Monday, April 27, 2009

Rap, gender, race, and degradation

"OM," writing on the excellent website Butterflies and Wheels, says:

I wrote to the women's studies list yesterday to ask for thoughts on sexist epithets....
Here's one of the replies she got:
"Recently, I was standing at the bus stop with a young man who was singing along to rap music. Suddenly, he yelled "Bitch!" and I almost ran for cover.

But he was just singing along to the music.

Can anyone wonder why young women are treated so badly when the music kids listen to describes them as bitches, evil, and mean?"
This degradation -- of women and society -- reminds me of an anecdote recounted by John McWhorter in this column from 2003:
Not long ago, I was having lunch in a KFC in Harlem, sitting near eight African-American boys, aged about 14. They were extremely loud and unruly, tossing food at one another and leaving it on the floor.

What struck me most was how fully the boys’ music - hard-edged rap, preaching bone-deep dislike of authority - provided them with a continuing soundtrack to their antisocial behavior. So completely was rap ingrained in their consciousness that every so often, one or another of them would break into cocky, expletive-laden rap lyrics, accompanied by the angular, bellicose gestures typical of rap performance. A couple of his buddies would then join him. Rap was a running decoration in their conversation.

Many writers and thinkers see a kind of informed political engagement, even a revolutionary potential, in rap and hip-hop. They couldn’t be more wrong. By reinforcing the stereotypes that long hindered blacks, and by teaching young blacks that a thuggish adversarial stance is the properly “authentic” response to a presumptively racist society, rap retards black success.
PREVIOUSLY: "My problem with rap."


LemmusLemmus said...

Nick Hornby's theory:

"Ever since Elvis, it has been pop music's job to challenge the mores of the older generation; our mistake was to imagine ourselves hipper and more tolerant than our parents. The liberal values of those who grew up in the sixties and seventies constitute an Achilles' heel: we're not big on guns, consumerist bragging or misogyny (...), and that is the ground on which Eminem and his crowd choose to fight."