Women's Image in Hip Hop

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Women, namely African American, have played a crucial role in Hip Hop culture: from the beginning with Cindy Campbell the sister of Kool Herc — who demonstrated her entrepreneurship of promoting his block parties; the idea of entrepreneurship is still deeply seeded in Hip Hop today—to Debra Lee, the president and CEO of BET. However, accounts of hip hop often downplay, or completely leave out, the contributions of women to hip hop as artist, entrepreneurs, producers, writers, etc. Women have influenced hip hop as much, if not more, than men; that is to say that all men can from one woman. In that case, why is it that currently in hip hop culture African American women’s image has been reduced to nothing more than the objects of their male counterparts? The answer to this question is not clear cut, but extremely complex. For starters, it is no secret that hip hop is a male dominated art form. In addition, the patriarchal society in which hip hop was created has a hand in how men, not just in hip hop, have this sense of male supremacy over women. However it is not just the males fault for women’s status in hip hop; women are also responsible for the way in which they are treated and portrayed in hip hop because they readily partake in the mistreatment of themselves and other women. Academics such as Michael Eric Dyson, believe that women are in no way responsible for the comment, “they must like it and want to do it” (Dyson, 109), because he believes women partake in the degradation of their character in hip hop because of the deep entrench supremacy that has been imbedded into women’s minds, and that it is only a result of the limited roles men have delegated for them. Deep entrenched beliefs or not, I believe that women have more power than Dyson gives them credit for; furthermore he sounds extremely sexist making that statement as well—women are not strong enough to choose what they will participate in. As women, we need to take account for our actions and be aware of what image is being pushed of us. It is the artist that uses the woman to sell his product, not the other way around. Finally as advocates, role models, and consumers women and men alike need to be responsible for the art that they support, i.e. hip hop music, literature, video, art that is demeaning to females or shows them in a negative manner; there is no reason why an eleven year old should know what a video vixen and/ ho is. In short, it is the fault of the artist, the women who partake in hip hop culture, and consumers, alike, in why the African American women are portrayed in such negative light in hip hop, i.e. video hoes, gold diggers, sexual objects, etc. It is also the responsibility of these three groups in how this needs to be changed because hip hop does in fact have a great influence over African American culture; and this is the wrong message to be sending out to the youth on how women should be seen an treated. “If people don’t like it, and they think it’s—you can always turn it off. You know what I mean? So people act like they can’t turn it off. And you—you don’t got to watch the booty videos…,” Jermaine Durpri made this comment while defending the content of hip hop videos that are currently on television (Rose, 196); this is one of the solutions those in the hip hop give to protestors of how women are depicted in hip hop. This would be a valid solution if turning off the television or the radio cease the degradation of women in hip hop but this is not the case. Instead of taking responsibility for the negative portrayal of women that is being perpetuated on to the African American youth, that soaks up hip hop culture, artist prefer to use excuses that dissolve their responsibilities as public figures: (1) “We’re not role models;” (2) “parents should be responsible for their own kids;” and (3) “if you do not like what you seem turn it off.”

The idea of “we’re not role models,” which hip hop artists are constantly trying to feed to...
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