This week’s class discussions were two of my favorite. These discussions left me with questions I never had to face before, in regards to using the N-word, listening to music that objectifies women and watching music videos that glorify violence and drugs.
I always glorified hip hop. Thinking of its unique use of beats and rhymes, its eccentric history dating back to my hometown, the Bronx, NY and it’s authentic use of integrating dance, lyrics and beats. It is truly an art and something to admire.
However, Hip Hop has evolved overtime and is not the same as before. As the first group who presented on Monday said, hip hop has turned into less of a focus on the DJ, beats and beatboxing, and more of a focus on the artist. This has presented a challenge to the music industry, because we see these artists in their videos, both men and women, objectifying the opposite (or same) gender, while also using their own bodies as objects of sexual desire.
In hip hop, it is no doubt that hyper masculinity, objectification of women and violence are all portrayed in both lyrics and music videos. When we see this, we think this is what hip hop is. Arguably, this is what is has turned out to be.
As Dr. Michael Dyson comments in the “Hip Hop: Beyond the beats and Rhymes” video, “violent masculinity is at the heart of American identity.” I agree with this statement 100%. I don’t know what it is about our country, but we revolve around a hyper masculine culture, that validates masculinity, most common in black and latino men, on things like owning a gun, having sex with lots of women and being violent towards other men. It’s disgusting and scary, but worst of all, it’s normalized.
I myself do not watch music videos, but after seeing clips in class, I must admit it did make me uncomfortable. As I get older, I am becoming more aware of what I mentally absorb, and I would never want to use my free time watching videos of women with huge butts shaking them up and down on men, or women pouring water down the shirts of men, rubbing baby oil on their abs. (okay, maybe I wouldn’t mind watching that, but that isn’t the point).
This week, my eyes were opened to see that both men and women are objectified in all genres – pop, hip hop, rap, R&B, and even country! This was extremely eye opening because many people, including myself, often believe women and men are objectified only in hip hop, rap and R&B.
This week, I was also challenged to really, really think about the use of the N-word. It is so complex for me, being a black woman in America, viewing the N-word as either a good thing or a bad thing. I am just not sure where I stand. After watching Jay-Z’s interview with Oprah in class, I did agree with some things he said, such as words being made up everyday and instead of eradicating the word (not easy to do) we should takes its power back and use it as a term of endearment. However, I also strongly agreed with David Banner, a rapper and activist who made a great point, saying out of ALL the words in the English dictionary, why use this one? This word was used to degrade our ancestors, make them feel low and blatantly insult them. Yet we, including myself sometimes, throw it around casually in a conversation referring to our friends as this.
I was really challenged to dig deep and choose a side on how I feel about this. I do believe when it comes to something as big as this, it is important to stand firm in a belief and not be wishy washy. I am still unsure where I stand, but I am leaning more towards not using the word at all, and not listening to music that repeatedly uses the word. I don’t think I can get away from it, because it has become a part of my generation, the music we listen to, the way my friends talk and even artists. However, when I realize we literally come from Kings and Queens, not segregation and slavery, I ask myself, “why are we using this word?”
Another word that brought up a lot of controversy was Bitch. I really don’t like this word at all and I only have two friends that call me this. I don’t say anything because they throw it around so comfortably and playfully and really mean no harm by it, that I don’t mind either.
However, maybe I should. Bitch is just as degrading as “nigga.” However, some women say that artists are not talking about them when they say “bitches” and “hoes” and that is why they are not offended, because they say whatever they have to to sell records. I loved how in the documentary, it was said that if George Bush was to go on stage and call all black people “niggers,” would black people say, “oh, he is not talking about me he is talking about someone else.”
This analogy really made me think.
I hate how women and men, specifically of color, are portrayed in America. We focus so much on hyper masculinity, objectification of women and use of violence to validate someone’s gender identification and it hurts a lot of people’s self-esteem.
In the textbook, it speaks of women in Latina countries, saying that Latina women who come to the U.S. at an older age, versus those who are born and raised in the U.S., have a higher self-esteem and more confidence in regards to appearance.
So the question to ask ourselves, is why is our country obsessed with sex, degrading each other and setting unrealistic body standards?