I can enjoy rap music and still be a feminist

February 3, 2018

After soaking up all the Grammy’s coverage last week, I wasn’t surprised to see the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements from past awards shows seep into the event, as they should. Celebrities have an enormous platform and the ability to share what should be a global message. So by all means, wear your white roses and sing your truth.

 

 

And because of the beauty of free speech, Piers Morgan graciously shared his opinion of the Grammys – though no one asked for it. And now, I’m sharing mine.

 

In his own words, "The award for most sexist, misogynist bunch of vile hypocrites goes to…the Grammys!" After launching into a scathing review of the ceremony and its nominees, Piers then spent the rest of his article executing an uneducated takedown of rap/hip hop as a genre.

 

As most people do. Because if you back the feminist agenda, you should never listen to such smut, right? Wrong. So wrong.

 

First of all, can we just cut the White Knight shit for a second. I’m an educated woman with a degree and a decent IQ. So I don’t need anyone (least of all, a white man who just Googled the lyrics) explaining to me how rap and hip hop songs tend to describe women. I get it.

 

But if you’re going to talk about degrading women, talk about the big picture. Realistically, all genres of music are plagued by misogyny in one way or another. While rap and hip hop are always first to be criticised in this respect, people seem to forget that sexist treatment of women transcends all music genres. Women in punk have fought for equal visibility, metal rock chicks are still seen as a novelty and some of the misogyny that female-led indie bands cop is a joke.

 

 

"First of all, can we just cut the White Knight shit for a second. I’m an educated woman with a degree and a decent IQ. So I don’t need anyone (least of all, a white man who just Googled the lyrics) explaining to me how rap and hip hop songs tend to describe women. I get it."

 

In case you missed it, there are plenty of chart topping hits outside of this genre with troubling lyrics. Let me explain, though few people would object to Adam Levine making a move on them, the entire film clip for ‘Animals’ is based on him stalking a random girl he sees while working at a butcher shop and singing:

 

‘Baby I’m preying on you tonight,

Hunt you down, eat you alive,

Just like animals…’

 

Can’t remember the last time I was hunted down like a wild bush pig. But he’s not rapping, so it’s not encouraging sexual harassment of women, right?

 

Oh hey there, Robin Thicke! Remember the time he tried to ‘domesticate’ women in ‘Blurred Lines’?

 

‘Okay, now he was close

Tried to domesticate you.

But you’re an animal,

Baby, it's in your nature.’

 

 

 

So women are animals again. Except this time, we need to be domesticated like pets instead of hunted like wildlife. Like, is this guy for real? Turns out he is. But still not derogatory to women though, because he’s not rapping, right? He’s singing ever so nicely in a suit while scantily clad women dance around him.

 

My point is, just because these lyrics aren’t as crass and profanity-laden as a rap verse, this doesn’t mean they don’t embody the same ideas.  Choosing to criticise one genre and ignore the rest does a disservice to all women.

 

"Women in punk have fought for equal visibility, metal rock chicks are still seen as a novelty and some of the misogyny that female-led indie bands cop is a joke."

 

And news flash: demeaning portrayals of women pop up in every medium, not just music.

 

How many times have I seen films (The Wolf of Wall Street is the first that springs to mind) where women play nothing more than the victim, the trophy wife, the nameless girlfriend or simply ‘the other woman?’ I’ve lost count.

 

And plenty of books do the same thing! I mean, don’t even get me started on 50 Shades of Grey. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that films, books, artwork or music that portray empowering females don’t exist. They absolutely do. But I’m just asking you to acknowledge the flip side of this coin.

 

It’s unfair to say hip hop and rap music disrespect women when it’s going on right across the board. All pop culture is sexist. The fabric of society rests on sexism. So don’t use rap or any genre of music as a scapegoat.

 

Also, can we just stop and acknowledge the characteristics of the rap/hip hop genre.

 

While this kind of music is an easy target, it needs to be recognised for what it is; a reflection of the society it’s produced in. Hip hop music prides itself on exposing society’s dark underbelly without the rose coloured glasses. To these artists, the world isn’t always pretty and women aren’t always respected. 

 

Plus, not all hip hop music is about strippers and ‘pussy poppin’ by the way. You can’t class a whole genre as sexist when some of its most prominent contributors actively push the feminist cause. Missy Elliott was all like, ‘Love my guts, so f**k a tummy tuck.’ TLC didn’t ‘want no scrubs,’ and either do we! Even Cardi B dropped a catchy AF reminder that girls ‘make money move.’

 

 

 

You may not like it, but that’s what we need to hear; an honest representation of society.

 

"Hip hop music prides itself on exposing society’s dark underbelly without the rose coloured glasses."

 

Believe it or not, songs that centre on sexually explicit content aren’t always detrimental; in fact, they can be quite the opposite. When heard in context, this is the kind of music that starts conversations about the reality of our society. The lyrics are harsh and raw and true enough to make people wake the hell up and look around.

 

Do some songs use vulgar language? Yes. Is the objectification and sexualisation of women a recurring theme? Seems like it. Do I condone this portrayal? No, I don’t. But it's often an accurate portrayal. So while it may be classed as the most vulgar genre in music, at least the discourse is honest. And without honest discussion, there can’t be any improvement moving forward.

 

Bottom line is: I can CHOOSE to listen to whatever the hell I want and that doesn't compromise my position in the feminist movement.

 

The moment people like Piers Morgan start telling me what music I should and shouldn’t listen to, I just want to point out the hypocrisy of what they’re doing. Don’t try and dictate to any woman what should or shouldn’t offend her because in doing so, you’re literally shitting on her autonomy and insulting her intelligence.

 

Women personally experience the sexism you’re trying so hard to rectify, every single day. When one of my university professors told me I would ‘give my future husband serious headaches one day’ because I ask too many questions…that’s sexism. Or when I call about booking my car in for a service and I’m quoted a higher price than when my Dad made the same call just 20 minutes ago…that’s sexism. Or whenever I wear a touch more make up or get dressed nicely and I cop, ‘Ooooh who are you trying to impress?’ (Like, my damn self, bye!)…that's sexist!

 

If I want to listen to Drake talk about how good he is in bed, then I will. Or if I want to blast Bryson Tiller because ‘that man didn’t show any effort,’ it’s totally my prerogative. Hell, when I’m bumpin’ 50 Cent in my car, chances I can’t even hear you telling me it’s injuring the feminist agenda. So hush.

 

While I’m genuinely sorry for the rant, I’m not sorry at all for writing it. Nobody is obligated to share my opinion and I’d hate to come across as preachy. But if you read nothing of the above and scrolled right to the end, all you need to know is this:

 

Ladies, don’t feel guilty about the music you enjoy listening to.

I enjoy rap and hip hop music.

I still proudly call myself a feminist.

And no, it’s not hypocritical; it’s just nobody else’s damn business.

 

Peace out.

 

 

 

Adrianna Zappavinga is a 20-something year old journalism graduate who is never seen wandering the streets of Sydney sans coffee in hand. A self-confessed sugar addict, she is a lover of sweet treats, sweet words and even sweeter fashion finds. When she isn't hitting the gym or buried in a horror film of some sort, you'll definitely find her Instagramming. You can lurk her @adri_zapp.

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