Before I discovered feminism…

… I was already neck-deep in hip-hop culture.

The facts are simple: I was raised with hip-hop. That was the emerging culture my parents were immersed in as teenagers in the early 80s*, and even to this day there are older songs I hear that sound like lullabies to me. Old tracks by LL Cool J, the Sugarhill Gang, Kool Moe Dee, even old Common (back when he was Common Sense) fill me with a strange sense of familiarity and peace. My earliest memories are filled with the sweet mana of hip-hop.

So, it should come as no surprise that my earliest encounters with sexism also had a hip-hop chaser.

When I was about ten years old, I remember being at one of my mother’s friends house. They were doing hair in the kitchen, so they expected me to go and amuse myself by playing with the woman’s eleven year old son, Bryan. I was rapidly approaching the age when I could make my own music choices, so I was often getting in trouble for raiding my parent’s CD collections. That day, a lot like any other, I had grabbed a handful of CDs when my mom wasn’t looking, a copy of Word Up magazine, a few books (I always had a book or two on hand) and headed to the basement to try to find music videos on TV.

Bryan was also bored, alternately ignoring me and fighting with me, generally over whose turn it was to play their CD on the one stereo in the basement with a temperamental attitude. We both knew that at any moment, the CD player could decide to stop reading CDs so the battle quickly took on epic proportions.

After I lost the most recent round of slapboxing over the stereo, I settled onto a couch with a book to read while Bryan queued up a brand new CD that was just released.

“Stupid,” he taunted me from across the room. “You need to stop looking all dumb and learn to start acting like a girl. You need to look like this!”

He walked over, and shoved the CD cover in my face.

Doggy Style

Yes, the infamous Doggystyle cover.

The implication – that I was to emulate the sexualized bitch (literally!) depicted on the cover, reduced to a pair of shapely haunches for the pleasure of the males in my surrounding area – made me shake with disgust. To this day, I have never listened to Doggystyle in full, nor have I allowed a copy of the CD to stay in my line of sight.

Now, this was not the first time I was confronted with a blatant display of misogyny from my favorite art form and it certainly will not be the last. At the time, I had only vague ideas about sexism, no concept at all of misogyny, only a tenuous grasp on internalized self-hatred, and no words with which to understand that experience. I knew I was angry, I knew I felt disgusted, I knew I felt something else that I couldn’t name yet, but the end result was the same.

This was not acceptable. And I had to do something.

But what could I do?

I thought for a second – but only a second, because time is of the essence in these kind of situations – and made a decision.

I grabbed my stuff, smacked him as hard as I could and hauled ass up the stairs before he could catch me. I tore past my mom in the kitchen, went into his room (that also had a CD player), locked the door and set up camp.

I still felt kind of nasty and shaky, but vindicated. I pulled out one of my CDs and appraised the cover.

Maybe I didn’t have the words to speak, but T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chilli did.

I turned up “Hat to the Back” and found myself mouthing along to the lyrics:

Being that I am the kinda girl that I am
Nobody can make me do what I don’t want to
I can be myself a lot and I’m proud of what I got
So I’ll never change for you

[…]

That’s the kinda girl I am
Don’t cha know I really don’t give a damn
Let me be me for me and not what I’m supposed to be
So I’m gonna do what I wanna do
Cause dumb rules are left for silly fools
That’s the kinda girl that I am – ohh!

On one hand, hip-hop keeps throwing misogyny in my face like it’s supposed to be there, promoting people with no message, no clue, people who would be happy to keep a hyped-up version of gender roles as the predominant cultural narrative.

But on the other hands, hip-hop also gives me the space to develop my skills and the room to bomb back.

Though I didn’t realize it then, that day was my awakening as a hip-hop feminist.

People were always going to try to stick me with something I’m not, misread me, underestimate me, oversexualize me, minimize me, force me to fit into their view of the world.

But I’m not going out like that.
And y’all better recognize.

*When I am telling these stories about how I grew up, just keep in mind that my parents were teenagers when they had me. I was born in 1983, when my mother was sixteen and my father was nineteen. That simple fact is something I am going to refer to time and time again, because it continues to shape my understanding of the world.


Hat 2 Da Back – TLC (from Ooooooohhh-On The TLC Tip)

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59 Responses to Before I discovered feminism…

  1. Pingback: Guest Blogging Goodness at Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture

  2. i_muse says:

    Love it!
    Thanks for sharing this. Please send this to Snoops camp-
    they oughtta be made aware.
    Especially while they are in production with season 3 (I think? maybe season 4) of the worst, most obviously scripted “reality” series on E.

  3. Latoya says:

    @I_muse –

    Actually, they are aware. There was this interesting special on cable (VH1? Style Network? E!) about hip-hop wives and there was a segment when the wives talk about how their husband’s lyrics and lifestyles. They were asked about lyrical content, and the general sentiment was “If that’s not who you are, the lyrics aren’t about you.”

    But I think I’ll cover that in another post on filtering out misogyny.

  4. LaToya, it’s good to see you here :)

    yeah, your article pretty much sums it up.

    the truth is, no culture, no scene, no counterculture, no race, no religion, NOTHING can escape from mysogyny, racism, bigotry and ignorance… and you know what? It sucks so fucking much, dude, but I won’t let any mysogynistic (and racist) assholes ruin my fun for me.

    anyway, hip-hop has given us strong female figures like Sister Souljah and Queen Latifah. So for every mysogynistic stupid asshole out there, we get a woman who’ll spit out pure venom and beat their worthless ass.

    lookin forward 2 seeing more articles from you here !!

  5. i_muse says:

    Ah yes, the age old
    “~those~ women are not us”
    the separation that allows mothers, wives and girlfriends to shun responsibility.

    I was a feminist before I started raising (2) boys.
    They both listen to hip-hop. Unfortunately, it isn’t all KRS 1, Guru, Medusa, Evolve, Essential, you…At least, not as often as I would like.
    I hear some of the lyrics and stop them in their tracks, remind them that they know better and that within those lyrics is the conditioning that perpetuates the sort of discrimination we challenge daily.
    I wish there were more conscious rappers in the mainstream and that the music was as good or better rhythmically / musically.

  6. OTM says:

    Latoya, this is really great. I could definitely identify with this:

    Now, this was not the first time I was confronted with a blatant display of misogyny from my favorite art form and it certainly will not be the last. At the time, I had only vague ideas about sexism, no concept at all of misogyny, only a tenuous grasp on internalized self-hatred, and no words with which to understand that experience. I knew I was angry, I knew I felt disgusted, I knew I felt something else that I couldn’t name yet, but the end result was the same.

    I grew up really into heavy metal, so yeah. I got fucked up messages from nearly every record I bought (yes, record!) but at the same time, I remember when I was in sixth grade, voicing strenuous objection to this song by The Tubes called “She’s a Beauty” whenever the video came on Video Rock because I said the lead singer was talking about a woman like she was a piano or a used car. Looking back on that, I’m pretty impressed with myself to be voicing feminist criticisms on the objectification of women in music videos when I hardly knew what a music video was, much less feminism or objectification.

    Of course I then went on to listen to the shit out of G’n’R’s Appetite for Destruction, which boasts one of most violently misogynistic album covers out there.

  7. OTM says:

    Not to mention my uncritical adoration of videos by The Scorpions and Ratt and Cinderella. At least Judas Priest avoided the trap by not including women in their videos at all. (An aside: this is one of my favorite heavy metal videos because it is like the most aggressively male thing ever, yet manages to be that without damaging women. By just leaving them out entirely.) (Also I apologize if my video links are screwy since I can’t actually look at the videos on this computer.)

  8. Ren says:

    “People were always going to try to stick me with something I’m not, misread me, underestimate me, oversexualize me, minimize me, force me to fit into their view of the world.

    But I’m not going out like that.
    And y’all better recognize.”

    Best quote ever. A week or so ago there was some conversation out there on sexism in punk rock…and metal was surely a bastion of the same sort of shit…I’m just glad for every snoop (and male musicians of other genres who do the same thing) there’s a TLC as well…and that women fans of any genre of music find them.

    See, now I can’t wait for your next post…

  9. Fatemeh says:

    Great post, Latoya! It really gets at those nasty feelings when you first realize you’ve been singled out as a girl and reduced to something you’re not because of your gender. I don’t even remember my “moment” (I tend to block things out), but I sure remember these feelings.

    I can’t believe it! I was born in 1983, too! We’re the SAME AGE! Woweewewah!!!

  10. Hey Latoya,

    Great post! I totally saw that show on hip-hop wives this weekend too. It was like an E! Hollywood Story or something. I think it is really interesting the way in which many women in order to enjoy hip-hop have to rationalize it by saying “this isn’t about me,” which is a slippery slope because then you’re saying it IS about some women and they deserve to be spoken about in that way.

    There is this really fantastic book by Kyra D. Gaunt called “The Games that Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double Dutch to Hip-Hop,” where she talk about the way that although hip-hop is perceived as a hypermasculine genre, it actually samples regularly from chants and beats associated with female musically expression. Gaunt argues that although the lyrics are mysognynistic, young women of color, particularly young black women, still recognize themselves in that music because of games and music they used to participate in during childhood. Its kind of like women of color disassociated themselves from the mysogynist lyrics and recognize their own hand in hip-hops creation. An example is Nelly’s “Country Grammar” is which samples a popular children’s rhyme and melody, but has extremely misogynistic lyrics, how can and do young women relate to this song?

    I’d be really interested to know what you think about this disidentification that Gaunt says women perform in order to still have a relationship with hip-hop culture despite is misogynistic lyrics.

    Again great post and I’m looking forward to reading more!

  11. Andy says:

    Great post. I was the first in my immediate family to listen to hip-hop. I love(d) the rapping (just like I’ve always loved poetry), the beats, and the fact that it irritated my older brother, heh.

    I hate it when I hear (white) (middle-class) (male) people justify their racist dismissal of all hip-hop with, “But they say all kinds of bad things about women!” And then carry on with their own misogynistic crap like it’s nothing. Ugh.

    Speaking of which, can you recommend any good feminist (or at least, not anti-women) artists? :)

  12. Sarah J says:

    What a great story.

    I was actually thinking about TLC and Salt N Pepa the other day, about how fierce and fabulous they were and how we somehow traded them for Britney and the rest? How did we get so screwed with our pop culture?

    Those girl hip-hop groups back in the early 90s were some of my first exposure to music that could be powerful coming from women, that wasn’t just about being in looooove with some guy that broke your heart over and over again, but was about women who knew what they wanted and weren’t scared to ask for it. Or tell you all about it. I was thinking mostly about this song. A better manifesta of female desire has never been written. ;)

  13. norbizness says:

    There was a time when hip-hop seemed to embrace a number of possibilities in the 1989-1993 area: Public Enemy, KRS-One, (early) Queen Latifah, Digable Planets, MC Lyte, and most importantly for me, the Native Tongues collective (Jungle Brothers, Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and even a young Busta Rhymes in the Leaders of the New School). Before MTV devolved into reality shows and lowest common denominator bullshit, they actually had a show devoted to such acts.

    Then came Dr. Dre with The Chronic: I don’t blame him for his brand of suburban marketing, but what’s been getting airplay has steadily devolved over the last 15 years. There is still an incalculable number of performers and musicians with a lot to say, but it’s harder to hear them above the deafening, misogynist, nursery-rhyme din.

  14. Joseph says:

    That was really written beautifully Latoya.

    Like your folks I was in high school in ’83 and I remember hip hop unfolding all around me in my North Philly schoolyard. Although for some time now “hip hop” and “rap” have been used interchangeably, for us “hip hop” was an emerging culture that had an array of cultural expressions: while the music was an important part of it, it wasn’t the entire picture.

    It seems to me that the reduction of hip hop culture into its most sale-able commodity, the music, is the moment when misogynistic images surged forward. Although a critical focus on misogyny in hip hop culture usually makes the case it is exceptional in its attitudes toward women, I actually think the opposite is true. Once the music began to market itself to the mainstream–hell, BECAME the mainstream–it reflected mainstream values, including misogyny. Which is not to shift blame away from individual artists but rather to say that once hip hop culture became commodified as a business model it began to orient itself around images that sell big to the larger culture…and hateful images of women sell big.

    Do you have thoughts about this? I’m curious since you came into political consciousness around the time this shift was well underway…

  15. Latoya says:

    @DFP – Exactly. We need balance, desperately. That’s why I am pretty sad at the decline of the female emcee. A lot of them are still around, but outside of what is presented for mainstream consumption.

    @I_muse – Why is that such a struggle? I was listening to someone’s underground CD yesterday, and while I was loving his lyrics, his flow was some garbage! We need to figure something out – a songwriter to emcee exchange program or something. You have to have a lot of components together to make a banging hip-hop track.

    @ OTM – Yeah, I feel you. BFP had a post about that not too long ago, realizing something is wrong in the music you love, but using the part of the music you need and leaving the rest on the floor. I am too lazy to look up the link now, but I’ll be quoting her in that post on filtering out misogyny, so I’ll do it eventually! I’ll check out the video as soon as my boss stops peeking over my cube wall. Damn this job…

    @Ren – Yeah, I saw that conversation. I actually really like punk, though I am not that well versed in it, and I thought Kim’s analysis was spot-on.

    @Fatemeh – Hell yeah! ’83 babies represent!

    @Marisol – Oh yeah, that’s a slippery slope. I may have the time to speak on that in a different post, so you know I’m embedding that Chris Rock skit where he keeps talking about how women are in denial.

    “But he said your name!

    Nuh-huh, he ain’t talking about me! *singing* Smack her with a dick, smack her with a dick!”

    I have put that book on my reading list because I have to check that out. I understand the disassociation well – part of me wants to develop a piece that talks about how people relate to different parts of the song, how everyone wants a booty shake song but not everyone can hang with the stuff with substance. Anyway, I’ll develop it some more.

    @Andy – Hmm, that’s actually more difficult than it sounds. I wanted to put together a hip-hop feminist soundtrack but ran into some problems. Can I add a group to the soundtrack if their lyrics are pro-woman but homophobic? What about women hating on other women? What if they do one good song about women, but follow that up with an ode to dick sucking? I’m not saying these artists don’t exist, but emcees – even progressive ones – walk a fine line between speaking truth to their experiences and falling into the same traps as everyone else. I’ll do some thinking and get back to you. (I tend to listen to things, misogyny and all and dissect them later.)

    @Sarah J – Hmm, depends. I have my own theory on 90s music vs. the music of today, but I am going to explore that a bit more in my post on the Pussycat Dolls. I’ll check your video link in a few…

    @ Norbizness –

    I ain’t mad at N.W.A. or Dr. Dre or ‘Pac or Biggie – at the time, what they were doing was part and parcel to hip-hop: speaking truth to their experiences. MTV and rap fell prey to the same thing – the need to commodify an art form. So everything was all good when no one saw money in hip-hop, when it was just a few people that new about it, when the people who were feeling it did what they wanted and put all the stuff they could find on TV and over the airwaves. Now, most of these things are done by formula. So just like music execs tried to figure out what was making money, analyzed it, and formulated a recipe for a hit, TV execs were doing the same thing. And while the collective art form is still growing, grabbing a slice of the commercial pie requires serious conformity.

    @Joseph –

    As usual, we think along the same lines:

    It seems to me that the reduction of hip hop culture into its most sale-able commodity, the music, is the moment when misogynistic images surged forward. Although a critical focus on misogyny in hip hop culture usually makes the case it is exceptional in its attitudes toward women, I actually think the opposite is true. Once the music began to market itself to the mainstream–hell, BECAME the mainstream–it reflected mainstream values, including misogyny. Which is not to shift blame away from individual artists but rather to say that once hip hop culture became commodified as a business model it began to orient itself around images that sell big to the larger culture…and hateful images of women sell big.

    That, from where I sit, is exactly what happened. Especially if you look at the trajectory of someone like Nas. What did his videos look like back in the early 90s, the late 90s, and today? When we were at Rock the Bells, one of my friends noted that Nas embodies hip-hop – how it started, what it was supposed to be, then getting grittier, getting caught up in the shiny suit era, grabbing the money and running, then coming back and trying to figure out how to fix what broke. And I *know* record executives and such don’t know hip-hop culture – they strip out everything but what they understand. So, in creating the hip-hop formula, they heard “catchy beat” not “poignant sample;” saw dancing girls shaking it instead of family and friends trying to represent; promoted violence and anger without understanding the fear and want behind it. And then, when that caught on, it was like an endless feedback loop. Put the same shit in, get a copy back out…until we get something like Solja Boy, and even Ice-T is like “What the fuck?”

  16. Shelby says:

    HAT TO THE BACK!!! Ahhh!!!

    Thank you for letting me relive my childhood right now! “What About Your Friends” was the anthem to my life for most of elementary school, but “Hat to the Back” is definitely a favorite.
    Awesome, heartfelt, amazing post! I identify so much with this piece that I’m almost in tears.

    Thank You, Latoya!!

  17. jaye says:

    Wow, I don’t know what to say when people are actually having an intelligent discussion about the problems in hip-hop, rather than trying to paint it as perpetually sexist, violent and materialistic. I haven’t thought that far.

  18. octogalore says:

    Great post Latoya. Interesting dichotomy within hip hop, and I like your look at using that framework in defining your own boundaries.

  19. veronica says:

    Even knowing you for just a few weeks, I knew you smacked that punk. ha!

    Thanks for sharing your story. BTW – My flight ended up being an hour delayed, so I totally coulda stayed!! Pissed!

  20. C-Marsh says:

    Just wanted to stop by and stay great post LaToya!! I love how you always show the complexity of a subject. I think the your discussion of this simple, yet not so simple topic perfectly illustrates the silent struggles that many “outsiders” never hear. They way in which you describe your ambivalence for hip-hop lets us peer into a window that is usually shut by the MSM. Thanks for inviting us in!!

  21. Great post, Latoya. I don’t know squat about hip-hop, but I DO read Michael Eric Dyson (((swoons))) who I have a monster-crush on. He writes so well about how the most misogynist hip-hop is often what gets singled out for praise and recorded, promoted, put out there as emblematic of the genre. He believes white audiences (particularly men) are comfortable with black men in that role, and use black men as a sort of psychological sex-surrogate. Thus, more money is made by crossing over to white audiences, and the cycle continues.

    Black ‘revolutionary’ violence (i.e. directed at police) or violence for its own sake is scary and forbidden to white hip-hop fans, but SEXUAL violence is permitted, since Dyson thinks it is perceived as directed at only black women. One reason everyone was suddenly freaked out by Eminem’s song “Kim”–is that he was talking about his wife, a white woman. THAT was suddenly controversial, when of course he was writing the same kinds of songs his mentors always did.

    After Andy’s comment, I wonder if that is why Eminem’s homophobia seemed “worse” too? Is the bar set very low for black hip-hop artists, but a white guy is expected to “behave”?

    Keep up the good work!

  22. i really enjoyed this post, thanks for sharing. now i’m gonna try to recollect my own first experiences with sexism and misogyny… if anything, your post made me think of how education/ socialization does not fully define us – it may give us some direction, it may give us some images, but it does not necessarily follow that we integrate them in our personalities and accept them at face value.

  23. CM says:

    That is a really good point about Eminem, DaisyDeadhead. People got way up in arms about a lot of his songs, but many of them paled in comparison to, say, Dr. Dre and Co.

  24. Pingback: fff » Blog Archive » OK, one more link

  25. Jeff says:

    I hate it when I hear (white) (middle-class) (male) people justify their racist dismissal of all hip-hop with, “But they say all kinds of bad things about women!”

    This white middle-class male dismisses the rap and hip-hop as presented on MTV and BET as sexist trash (and repetative). I wish that artists like TLC, Queen Latifah and En Vogue were as popular as they were “in the day”. I’m discovering alternative hip-hop, but it’s a search as opposed to being exposed to lots of great, fresh voices.

  26. danicaanddan says:

    “Even knowing you for just a few weeks, I knew you smacked that punk. ha!”

    I’m sorry, I just dont know what it is but today, hearing something like that kind of bothers me, its ok to hit someone as hard as you can because they were being a misogynistic asshole? I just can’t see it, role reveral or in general that is never a good thing to my mind, kind of ruined an otherwise fantastic post for me.

  27. William says:

    At least Judas Priest avoided the trap by not including women in their videos at all.

    I think Judas Priest not having women in their videos had a lot to do with Judas Priest not singing songs about how many women they had sex with. I mean, I can see the meeting with the record label now.

    Label: “We’d really like you guys to have a bunch of women in fishnets crawling around in this video, its sold a lot of records in the past, especially with songs that have lyrics this sexual”

    Rob Halford: “Sounds good, but can it be men in leather instead?”

    Label: “How about a nice live video….”

  28. Latoya says:

    @Shelby – Oh, you know we are coming back to that one! Just so I can use the word “Velveeta.”

    @Jaye – We have so much more to go. I’m home now, so I am about to start rolling through the tomes of hip-hop feminism. Critical hip-hop feminist theory. Gives me chills just thinking about it.

    @Octo – Thanks!

    @Veronica – Damn! We’ll just do one in September, no biggie. And I was a violent kid, man. My friends used to call me a future husband beater. (Obviously, domestic violence against men isn’t funny, but I was quick to throw the hands, so it was potentially an accurate description. I’m a lot more chill these days.)

    @C-Marsh – Thanks, but this was the warm up post. :-)

    @Daisy – Great points! I go back and forth on Michael Eric Dyson, but it’s cool that you find hip-hop accessible through his writings. And yes, all of those dynamics come into play in terms of defining what is considered acceptable.

    @thinkingdifference – Would love what you come up with. This example is the clearest one in my mind. Perhaps there were others before this, but I can’t recall them.

    @Jeff – Yeah, you kind of wish you didn’t have to work so hard, don’t ya? Especially when you discover something amazing.

    @ danicaanddan – I am not a pacifist. I’ve been assaulted (sexually and otherwise) and had myself and my friends threatened with violence for the most inane things (like not giving a guy a phone number.) And I am a fairly solid girl who had the reputation of “hitting like a dude.” A lot of people didn’t bother trying to mess with me, instead choosing other people who were more vulnerable to prey upon. So, while violence isn’t my first option, I am not afraid to fight. Chalk it up to differences in approach.

    @William – *raises eyebrow.* This bears looking into…

  29. William says:

    @William – *raises eyebrow.* This bears looking into…

    Heh, one of the great things about Judas Priest was always that Halford was loud and proud, even in a genre that has a habit of being homophobic.

  30. Pilar Cruz says:

    Thanks for this post. This song and the ones mentioned by others (Queen Latifah and Sister Souljah) came at a crucial time in my life. I was 15 and making a lot of decisions based on what boys wanted. These songs kept my head out of my ass, for the most part.

  31. Restructure! says:

    Thank you for this. I knew I was going to love your posts.

  32. Roxie says:

    Great post! I was born in 83 as well and had quite a relationship with the music.
    I also remember seeing the cover of that very same cd for the first time and feeling…extremely excluded.

  33. Angela says:

    Interesting post, and like Daisy, I know nothing about hip hop or rap in the simplest terms. The year you were born I was married and finishing college. It breaks my heart to hear such stories that affect young women today. This particular type of “music” is not allowed in my home period. I’m an ICU nurse and my husband and I have 3 sons of our own. I can’t tell you have many times I’ve had battered women on my floor, near death, because of some twisted view their crazy boyfriend or estranged husband had of them. It’s absolutely ridicules and downright shameful.

  34. wondering says:

    Another heavy metal lover here (from Judas Priest through Metallica and onto Disturbed). I’ve heard some terribly misogynist lyrics but I just can’t quit the sound. Someday I need to learn to pull the vocal track out of the music.

  35. Suki T says:

    @william. Halford wasn’t always out or loud and proud. In fact although he was out in his personal life for many years, he wasn’t out publically until 1998, which was after he left Judas Priest (he came back to the band later).

    I will give credit to his fans though, because for being a very misogynistic and homophobic bunch usually, when Halford went public, they stood by him.

    Sorry this is sort of a sore point for me, I just wanted the facts to be correctly recorded here.

  36. Isabel says:

    This post was awesome. Seriously looking forward to the rest of your posts here and making Racialicious a regular read.

    It’s definitely an interesting situation when something walks that weird line. This is sort of a bizarre comparison, I realize, but one thing that came to mind is opera–operas are not generally feminist-friendly stories and some can even be misogynistic, but at the same time, the medium of opera provides a space for women to be unapologetically the star (and did at a time when this was considerably more rare)–and nowadays, is one of the few places a woman can still be a star without being conventionally attractive. Different story, obviously, but that came to mind reading this post.

    Another thing that has sort of more emotional resonance for me is Disney movies–I don’t think I need to go over how messed up their gender issues are, but at the same time, they were one of the few places I could go as a little kid and see a girl being the star, instead of having one or two girls in an otherwise all-male cast (hi, every freaking cartoon show on Nickelodeon I loved as a kid). Even now that I can recognize how messed up it is that, say, the overall message of Beauty and the Beast translates to “if you love your abusive boyfriend enough, he will change for you” (which, interestingly, I had to have pointed out to me by a then-boyfriend of mine generally less interested in feminism than I am), what sticks out to me when I remember how much I loved that story was that it was Belle’s story (and also that she could read while walking, because I totally trained myself to do that because of that movie). Again, different story, but I think it’s sort of a related phenomenon.

  37. Brenda says:

    I was really excited to see that you were posting at Feministe this week, and this was great! I can’t really relate to your relationship with hip hop per se, but I generally love the attitude of dealing with anyone’s relationship to pop culture as this complex negotiation. Or what you were talking about in the comments in terms of disassociation/”taking what you need” from music, which is giving me all kinds of exciting half-formed thoughts — I’m really looking forward to the rest of your posts!

  38. William says:

    william. Halford wasn’t always out or loud and proud. In fact although he was out in his personal life for many years, he wasn’t out publically until 1998, which was after he left Judas Priest (he came back to the band later).

    You’re right. Halford didn’t officially come out of the closet until 1998. I mean, it was pretty much an open secret that he was gay, he never denied it, and there were a lot of references in the lyrics, but that isn’t the same thing as being out. I should have been more precise.

  39. Allie says:

    @ Ren and Latoya: PLEASE post the link to that discussion about misogyny in punk rock! I *need* to read that. I play bass in a mostly-female punk rock band, and I like to attack hypocrisy in the scene whenever possible.

  40. Lizzie (greeneyed fem) says:

    My dad bought me Ooooooohhh…On the TLC Tip when I was in middle school because he’d heard that TLC was all about safe sex. (My dad is awesome.) God, I loved that album to pieces.

    If you haven’t seen it, PLEASE get your hands on a copy of Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes (http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/hiphop/) by filmmaker Byron Hurt. He shows that the “hip hop wife” phenomenom that LaToya mentions shows up in female fans too (“oh, he’s not talking about me”), and links misogyny and homophobia in popular music to cultural standards of masculinity. Hurt also makes it clear that hip-hop is just one type of music in our larger culture of masculinity and misogyny (music, movies, games). AND he’s really smart in pointing out the commercial forces behind the most violent, anti-woman types of hip hop (record execs market it, mostly white kids buy it) and what it says about popular conceptions of black masculinity. (For example, he interviews white kids in the Midwest who don’t know any black people at all but are big fans of 50 Cent.)

    I remember one scene where some record company is having some kind of open auditions for rappers in NYC, and Hurt moves down the line of guys waiting to audition — he asks them why they don’t rap about things other than drugs, murder, sex, and money — and they tell him that only one type of persona will get you a contract. One guy in particular immediately spits rhymes about the personal/political dilemmas of wanting to help his neighborhood but feeling stuck — and then breaks off, saying, “they don’t want to hear that shit.” Really shows the larger forces at work.

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  42. Joseph says:

    Hey Latoya,
    Have you seen the current (August 2008) issue of Spin with Duffy on the cover? There are two articles in it that might interest you in light of this conversation: One about D’Angelo who, according to the article, self-destructed at least partly because of the body-image pressure put on him and an awesome interview with Q-Tip, who talks about his transition from young leader in the native tongues movement to “MC Elder.”

    The D’Angelo article includes this quote from ?uestlove: “When I create things, I almost have to dumb it down a little, because low record sales for me is seen like a failure…Black product is only celebrated when the artist’s image is overbloated, overanimated, and there’s sales to back it up…The new minstrel movement in hip-hop doesn’t allow the audience to believe the artist is smart…I love (Radiohead’s) Kid A, but I don’t think D’angelo would be allowed to sing ‘Cut the kids in half’ over and over and be taken seriously. It’d be like, ‘What’s wrong with that boy?'”

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  44. femmina says:

    If anyone is interested in the documentary mentioned by Lizzie, I have a copy of it and could probably manage to share it with people who are interested. It’s kinda difficult to find, or at least that’s my experience, so just let me know. It really is amazing.

  45. Latoya says:

    @femmina –

    Oooh! Ooh! Me! I watched it twice on PBS but all the DVDs were sold out.

    @Joseph – Oh yeah. Q-Tip hated his interview though. I may blog about it for Racialicious, particularly the tortured artist point.

  46. XtinaS says:

    femmina, I’m wicked interested.  Could you send me a copy?

  47. RumTumTugger says:

    OMG, TLC!!! I used to love them as a kid.

  48. Sheelzebub says:

    WRT Judas Priest–the level of denial among metal fans was fucking epic, considering the fact that Halford was Metal’s Leather Daddy (TM) before he came out. I’m not so into metal anymore, but I always love me some Priest. And Halford was just AWESOME live.

    And who mentioned the Jungle Brothers? I LOVE THE JUNGLE BROTHERS. The Jungle Brothers rock my world.

    /fangirl ranting

  49. Sheelzebub says:

    And now, Latoya, I’ve got “VIP” stuck in my head. Prolly my favorite Jungle Brothers song EVAR!!!1!

  50. The Jungle, the Jungle, the Brothers, the Brothers.

  51. femmina says:

    @Latoya and XtinaS sure thing, give me a day or so, my computer is having some issues and I’m working on re-formating it so I don’t have access to all of my stuff.

  52. DiosaNegra1967 says:

    *whew* …just got over here….

    great post, latoya!

    i dug the queen, TLD, salt & pepa….oh for sure….i managed to mix them in with joan jett, the runaways, siouxsie & the banshees….i loved “original” hip-hop, but what happened? “the message” was fierce, but it seemed like the later generation took what was rapped about and internalized it….instead of trying to find solutions to get out of this mess, rap/hip-hop seemed to become a means to perpetuate the worst of the behaviours rapped about…..

    *sigh*

    @william and sheelzebub: oh yeah….metal is misogynistic to the HILT! i have a major “jones” for danzig….but sometimes i wanna grab him and shake him really hard, because he’s so obviously “given in” to the whole rock and porn thing….what a pity…the man has a great voice….

    …halford RULES! and, i “smelled what he was cooking” way before he came out…the signs WERE there….LOL i love the “denial” of the metal fans also….it’s like no one (artists or fans) have mentioned anything about his “coming out” since….odd innit?

    …especially when you look at singers like melissa etheridge and elton john….who have everything they do or say prefaced by the phrase, “openly lesbian” or “openly gay”….no one has done that to halford. why? is he some sort of sacred cow or are members of the media scared of p*ssing off metal fans? or are metal fans afraid to look at metal/hardcore/punk’s homoerotic tendencies amongst it’s overwhelmingly male fan base?

    …sorry for that tangent….but food for thought, indeed.

    @ Fatemeh: “It really gets at those nasty feelings when you first realize you’ve been singled out as a girl and reduced to something you’re not because of your gender.”

    you said a MOUTHFUL Fatemeh! i remember my “moment”….i was 12 and had a new (very womanly) figure…thanks to a stint at a fat farm…. *shudder*

    @ DaisyDeadHead: i dig Dr. Dyson….but he can be a bit of a “hip-hop apologist” sometimes….i’ve seen him on several live panel discussions….if you get the chance, definitely do so (provided you can keep from swooning) *smile* also, you might want to keep an eye on CSPAN, FreeSpeech TV and your local PBS channels….as he is known to pop up on those from time to time….

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