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50 Shades Of Sexism: Hip Hop & Degrading Songs About Women


Deidre

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Video below: (NSFW, some strong language)

 

 

 

 

I remember when I first heard this song; I was at a trendy pub with a few friends. We were unwinding from a stressful work week, having a few drinks together. This song has a catchy beat, and we were dancing at the bar, ‘’hip hopping’’ to the lyrics. I happen to like the genre ‘hip hop,’ but over the past decade, might it be a fair assessment to say that it’s digressed into little more than vulgar, sexist messages aimed mainly at women?

 

 

What’s worse is when I hear female singers degrading themselves and women in general, in their music, as well. Beyonce’s ‘’The Girl You Like,’’ comes to mind, the song’s theme being how a woman should morph into whatever ‘her man’ wishes. Many female singers of mainstream pop music, belt out lyrics that seem to drag women back decades, so have we really come a long way, baby?

 

 

Sexism is (still) very prevalent in various sectors of society, and not just against women. But, I thought it interesting that the actual definition of sexism is: prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination based on gender, primarily against women. So for the sake of this blog, we will focus on that precise definition, as it relates to modern day literature and pop music. (namely hip hop) For the record, I plan to discuss sexism as it stands against men, in a future blog.

 

 

Something to note, misogyny is different than sexism. I hear the term ‘misogynist’ bandied about in the media, or even in my own social circles, and it’s often misconstrued for sexism. Let me underscore this, because I found it fascinating when I first learned it from a friend of mine who is a psychologist. She conveyed, ‘’All misogynists are sexist, but not all sexists are misogynists.’’ Someone can be a garden variety sexist, without having contempt for all women. Misogynists have a disdain for all women, and it largely stems from their childhoods. Sexists can range in severity, but they are not as harmful to women as misogynists. My friend the psychologist explained that most misogynists treat women as rivals, competitors, and they have a very difficult time respecting them. They are often self-loathing, themselves. So, I thought it’s worth clarifying that sexism and misogyny, while similar, are not interchangeable terms.

 

 

Back to the Chris Brown song, ‘’Loyal.’’ Interesting to note, Chris Brown was in the news not too long ago, for physically assaulting his now ex-girlfriend. Rihanna. Isn’t it ironic that he would come out with a song that depicts women in such a negative light? Dubbing women as ‘’hoes,’’ and stereotyping them as cheaters and gold diggers, is blatantly sexist. But, I remember the night I heard the song for the very first time. It was fun to dance to, and the lyrics were nothing but a blur, after a martini or two. But, shortly thereafter, I decided to take a closer look at the song and was disheartened that radio stations play it with such enthusiastic frequency. So, that begs the question – why are these radio stations playing such malignantly sexist music for their audiences? Has society found new ways to subliminally indoctrinate young men (mainly who listen to hip hop) into discriminating against women?

 

 

The curious part of all of this is that the video is fun to watch; Chris Brown has been compared to Michael Jackson, in terms of his musical talent and effortless dance choreography. Add a few popular rappers into the mix, and you have a best seller. At the end of the day, it’s all about money, even if it means insulting and offending a portion of the population. I don’t mean to come across as an alarmist, but these lyrics and other songs whose themes are cut from the same cloth, are harmful to women. Insidiously, sexist and borderline misogynist messages are piping out of car stereos, and no one cares. How can we expect changes elsewhere in society as it relates to women’s rights issues, if we allow such degrading music to become the staple of modern pop?

 

 

Or is this considered free speech? I’m a vehement proponent of free speech, but not if it causes harm to the public, at large. This song causes harm, in a very cunning way, and not only to women.

 

 

This song is every bit as insulting to men, as it is to women. All men don’t view women in this unhealthy light nor do they subscribe to such offenses. ‘’Loyal’’ gives off the impression that women and men should seek to be adversaries, and that the only reason to associate with one another at all, is for sex.

 

 

I don’t blame songs such as this for the problems of today with respect to sexism and misogyny, but it just saddens me that we find insulting women to be …entertaining. Society finds it acceptable to stereotype women, and we wonder why these attitudes exist in the workplace.

 

 

In the grand scheme of the feminist movement, this pales in comparison to the issues that women are faced with every day. Rather, I liken it to a leaky faucet that a homeowner doesn’t bother to fix, until months later, the water is knee-deep, and he wonders why or how he didn’t notice the steady dripping of the faucet.

 

 

This song and others like it …are like that leaky faucet.

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Have you seen the film "Miss Representation"? It is on Netflix. I watched it last weekend. It touches on some of the issues covered in your post.

 

It's not just rap and hip hop. Other genres have that weird sexist thing going on. It's just more overt in hip hop and rap, imho. There are cultural reasons for it and they run pretty deep. I think that the outright sexism and misogyny found in popular music speaks to something deeper having run amok in our modern culture. What's wrong with America that our artists and musicians are putting out such content?

 

It's not a lack of Jesus per se but a lack of higher ideals, imo. What do young people (minorities in particular) have to look forward to these days? Gee, you can take the moral high road and work 2-3 dead end jobs or be a government debt donkey for higher education...or maybe you'll hit it big and become an athlete or a rapper! But first, you'll have to be a thug or a playboy or a fast girl and there are no guarantees that you won't end up dead, in jail or doing the rounds on Maury and Springer and the Judge show circuit to make ends meet.

 

So that's where this shit comes from and that's the target audience for a lot of it. It's supposed to inspire young kids in the hood to stay strapped and keep strivin' for their piece of the pie. Because being knee-deep in money and honeys is the goal, yo.

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I share your angst. Am I idealistic to believe that if every child were taught and modeled Humanism, popular sentiment and society would be different? People of all genders and orientations and lifestyles would treat one another with respect, equality, and compassion. Maybe I'm an anomaly in believing in that. If we honor Humanity and demonstrate that to one another, little by little, more people will see what they have rather than what they don't have. They will see who they are rather than you they are not. And maybe we won't ever see the entire society change. But we will see individual minds and lives change. Maybe that's the way it's supposed be...

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Can I be brutally honest and vulnerable for a minute here?

 

I am 34 years old, which means I grew up during the peak of gangsta rap. I loved it and I still do. I do draw my line at Too Short, but as a teenager I listened to OutKast... 2Pac... Snoop... B.I.G... all of it, and I listen to all of it still, when the mood strikes me. I'm listening to 2Pac as I type this. Some of my liking for hip-hop is simple; the catchy beats and the way it sounds to my ear, but part of it is the culture behind the music. The fearlessness, or apparent fearlessness, of the artists is a big part of it. I have always struggled with anxiety issues and I listen to rap to help make myself feel brave. But the stereotypical image of the dominant male is a part of it as well, and the complicated psychological reasons why that attracts me are reasons I cannot quite figure out for sure.

 

In high school I was always attracted to the bad boy. Which, in middle-class suburbia, was the thug wanna be. To this day I find myself drawn to that persona. I cannot find myself truly attracted to any man who does not have at least an element of this to his personality. I live in Seattle, and our quarterback, Russell Wilson, is known for his squeaky-clean image. Some friends and I were discussing attractive men and she brought him up. I responded, "Nope, he's too much of a good boy for me."

 

When I fell for evangelical Christianity, an element of it was my attraction to the gender roles. I married my current husband five years ago on the premise that I would be a submissive wife. It didn't work... I am too damn stubborn, opinionated, and rebellious to truly be that for him. But even though we have had MAJOR fights over the controlling aspect of his personality (to the extent of coming very close to the idea of divorce), there is still part of me that knows that if he were to lose his desire for that authority, I would be turned off.

 

When I was still a Christian, I argued on an anti-fundamentalism forum once about the submissive wife thing. I had several people comment that my thoughts on the topic simply showed that I had a fetish or sexual preference for dominant men. Is that what it is? Is that what it is for anyone who listens to music with misogynistic lyrics?

 

I sure wish I had a free psychologist. They'd be BUSY with all of my issues.

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Aiyana, we could be twins. I have dated too many 'bad boys' to count. I'm 33, and it's time for a change. I went out on a date tonight, and while it's too soon to tell, I'd like to think my luck is changing. But it's not luck at all really. It's a matter of believing that we deserve better, and when we stay true to ourselves, the right men will present themselves. I'm not all the interested in finding love, as much as just enjoying someone who has something in common with me, and is a good person. It's funny you make the comment ''Nope, he's too much of a good boy for me.'' My last bf was quite wonderful, but where is he now? He wasn't a bad boy, but I ended it? Move over, I will share the psychologist's couch right along with you. ((hugs)) Thank you very much for your open hearted reply.

 

@ seven, I really like your reply. And I happen to agree. I'd still like to see it change.

 

@ Human, as always you make sense. Thanks for your thoughts to this, too. smile.png

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Yeah, my husband gets really irritated by all of it (he's a former thug teenager who became a Christian and still is a Christian). He likes to say that all his bad boy is gone. I tell him, I know better, it's still in there ;)

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@Aiyana,

You wrote above:

" I have always struggled with anxiety issues and I listen to rap to help make myself feel brave. But the stereotypical image of the dominant male is a part of it as well, and the complicated psychological reasons why that attracts me are reasons I cannot quite figure out for sure."

 

Either the circumstances or some particular events in your family of origin, or otherwise in your early childhood, predisposed your perception of reality and self, and the music played a major role in conditioning your mind and personality; or the music (and other, related, cultural elements) became the religion of your youth (later childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood). Music is a powerful and effective vehicle for conveying and continually reinforcing an ideology, and shaping a person's view of reality and self-identity.

 

Have you explored this with a psychologist? (You mentioned that above.) I wonder how many professional counselors really even pay attention to the power of cultural elements in the influencing or reinforcing of people's reality and self-image. They seem, instead, often enamored with their abstract theories and peculiar applications of them; and it seems they overlook some factors that are more concrete.

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I share your angst. Am I idealistic to believe that if every child were taught and modeled Humanism, popular sentiment and society would be different? People of all genders and orientations and lifestyles would treat one another with respect, equality, and compassion. Maybe I'm an anomaly in believing in that. If we honor Humanity and demonstrate that to one another, little by little, more people will see what they have rather than what they don't have. They will see who they are rather than you they are not. And maybe we won't ever see the entire society change. But we will see individual minds and lives change. Maybe that's the way it's supposed be...

 

I love the Humanist approach to live. It's infinitely more sensible than my xtian upbringing. I am certain society would be immeasurably better if children were taught simply to value every person, rather than follow arbitrary rules from ancient books - most of which seem to be horrendously misogynistic.

 

At some point I need to do some serious introspection regarding my own biases toward both men and women. I tend to see women in a generally more positive light, but I'm not too confident about my motives. I do think I'm mildly misanthropic, due to my childhood. Unless a male distinguishes himself, I tend to withhold the benefit of the doubt. 

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