May 14, 2007
“Smack that, all on the floor. Smack that, give me some more. Smack that, ’till you get sore.” –Akon, “Smack That.”
“Hey, b*tch, wait’ll you see my d*ck. Wait’ll you see my d*ick. Hey, b*tch. I’m ‘a beat that p*ssy up.” –Ying Tang Twins, “Wait (The Whisper Song).”
“Hit the strip club, don’t forget ones, get your d*ck rubbed ….” –Eminem, featuring Nate Dogg, “Shake That Ass.”
This is a benign sampling of the lyrics from popular misogynistic hip-hop and rap songs today. The music industry has openly embraced the lucrative aspects of these sexist tunes, and surprisingly, women haven’t expressed outrage.
Why? Because many women love these songs. Several prominent contemporary feminists and feminist writers, most notably, Ariel Levy, have identified a trend within American society of women espousing and feeling empowered by enterprises and activities that many feminists feel have historically oppressed women. Levy discussed this trend in her October 2005 book Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.
“[Sexist lyrics] usually come to a good beat. I like to bump and grind to it,” says Natasha Miner, a college student from New York City, in a WireTap interview. “I don’t care if it’s sexist music at a club…. I don’t think girls are looking for their music to be ’empowering,’ or whatever, but then again, I don’t think people really care to consider that stuff.”
Filmmaker and anti-sexist hip-hop activist Byron Hurt tackles this issue in his newest film, Hip-hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes. Hurt is a devoted feminist who has made a long career of meeting men where they are at, but pushing a strong message of anti-sexism and anti-violence. He founded Mentors in Violence Prevention, a rape and domestic violence prevention program for professional athletes, and served as the associate director of the United States Marine Corps’ first gender violence prevention program.
“I guess what I’m trying to do is to get us men to take a hard look at ourselves,” Hurt says in the first scene of the film. He describes manhood as, “Like, we’re in this box, and in order to be in that box you have to be strong, tough, you have to have a lot of girls, you gotta have money, you have to be a player or a pimp, you have to be in control, you have to dominate other men, other people, other men. And if you’re not any of those things, people will call you soft, weak, a p*ssy, chump, faggot, and no one wants to be any other those things, so they stay inside the box.” Hurt articulates the state of contemporary rap and hip-hop and offers hope for lovers of the “beats and rhymes”… while others feel that demystifying the controversy inherent in hip-hop will guide it back to its original purpose.