in hip hop and our cultures are like two mirrors reflecting on each other, making their relation abstract. Unlike the use of the word “bitches”, with images of women reduced to just their thongs and bras. Nevertheless, this objectification of women continues in reality exactly where the videos have left of, only this time with a mask on. From hip hop video vixens to hip helpless reality vixens.
The word “bitch” gives us goose bumps whenever we hear it in hip hop songs, but in reality sexism and insults against women are defended and even justified, whether they’re verbal or “I feel the strength of my husband’s fist on my face”. Hip hop is at least sincere, frequently referring to women as bitches, nothing else but objects, as seen in most of the videos. Women have little control over their bodies. This feeling of helplessness is no different from that of a woman who is forced/expected to have sex with her husband, regardless. Identical to the videos, women are there to please and pleasure the men.
There is almost a similarity between that and the discussion about women not experiencing orgasms. What does that reveal, male selfishness, among other things. This is also parallel to the traditional view on sexuality, that sex is for procreation and not pleasure. Furthermore, female genital mutilation (FGM) also comes to mind. This cultural practice denies women of experiencing pleasure through sexual intercourse, so men can feel secure and in control over women and their bodies and desires. Although these may be totally different scenarios or circumstances, but the idea behind is very much similar.
Male masculinity goes further. Women are usually seen flocking around the men in these music videos, a sign of power and high status for the man. But what’s the difference between this picture and the practice of polygamy? The message seems to be the same, the more women you have, the more powerful and respected you will be. Even among the youths, there is this type of double standard. For example, women who sleep with many men, are considered “whores”, “bitches” or “sluts”, but men, who sleep with many women, are respected, and even praised by their peers. Just look at facebook pictures of guys who are surrounded by girls. Observe their body language and facial expressions and then proceed to reading the comments below, and you’ll begin to realize, there’s a pattern, which connects with the rest of the dots.
Men feel entitled to have many women, but also entitled in the ownership of their bodies, because they have paid the girls to appear in their videos, therefore, they are their properties. The culture of dowry has also influenced this type of arrogance to a certain extent. Once a man (not all) pays the dowry, the relationship can go from husband and wife, to master and slave. Something that brings me back to raps favorite word, bitch. Women find themselves being called, “wewe mwanamke”, or “you woman”, which to me it can be just as insulting as the word bitch, because it does the same thing, dehumanizes the individual. But what’s wrong with these video girls doing what they’re expected to do, and that is looking pretty for the camera. They are like flowers, decorating the garden, the music video in this case. In the real world, don’t we call these types of women trophy wives? In both cases, the emphasis is on looks, not intellect or anything else. Are men the only ones to blame here?
On the other hand, the relationship between physical abuse towards women and hip hop music has its own story to tell. This video clip (starts @ 3:00) narrates the story of these two worlds and how they are interconnected. Although this clip shows an incident that happened in New York, I couldn’t help it, but think of the men in Kariakoo, Dar es Salaam, and other places where women have had their clothes torn and ripped off, because they were perceived as indecent by the men. Hip Hop videos are guilty of glorifying such behaviors. This glorification is also on our own media, with headlines that blame women. On the contrary, we love the women in the music videos, but we’re ‘un-cool’ with those in our societies in the name of morality.
Short skirts and other revealing clothes are said to encourage rape. Whats the message then, that any woman who wears clothes that are perceived as indecent, whether she is walking down the street or modeling/dancing in the music video, she should be abused, because she brought it upon herself? This male aggression is partly explained by Dr. Dines who draws comparison between reality and pornography. And most of music videos today are similar to soft porn.
But how valid is the revealing clothes argument that apparently provokes male aggression. And who is to blame, women’s wardrobe, or men’s inability to control themselves? Recently, women in Malawi were being harassed for wearing trousers. Were their jeans too tight? But if that was the reason, then what can be said about men and their skinny jeans, indecent also? Jay Z raps, “Cant wear skinny jeans cause my knots don’t fit”. Mwana FA, raps, “Unanitega”, suggesting that, the girls revealing clothes are flirting and teasing him, implying that, it’s really not his fault to feel the way he feels, desiring her sexually. This type of thinking is not uncommon either. If a woman shows a little bit of skin then she must be asking for some sexual attention.
Even in conservative cultures, where women are completely covered up, sexual abuse towards them is also fairly common. In this controversial poem “Submission” (start @1:20), the woman seems to point at Allah as a reason for her grievances. Women have to be “obedient”, she recites. Those abused suffer quietly inside their veils. Tupac collaborates, “Dying inside, but outside you looking fearless”. She continues to say, I wear the “veil inside in order to deter him (Hakeem, her father’s brother), he unveiled me, ripped my inner garment”. The rapists’ “honor” however, cannot be questioned, leaving her feeling like, “submission to you (Allah), feels like self betrayal”. Again, a woman is treated like a property to be used by a man, and her voice is irrelevant.
Men usually get away with such abuses, because, “every time I push him away, he quotes you (Allah)”. Men feel like they can treat women however they want, whether in the music videos, in the street, or even their own wives at home, because “they are pollution”, “but when they have purified themselves, you may approach them in any manner, ordained for you by Allah”. Are men given the permission to be abusive here? What about a father who abuses his wife in front of his son? Tupac raps, “I blame my mother for turning my brother into a crack baby”. In this case, it’s the father who is turning his son, into a future abusive boyfriend and husband. Tupac warns of the consequences of disrespecting women, that “if we don’t stop, we’ll have a race of babies that will hate the ladies”.
Tupac’s lyrics could apply to those men in Central Park New York. ‘Those men’, being the “babies” while the music videos being the abusive father. Most of the men did seem to be fixated over the women’s rear end, and their breasts, two parts that are always sexualized in the music videos.
But is the admiration of a woman’s rear end a black thing, since in both hip hop videos and African songs, from Ndombolo to Mduara, women’s rear end usually gets the most attention. I guess Nelly was not too off the mark in Tip Drill when he rapped, “it must be ya ass cause it aint ya face”. Then, is this more of a cultural/race thing, than anything else? Nicki Minaj however, her booty seems to be breaking down racial barriers, while the modeling industry continues to make a different case on whats beauty, defining it as, fair skin, tall and skinny.
Last but not least, women are not completely innocent here, as a female responds in Tip Drill. She says, “my apple bottom look right, I know you wanna bite”. She’s using her body to seduce or tease the guy, in order to trap him so he can, “payin my bills and buyin automobiles”. This leaves the question of who is actually using who for discussion. But in the end, if we agree that Hip Hop lyrics and videos are to blame for the breaking down of society’s morality then we’ll be admitting that, the society has abandoned its responsibilities, leaving them to Hip Hop to raise the children. I’m also concerned with globalization that the girl/woman who “lower my gaze, and guard my modesty”, the same one that “draw my veil over my bosom, as you wish” may be slipping away from the tight grip of our conservation cultures. The question now is, how do we move forward in this new reality, with our identity and dignity still intact?
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