Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sexism and Misogyny: Who Takes the Rap?

This article by bell hooks is an awesome criticism of the critiques of gangsta rap music. Since hooks is a woman of color and a well known feminist author, she is often the tokenized "black feminist" who gets called for interviews regarding her opinions of gangsta rap. To the interviewers surprise however, hooks is more interested in discussing how the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy creates a space where this music is acceptable and how the values expressed in the misogynist lyrics found in gangsta rap are a direct reflection of the values seen within the dominant culture.

While the media tends to sensationalize the violent, anti-woman messages in gangsta rap and portray this culture as a sort of pathological deviance from the dominant culture, it is in fact a direct result of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. The overindulgence of material goods as well as male domination over women are clear representations of our capitalist patriarchal society and although the white supremacist piece is missing, this could explain the dramatic emphasis placed on the capitalist patriarchal lyrics seen in gangsta rap.

Hooks criticizes Brent Staples critique of gangta rap music in his article "The Politics of Gangsta Rap: A Music Celebrating Murder and Misogyny". Although staples succeeds in demonizing black male youth, he makes no mention of the cultural contexts that socialize men to have these misogynistic views and he also does not address why a huge portion of gangsta rap consumers are young white men. Gangsta rap did not evolve in a vacuum and the better question to ask is not "why are young black men creating this type of music" but rather "why does this music and these lyrics appeal to mainstream culture?" In a capitalist society things are produced in accordance their demand and if nobody wanted to hear this music and the violent messages that go along with it, then folks would not be producing it. 

heres the link to the article if you're interested 


Anita P. said...

"why does this music and these lyrics appeal to mainstream culture?"
It’s a sad truth that mainstream western culture tends to perpetuate the normalcy and reinforce the popularity of patriarchal entertainment (like gangsta rap), and the question of why people allow it to dominate is extremely important! I constantly find myself questioning why mainstream popular “things” are so popular (stuff that is often times so disgusting and blatantly racist/sexist). I’ve had several discussions with friends about why so many people find these songs/movies/shows/ads so interesting and appealing and each time we come to the same conclusion. To be honest, we don’t really know why they appeal to people, however, we can assume that some of the reasons why they aren’t challenged enough include the idea that we tend to be socialized to NOT challenge or critically think of things that are commonly accepted (I apologize for my abysmal grammar). Before I was educated on gender related issues, I didn’t really notice the blatant male dominance in our culture (even creepier, in my day to day life). How could I have been so blind? How could that type of discrimination just slip by me without my noticing? What’s worst, sometimes I DID notice it but thought “well, I guess it’s not really a problem since everyone acts this way”. The same questions can be applied to race (I believe racism, at times, is more evident and transparent than sexism). However, both sexism and racism are somewhat hidden under a socialized and conditioned coat (don’t get me wrong, sexism and racism can also be VERY visible, but for the purpose of discussing the more subtle ways the media and mainstream pop culture infiltrates our minds, it is less obvious). Until you are knowledgeable and educated (whether that be through movies, books, friends, parents, music) on issues of gender and race, you are unable to critically analyze your surroundings and how our society constantly reinforces the notions of male dominance and white supremacy. If we are not critical of our surroundings, it is rare that we will realize how socialized and how conditioned we are to look past these forms of oppression because they are so commonly accepted and have become such a norm.
Socialization is a monster.

Ani Reina said...

I love that bell hooks called out Spin magazine for tearing apart her interview with Ice Cube.

This article shows us that not only are black men being categorized as sexist, woman beating, gun blazing men but feminists are supposed to be seen as anti-man, as viewing everything from a solo gender issue lens. Not only that but it does show us how interconnected these issues really are. How you can not dismantle the racism towards black men without dismantling capitalism strong hold on our culture.

Now onto why I feel people like "gangsta rap". White middle class kids like this stuff because as we saw in the movie "Beyond Beats and Rhythms", white kids literally saw this as a way to "relate" to black youth. Well not that white kid in the pick-up truck, he just liked the beat and "rhythms". However even if we try and analyze his response we can see that he found this as an acceptable avenue for releasing his anger/desire of women. Just as white men find it acceptable to act out towards women of color white men just as easily find it acceptable to listen to and identify with black masculinity since among our white culture black men are "inherently" violent and sexist.