Monday, April 30, 2007


From the Department of Stating the Obvious, this headline: "Debaters question if hip-hop hates women".

That's almost as pointless a "debate" as "Debaters question if sun rises in east," or "Debaters question if organisms evolve"!


  1. Hi, I have been lurking for awhile, and enjoy your blog very much. Though most of what you have written I agree with, I would have to disagree with you on the point that debating that hip-hop is a focus of female hatred is an invalid argument.

    Although there are a lot of hip-hop lyrics which could be seen as sexist, and/or defamatory towards girls and women, there are many hip-hop artist which celebrates the female gender.

    Just like many theist believe that atheist are several types of evil because of stereotypes which are perpetuated in the media and in other sources, the hip-hop genre has had the disadvantage of having a large sector of their popular media flooded with the image of men senselessly bashing females, when in the large part it is a very small percentage of their music population.

    For instance, my favorite rap song right now is "That's Life" by Killer Mike (the lyrics and mp3 is from: Yes, there is a lot of vulgarity, however, there is also a message about the reason he writes exactly what he writes, and he expresses a lot of things that I think even the best of us can understand to some extend.

    So, yeah, hip-hop artist do sometimes defame females, but that isn't the only thing they do, and the reasons that they may or may not do it are valid study issues. Just like the reason why everyone is not just a theist or just an atheist.

    (BTW: I am an atheist)

  2. No, because "the sun rises in east" and " organisms evolve" are facts and not so much overgeneralization about (sujective) artistic genres as to make the statements meaningless.

    The last time I heard “all rappers and rap fans hate women” was when I happened to catch the end of a 7th Heaven episode. Good job guys.

  3. I do find it interesting though that it wouldn't be marketed if it wasn't easy to sell. Cearly someone buys this--which means it's "representin'" somewhere. That's the part that scares me. It's not so much that someone writes music about it. It's more that there's a market for this message.

  4. While there is female-empowerment hip-hop (largely from women rappers), as well as stuff repudiating the sexism of the genre, it occurs to me a lot of that work is in rebuttal to the misogyny that was there to begin with. While I confess to limited knowledge of the culture, most African-American men in their 20's whom I've met simply seem to use the word "bitch" as their word for "woman". Where does that come from, and how could such language become a cultural norm?

  5. “a lot of that work is in rebuttal to the misogyny… how could such language become a cultural norm?”

    I’m not here to say there isn’t misogyny in modern hip-hop. Although I think there is considerably less than there was in the nineties when “gansta rap” was the big thing. Just as eighties rock had its misogynistic streak from which it eventually recovered.

    I think the problem is less about the popular style of music amongst young people than it is the misdirected anger and frustration of those young people. Or, more accurately, the misdirected anger and frustration of the last generation’s young people which created the ‘cultural norms’ you are referring to which are then picked up by the new young people who feel they have something to prove to the old young people.

    However, the ‘work in rebuttal’ is evidence of the genre being reclaimed just as rock was reclaimed from hair bands who were just as guilty of objectifying women as gangsta rappers.

    Again, my point is not that hip-hop culture doesn’t have a poor attitude toward women, but that there is in fact room for a valid discussion on the issue. This is not a “Duh!” question with a “Duh!” answer.

    I love you guys but considering your specific experiences in dealing with people’s black and white misconceptions of clearly gray issues… I’m just surprised.

    But have no fear… you are forgiven.

  6. Well, I intended the "Duh!" to be in response to the simple question of whether or not hip-hop has, in fact, a misogyny problem (in the same way it has a "glorify the criminal/gangsta/killa/doin'-time lifestyle" problem). Once we've conceded the obvious, that it does, valid discussion may at that point commence.

  7. Fair enough.

    I think soon we'll see that this is a storm that's already passing and that the 50 Cents are just sort of the final rolls of thunder.

    I think Tracie hit on an interesting point about demand. This deplorable attitude is, as far as I can tell, only evident on a large scale in the mainstream, commercialized music channels. I don’t think the mainstream demand is for “bitches ‘n hos” but for “a good beat that I can dance to” and that the record companies are still selling the same thing that’s been working for them since 2Pac.

    In the quote unquote underground scene, where the direction of the genre is decided, it’s rare to find the “gangsta” glorifying themes* nowadays. In fact hip-hop seems to be becoming increasingly political to reflect the anger and frustration of the new generation of young people.

    Out of curiosity, what would your response have been if the discussion was “do developers of violent video games have any concern for the innocence of children?”

    I ask because it seems pretty much the same argument.

    What about “are atheists angry about God?”

    Is that a “Duh!” because it’s obvious that there is in fact anger to be found within the atheist community?

    *Not to be confused with “this is what it’s like to grow up poor in a bad area” themes.

  8. “Do developers of violent video games have any respect for the sanctity of human life?” might have been more a more appropriate example.

  9. There's a world of difference between someone saying "Country X has a crime problem" and saying "Every citizen of country X is a criminal."

    In no way did I take your post to mean that every single rap/hip hop artist is mysoginistic. I'm not sure where that disconnect happened from your post to the comment area of this post...?

    Especially in regard to the Imus context, I thought it was clear that the "problem" was hammering guy X for using particular verbiage, while going out and actively supporting guy Y--in your own community--who uses the same (actually WORSE) verbiage. And there's no doubt that there are rappers and hip hop artists who have said 1,000X worse than what came out of Ismus' mouth. But nobody's stopping _them_ from working...?

    I don't support what Imus said--but I think that also means NOT SUPPORTING others who say THE SAME things, or worse. And the hypocrisy of complaining about my neighbor's yard when my own yard is a heap--well, as you said, it's "DUH!"

    I mean, there WAS a context to you post. And I think it was disregarded in some of these comments.

  10. “Do developers of violent video games have any respect for the sanctity of human life?” might have been more a more appropriate example.

    I don't think that's an entirely appropriate analogy becuase in violent video games you're not killing real people, nor do such games seek to encourage an attitude that doing so is okay. But then, there have been games where a genuine moral quandary has come up, like Grand Theft Auto and Postal. I think there is a real argument to be made that the GTA series glorifies crime. But overall, I don't tend to hear video gamers (of whom I am one) express "let's kill everyone" attitudes in real life, whereas I do tend to hear young men (and not just African-American ones, to be fair) who are hip-hop fans use the word "bitch" whenever they refer to any woman in any context. My observation is that if you're into the hip-hop culture, then "bitch" is simply your word for "woman".

  11. Tracie said:
    “In no way did I take your post to mean that every single rap/hip hop artist is mysoginistic. I'm not sure where that disconnect happened from your post to the comment area of this post...?”

    I think the disconnect was that the proposition was the hip-hop hates women. Strictly speaking an artistic medium cannot love or hate anything. And if the statement cannot be meant literally, then it seems like there is at least some room for interpretation. I think we read the proposition differently. Once we start to define the issue we seem to be more and more in agreement. Yes, misogyny is a cultural problem often reflected in hip-hop.

    Martin said:
    “I don't think that's an entirely appropriate analogy becuase in violent video games you're not killing real people, nor do such games seek to encourage an attitude that doing so is okay.”

    That’s true. I think what I was trying to get at is that the audience has a responsibility to discern fantasy from reality. I can’t for a second claim that there aren’t irresponsible artists, be they rappers or game developers (Postal was a disgrace). And I’m not opposed to the proposition as any kind of PC infringement. I just don’t think it accurately reflects the current state of the genre, even if that kind of misogyny is still present in the culture.

    That’s just my perspective on it though. In the spirit of full disclosure my fingers may not be right on the pulse of the hip-hop culture at large as I tend towards the indie stuff, and it’s far from my first choice in music in the first place. My observation is the opposite of yours, but I try to steer clear of anyone who does talk like that.

    On a related note, I just read that Rage Against the Machine just regrouped. A band which actually does encourage the “let’s kill everyone” attitude. If I’m making a point with that at all I guess it’s that there is a lot of art I enjoy which messed up people made. I love The Road Warrior, for example.

  12. I suppose now ought to be the prime time to mention that, as an artist myself (I used to work in the comics business, now I'm in film), one of the few things I consider to be an absolute is freedom of expression. With that said, there will always be work I disdain, and my choice is not to support such work with my money. This is true of everyone.

    Still, I can point out when I see a disturbing thematic trend that's endemic to a genre. It may be semantically true that an artistic medium cannot love or hate anything. But all art is the product of the personal views of the artist. Toasters aren't art. They don't express a worldview or an emotion. But books and films and songs are, because they do. Without an artist who wishes to express something, there can be no art, nor an artistic medium to channel it. I don't see it as a chicken-or-egg issue; the artist always has to come first, before the medium.

    Perhaps the discussion should be why there is such misogyny and glorification of crime, which just happens to be expressed through the musical medium of hip-hop, in these urban cultures. Just as with the question of violence in films and video games. Is it meant simply to be taken as escapist foolishness (like The Road Warrior or Doom), or is it communicating something valuable about the human condition (like Saving Private Ryan), or is the violence there as the expression of a real, nihilistic worldview, at which point it must be taken seriously.

  13. You mean The Road Warrior wasn’t teaching us about the human condition?

    Just kidding.

    I was talking to a friend of mine about this topic who listens to mainstream hip-hop. He reminded me that my selection of rap, indeed my selection of music in general, is from the extreme indie/underground/fringe, to the point that it’s pretty much a whole new animal. Because he’s a jerk he went on the poke fun at just how fringe I’d become but his point was that between my tastes and the fact that I never listen to the radio I have been working from a false frame of reference.

    He went on to explain that the attitude toward women has not only failed to improve since the nineties Compton era rap but is potentially even worse. He explained that part of what makes it harder to see at times is that often women in this culture play into their given rolls and people seem to have given up complaining about it for a “sucks but that’s just how it is” attitude.

    In light of this I can completely see where you were coming from. Even if I’m still not crazy about the wording of the proposition there’s no way I can stand in defense of that kind despicable behavior. I’d like to respectfully withdraw my objection.

  14. >He explained that part of what makes it harder to see at times is that often women in this culture play into their given rolls...

    Life imitates Art imitates Life imitates Art...

    It's just a reality that young people are concerned about attracting potential mates. It's a primal drive. If there are women think "this" is what appeals to men, then this is how they will behave, in order to appeal to men.

    It's like that cliche point that women in men's magazines look completely different than women in women's magazines. It's no mystery how a young girl could get confused by that. And if her focus is on "what appeals to men?" and media has any influence, she'll want fake nails and breast implants immediately.

    There just doesn't seem to be many magazines that show men seeking women who look like the healthier, more natural versions of women that appear in women's mags vs. men's mags. That's not to say that women's mags don't sometimes suffer from "too beautiful, too thin" syndrome; but their images are much less "fake" than the men's mags presentations of women; images young women are more likely to internalize as "what men want."


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