Hip-Hop music includes violent and abusive lyrics that could possibly mirror other illegal activities used for sexual intent. The music identified as hip-hop verbally violates basic human rights, particularly the rights of women. Excessive and blatant sexual abuse connotations can be found in almost every musical score, as women are portrayed as whores and assets worth no more than existing for man’s sexual pleasures. Much of the lyrics in rap songs are abusive and degrading to all women.
Hip-Hop is a manifestation and spin on exploitation of African-American and Latino-American youth, and is often considered to have sexism and misogyny attributes. New York City blacks and Latino youths originally started the hip-hop culture, with included rapping, deejaying, break-dancing and graffiti-writing. But, it has evolved into something much more than just local expressions.
Hip-Hop is a lifestyle for many people between the ages of 13 and 30. It involves music, videos, fashion, club-scenes, and the ways that young people interact with each other. The media has embraced and adopted the hip-hop culture, as well as big corporations, such as Coca-Cola and Burger King. Versions of hip-hop can be found in marketing media and corporate advertisements. The Brooklyn Museum of Art even has an exhibit dedicated to hip-hop culture.
The most influential part of hip-hop has become known as rap music. Rap music is a form of poetry, recited over musical instrumentation. Many consider rap music to be brutally honest, violent, and misogynistic. But to others, the violence to and hatred of women appears blatant and offensive.
Much of rap music portrays black women in negative images. The hip-hop culture views all women, but mostly black women, as sex objects. Most hip-hop videos show women dancing or displayed in explicit sexual poses, clothed in bikinis (or less), with the focus on their body parts. The images go hand in hand with the explicit language that suggest women are nothing more than sex objects or money-generating commodities. Many rappers describe themselves as ‘pimps’ and women as second-class and sexual commodities. Many rap songs, not only, glorify the pimp lifestyle, and refer to women in ways a pimp might describe their prostitutes, but the lyrics promote violence to women that “disobey.”
Of course, not all rap music is misogynistic, and not all black men think of women in this light, but large percentages within the hip-hop culture do. The name calling in the rap music dishonors, disrespects, and dehumanizes women. When society accepts labeling women in this manner, will physical and psychological abuse become acceptable? Unfortunately, many black men battle racism or oppression within hip-hop culture, and have been conditioned to distrust intrusive feelings of trust and love.
Many women consent to these collaborations, and believe racism or subjugation are viable excuses or justification for the practice of degrading and exploitation of women. The numbers of women that show up for unpaid try-outs for video shoots indicate that significant amounts of hip-hop consumers are women. Groups of women can be seen loitering in concert backstage areas, expressing their willingness to perform sexually in return for money and jewelry, or perhaps realize a feeling of being wanted.
Black women have, historically, been used as sex instruments, and continue to fight for power and material wealth. When slavery was legal and rampant, black women were routinely sexually abused by any man that wanted her. They could be used for breeding purposes and create more slave trade for their owners. Black women, also, used sex in order to lower chances of cruel treatment by the slave masters. They were paying with their bodies to survive and achieve better treatment within the uncontrolled, abusive slave life.
Black women emerged out of slavery as oversexed and promiscuous. Some viewed themselves as society dictated, and believed they did not have control over their bodies. As they tried to fit into white societies, some black men wanted the women to be employed in subordinate roles in a white household; while some black women wanted the men to acquire jobs and be the sole provider. Hip-hop culture displays similar oppressive obsessions. Some black women prefer to use sexual powers to reap economical gain. And, many black men have learned how to manipulate women by using money. In order for many black women to get what they want, they accept mistreatment and allow themselves to be exploited through hip-hop images.
Sometimes black women are uneducated and have no job skills. Many believe their bodies are all they have to offer to gain status. Many dysfunctional relationships can be found within the hip-hop culture. Some women believe men are instruments of use to gain access to money; some men think women are only have value when it comes to sexual gratification.
Would censoring hip-hop music and lyrics be an answer? Perhaps, the solution would be to change the hip-hop society and ideology by discontinue negative and misogynistic lyric promotion. But, the first step to change gender relations within the hip-hop community is education. People need to be made aware of the negative and derogatory connotations that continue to violate women’s rights, in sexist lyrics, physical interactions, and at hip-hop gatherings. But, of course, people need to be receptive to the devastating results that violating human rights cause, and be willing to change.
Are human flesh traders alive and well in the United States? Of course, we all know trafficking women is illegal, but considering the more than 45,000,000 dating websites on the Internet, is this a modern legal tool that continues the exploitation of women?
Speaking out against exploitation of women in hip-hop cultures, and for women everywhere, can help change ideologies. But, if women are not interested or willing to stop exploitation tactics, they will continue to be used and considered as just sexual instruments.
Although women have come very far, their work is not finished, and they have a long way to go before equality will be realized.
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by Jessie Penn