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Where My Girls At?
Misogyny in hip-hop’s gotta go
Danielle Chambers
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Walking down the street I see a black boy who doesn’t look older than 11. The boy has on sagging jeans and a large black hoodie and a new-looking pair of Tims. He’s walking with white wires hanging from his ears. I’m with a young girl from my neighborhood. She’s 8 and telling me about how she scored 100 on her spelling test. I tell her how proud I am of her and how bright and beautiful she is.

She points out the boy and tells me how he’s in the 6th grade and about how all the girls have a crush on him. The boy approaches, reciting the rhymes to the song he’s listening to on his iPod, “These are my b-tches...my alpha b-tches...I get b-tches.” I look down at her and ask her if she likes him. She looks at me like I’m crazy and says, “Ew, boys are disgusting!”

After that I go home and look up the song, and I’m angry when I find out it’s by Lil Wayne, one of the most popular rappers today. I’m not so much angry that he wrote it as upset at who’s listening to it. The audience of some of the most famous and “respected” rappers are boys like that 6th grader, and sometimes they’re even younger.

What happens when that young girl decides she likes boys, I wonder. Are the boys going to cheat on her, abuse her, and call her a b-tch? What happens when Lil Wayne’s daughter starts to like boys? Is this how he wants boys to treat his little girl?

It Hurts Everybody

Lil Wayne is far from alone in the way his music disrespects women. These kinds of messages are so common in hip-hop. Everywhere you look is another video with black women shaking their assets and another rapper talking about women like they’re not even human. It not only hurts the self-esteem of the young girls and women, but conditions young black men to believe that women of color do not deserve respect. And that hurts our entire community. As Chris Rock says, “I love hip-hop, but I’m tired of defending it.”

Rappers create and perpetuate many negative stereotypes of black women. They show black women as money-grubbing whores and uneducated. These stereotypes affect black women in every part of society.

Disrespecting black women has become so routine that two years ago, a middle-aged white talk radio DJ named Don Imus felt he had the right to call black female basketball players at Rutgers University “nappy-headed hos.” (Imus was fired from his job, but less than a year later he was back on the air.)

Sadly, what Imus said is the same thing that people in hip-hop are saying about black women. I don’t see anyone firing them from their jobs.

Bring Back the Strong Girl

Hip hop wasn’t always this way. Women used to inspire and show the world a different side of what the hip-hop scene is all about. Female rappers spoke up and defended real women by flipping the script and taking sexuality into their own hands. Artists like Queen Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa, TLC, MC Lyte, and Lauryn Hill provided voices of female empowerment.

image by Lee Samuel

But many of those MCs are not around today. In fact, I can’t think of any positive female MCs in mainstream hip-hop right now holding the ladies down.

So where are all my girls at? What happened to the strong girl from around the way? Most of the women MCs have vanished. And in a world dominated by men, women are not treated with respect.

The most popular woman in the hip-hop world now is “Superhead” and it’s not because of her skills on the mic. She wrote the notorious Confessions of a Video Vixen about all the rappers she slept with and how they mistreated her. Confessions was number one on the bestseller list. She’s one of the most famous women in hip-hop because she played into the stereotype.

Mainstream female rappers like Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown are nice on the mic, but when was the last time anybody heard about a Foxy Brown album instead of a Foxy Brown court date? Lil’ Kim, anyone? I think not. She used to be like hip-hop’s Madonna, letting the world know that women were in control of their own sexuality rather than sexual objects that exist just to be handled by men. But her music just hasn’t matured as she’s gotten older. Retaliating against men by referring to them as objects isn’t a solution. Lil’ Kim’s just a female version of the same old misogynistic messages perpetuated by male rappers.

All for a Buck

For anyone who thinks that this is no big deal, I would argue that it’s actually destroying the entire industry. There is a lack of individuality. All the rappers’ beats sound the same and they’re all rapping about the same things: money and b-tches. There’s no innovation, just a pressure to make money. This is supposed to be our art form; it’s part of our culture, imbedded in the way we dress, talk, and even think. Generation hip-hop shouldn’t be sacrificing women just for the sake of making a buck.

But I still hold out hope for this generation of rappers. Some rappers today like Andre 3000, Lupe Fiasco, Common, and T.I. write music that is cool and sounds good and has positive messages. These rappers come from very distinct places and have swag all their own. They have new fresh sounds that are completely different from the rest of the rappers in the game. Unfortunately, most of the other MCs with fame and clout, both male and female, are just making it hard for sistas out here.

And there are still strong women in hip-hop who can inspire today’s youth. We need them to speak up about the beautiful black women in the real world who struggle every day to overcome these damaging stereotypes.

True Women of Color

There are many powerful black women who uplift our generation and use their gifts to help advance people of color. We live in an age of graceful, smart, and beautiful women like Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou, Condoleezza Rice, and Oprah Winfrey. But too often, the things they stand for and accomplish are ignored by society. My question is why, after years of struggle and accomplishments, women of color are still reduced to b-tches.

Many women say they listen to the lyrics, but don’t associate themselves with the negative, degrading things that the rappers say. Come on, get real. If you’re a black woman, they mean you. Young black women should not subject themselves to what destroys them. Be choosy about the music you listen to, and don’t support so-called artists who are putting out the same tired old messages.

The value of the black community is lowered by artists who are in a position to advocate for change but do not. If we start choosing not to support them, maybe we’ll be the ones to make a change for the better.

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(FCYU-2009-09-13)

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