Was Ashley Judd accurate in criticizing hip-hop and rap as misogynistic? Absolutely. But what about the violent and hyper-sexualized music of some female artists?
Editor’s Note: Please be advised that this article contains graphic and vulgar references to lyrics from various popular songs.
sa•do•mas•o•chism: Receiving pleasure, often sexual, from acts involving the infliction or receiving of pain or humiliation. Also known as S&M.
This week, bloggers have been chattering across the Web about Ashley Judd’s harsh indictment of rap and hip-hop, which she called a “rape culture” and “the soundtrack of misogyny.” She has since
apologized, but the debate rages on. Judd’s comments revived the ongoing argument about “the evils of rap” and set off the far-too-common finger-pointing game against hip-hop culture. By now it’s a trite topic, but I cannot help but add my two cents.
Women have a right to be offended by some of rap’s lyrics; to call much of rap music misogynistic, at least the rap that plays on the radio, is a fair critique. However, many took offense to Judd’s statements because of the racial dynamic. Since a large majority of rap and hip-hop artists are male and African American, Judd (a white woman) is being taken to task by some in the black community for simply saying what many of us already suspect to be true.
But are black men the only guilty parties in this controversy? With a new crop of edgier and sexier female artists begging to be choked, spanked, and viewed as being as aggressive as their male counterparts, are we to assume they are also misogynistic and contributing to this rape culture? Or is being as “bad as the boys” the natural evolution of feminism?
A few sample lyrics (reader discretion advised):
Rihanna: “Now the pain is my pleasure cause nothing could measure…The affliction of the feeling leaves me wanting more….Sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and whips excite me.” (“S&M”)
Nicki Minaj: “If I had a d***, I would pull it out and [urinate] on ’em…. I’m the terminator… talk slick I’ma have to terminate her. These little nappy headed hoes need a perminator.” (“Did it On Em’ “)
Those unfamiliar with pop culture may call this a “black thing,” but it’s all across the Billboard charts. For instance, a new remix of Rihanna’s “S&M” features pop icon Britney Spears. And then these:
Katy Perry: “You’re so hypnotizing. Could you be the devil? …They say be afraid, you’re not like the others… Infect me with your love and fill me with your poison. Take me … wanna be a victim….” (“E.T.”)
Lady Gaga: “I want your horror; I want your design. ‘Cause you’re a criminal as long as you’re mine…I want your psycho, your vertical stick. Want you in my rear window, baby, you’re sick.” (“Bad Romance”)
What do you think? Does this trend signal a new feminist empowerment among female artists, a logical response to the misogynistic lyrics of male rappers? Is it fair to single out rap and hip-hop as the only sexist and sexually violent genres in popular music?
Since heavy metal is no longer at the top of the charts, it’s brand of misogyny is out of sight and out of mind. So to just say it’s racist bigotry coming out against hip hop is a poor read on the situation.
Ashley Judd is not the first one to criticize hip hop. She is just the latest. And, as Jelani stated–unfortunately she’s both *white* AND a once sexually abused *woman* who’s evidently sick of it all. How dare she?!! (Yet, she too has done her share of self-exploitation in films.)
Remember, Oprah did a two part discussion on the issue: http://www.racialicious.com/2007/04/20/oprahs-town-hall-meetings-on-misogyny-in-hip-hop/
I’m pretty sure the bottom line, as usual, is cash flow. Don’t buy it and it goes away. Maybe there is a deeper underlying societal/sociological cause that needs to be addressed; the hearts of the people pouring their hard-earned cash our for this…”stuff.” They must agree with, admire it, and/or live it.
Principally, those trying to walk in faith, should remember: “one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).
“I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I *hate the work* of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me” (Psalm 101:31).
Well let’s see here…
Female empowerment is not a new idea, there have been plenty of artists who have made it their mission to empower women by “reclaiming control” over their sexuality. Before Katy Perry and Lady Gaga there was Madonna, and before Madonna there was, oh, I don’t know… Marilyn Monroe.
Is it a logical response to male misogynist rappers? Only logical in the sense that they see how much that stuff sells and they want to get in on the take. It’s not remotely logical, though, to suggest that publicly debasing oneself through the depiction of S&M fantasies and contributing to the further objectivization of women in general is somehow empowering.
And is it fair? Of course not, but it succeeds in attracting attention, which is what Ashley Judd needed since she was promoting her book.
Hip-hop culture has long been a target of those who wish to pin society’s ills upon it, but that’s only a testimony of it’s massive reach. When popular (or formerly popular) figures stop targeting hip-hop to gain publicity, that means that hip-hop has fallen off the cliff of irrelevance.
I think Ashley Judd was correct too, and she has every right to criticize what she sees playing out in rap music. These hip hop artists have a responsibility to their communities, to women, and to the world, not just to their art or bank accounts. I hope they’ll learn to take seriously the critiques like this one and the one from the Spelman students who protested Nelly’s appearance on their campus a few years ago. And you’re right Stephanie, female singers need to take responsibility for the mess they’re pushing out there too.
I have a question. Is Ashley Judd, a celebrity, willing to point out the weeds in her own Hollywood backyard? Also I find in these cases that no one EVER talks about the record labels, their execs and who owns them because that is where the power is at. I would not be surprised if many of them sit on the boards of organizations she supports.
In short, mainstream rap is horrible. I wont defend it. But it seems like the idea of moral consistency needs to be taken seriously.