Feminism, Pop-Culture | Posted by Camille B on 06/27/2012

The Feminist Dilemma of Rap

Can I listen to Lil Wayne and still call myself a feminist?

Lately, I have been struggling with music — specifically, rap. I am an African-American girl and rap is very popular not just in my culture but in my own family. I recently realized that the struggle I feel is not just about the rap itself, but the way of life that goes along with it, in which degrading women is not just accepted but actually praised. Getting “pussy” is the goal and rap describes the actions required to accomplish that, including manipulation, drugs and alcohol. Rap music makes me feel dirty, as if it has been a few weeks since I bathed or, more accurately, as if egotistical, misogynistic leeches have began to suck my blood.

But then why can’t I stop listening?

Day after day, I sit in the car with my sister listening to this shit. I comfort myself with the explanation that I enjoy the beat. I like how the bass seeps through the car stereo and bumps against my leg. I enjoy the overall sound of the music. But that’s not the whole truth. Not at all. I have lied to myself for long enough.

It is time for the truth.

I actually do care about what my family and friends think of me. I act as if I am the perfect teenager — confident, independent, and intelligent — but I really just crave what everyone else does: acceptance. But the problem is that when I sing along to those songs in order to fit in, I hate myself for it and still don’t feel like I belong.

I question if I can even listen to this music at all and call myself a feminist. When I decided to label myself a feminist I did so because I woke up to the reality of the world we live in and the blatant attacks on women that occur every day. But how am I standing up for that cause if I listen to music that adds to those attacks? I want to fit in, but not by going against my values. I thought I knew who I was but I am not so sure anymore.

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  • Crystal @ at 3:36 pm, June 27th, 2012

    If you really want to listen to rap, good beat, nice sound and not deal with the creepy crap messages you hear all over it, you could try women rappers. Some of them are much the same as men in their music but there are a lot of them that sing and rap about things that matter. Like Queen Latifa’s (sorry if I didn’t spell that correctly) music.
    In fact, here:

    http://www.canonballblog.com/?p=3838

    You should be able to download some woman artists rap music from his list. =) Or find undiscovered artists. =) Hope this helps.

    You’ll always be accepted by people who love you. And if you don’t want to listen to it anymore you shouldn’t have to. If you have to you can find a different group that you feel excepted by and still hang out with the people your with now. Best of both worlds type of thing.

  • SherryH @ at 6:01 pm, June 27th, 2012

    Right off, I want to say: the music you listen to does not make you responsible if another person attacks someone. If it bothers you, don’t listen. You can explain that you’re no longer comfortable with it, or just say that you’re not into it right now.

    Or you can occasionally point out bits that make you particularly squicky. (I wouldn’t suggest doing that all the time, though, or your family and friends might tune it out as your pet issue.)

    I don’t know if it will resonate for you, but I found this article at Social Justice League very helpful: How to be a fan of problematic things:

    http://www.socialjusticeleague.net/2011/09/how-to-be-a-fan-of-problematic-things/

    I wish you the best in finding an answer that works for you.

  • Allyssa @ at 7:11 pm, June 27th, 2012

    I’ve definitely been there. I still catch myself when I’m at a party or something and that sort of music is playing. I used to tell myself the exact same thing; the beats are good. Then I was introduced to Blue Scholars and other rap artists who rap about things that are actually important and relevant to society and young people. Their beats are just as good if not better :) I asked my sociology professor how to let go of all the things in the past that contribute to the problem. She told me that it’s hard but if you believe in the cause, it’s worth the cost. And I completely agree with the Crystal, the ones who matter and love you will accept you no matter what.

  • Renee @ at 4:06 pm, June 28th, 2012

    There is feminist rap, and gay rap, and black rap, and hipster rap.
    Rap is just a musical medium, like clay or paint, we make it what we want.
    You have the internet, it’s not a big deal.

  • Lily @ at 4:32 pm, June 29th, 2012

    After reading your article, I found out about Lupe Fiasco’s new single “B**** Bad”. I am a huge fan of Lupe and when I saw the title I was worried that he’d switched over to mindless and degrading lyricism. Instead the song empowers women using intelligent vocabulary, and addresses the exact issues you discuss in your article. I think he was pretty clever in choosing the misleading title because it’s probably attracting the type of listeners who love wordplay that demeans women. And those are the people who need to hear the song the most. Even the beat and the refrain (“I’m killin’ these b****es”) in the song are mocking of the mainstream. As some others have already said, there are rappers who are conscious and tell the truth. But, here’s what I really wanted to say– they aren’t just female. The sad thing is that I let systematized sexism get the better of me. I let it trick me into thinking that because a rapper was male, he was out to degrade women, even though I knew his music was above all that. The scary thing is that sexism creates suspicion on the part of women. We’ve been trained to expect certain attitudes towards us. At least on my part, I made an assumption, of which I’m ashamed. For a split second, I thought my favorite rapper had bought into the hype. I think I forget sometimes that male feminists do exist and they have our back. We can’t do it alone. We have to do it together. Sorry for the long rant, and thanks for the great article.

  • Talia bat Pessi @ at 2:01 pm, July 3rd, 2012

    I never understood the appeal of rap, so I don’t listen to it regardless of the feminist implications simply because I don’t like it. But in general if I hear music whose message I don’t like, I just don’t listen to it.

  • Jen @ at 12:24 am, August 27th, 2012

    How about promoting the rap by African American girls? They don’t get nearly as much attention as they deserve. Ms. Dynamite, Kalae All Day, etc…

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