It’s Not Just Hip-Hop

Brittany Williams
Oct 25, 2015 · 5 min read

Every genre of music has its fair share of music with sexist or misogynist songs. Unfortunately, rap music seems to be an easy target when the topic of misogyny arises in the music scene. But why is rap music anymore susceptible to criticism than other genres that are guilty of the same thing? Bill O’Reilly argues that rap is “hurting America’s children.” Some could argue that rap and hip-hop music has more misogynistic songs than any other genre, and they may be right. Since the 1980s rappers have objectified and demeaned women and promoted sexual abuse and violence against women. And, I believe the mainstream rap artists that participate in this degrading trend should receive a great deal of criticism. But if artists of the rap scene are constantly criticized for doing or saying the wrong thing, then artists of different genres such as rock, pop, should be liable to the same criticism. But why aren’t they?

Let’s consider why hip-hop is the scapegoat more than any other genre, even if all music has the same problem. Zeba Blay, author of the well-recommended blog post on Medium, “What We Forget About When We Talk About Hip-Hop’s Women Problem” hypothesizes that there are valid reasons for hip-hop being critiqued more often than any other genre in music. But, she suggests, that although hip-hop certainly has a problem with women, other genres should not be ignored because ultimately, as she states, “failing to critique all genres does a disservice to all women.” By only critiquing hip-hop, we are narrowing the problems of misogyny to one certain group, while completely ignoring the impacts in every other genre. So how can we analyze the effects or even start to hope for change when we are working with such a small scope?

Rick Ross raps about drugging girls and and taking them home and raping them. You can guess that this would be one of the first images that popped up when I googled “misogyny in music.”

In addition, Blay argues that hip-hop is mainly the scapegoat because “hip-hop is global, wildly popular, and mainstream in a way that many rock genres aren’t nowadays.” In other words, hip-hop is more criticized because more people listen to it. If, for example, rock or heavy metal aren’t listened to by nearly as many people as hip-hop is, why would more people criticize it? Also, Blay tries to clarify a major criticism of hip-hop by saying that “sexism in rap music did not spring solely from black culture.” Many critics of the genre may argue that rape, violence, and sexual abuse is only prevalent among colored people. But, maybe, the sexism that is heard and seen in hip-hop music is actually a reflection of sexism in society as a whole, not just the black race. It is also important to realize that not all rap music is sexist, just like not all other genres are sexist.

Erica West, author of the blog “Where is Your Boy Tonight?: Misogyny in Pop Punk,” writes about pop punk, a genre dominated by white males, and says it has plethora of sexism that is not recognized like hip-hop music is. But, unlike Zeba Blay, West argues that misogyny is not recognized in other genres because of an idea in our society known as white privilege. She argues that “we can understand the silence around misogyny in pop punk as part of larger pattern of individualizing or excusing the behavior of White people — a core characteristic of White privilege.” White people are often excused from their bad behaviors, while colored people, like Chris Brown and Mike Tyson, are forever associated with their assault cases. Unfortunately, though, there are many cases of domestic violence among the white race that have been swept under the rug such as Charlie Sheen and Woody Allen. This is a prime example of why rap music may be scrutinized more than other genres — if West is correct, it is due to the idea of white supremacy. White-dominated music genres aren’t scrutinized for their sexist behaviors, but hip hop is constantly in the spotlight for its mistakes. If hip-hop and rap were genres that primarily consisted of white males, would they be facing the same criticism they are currently facing? Well, if Erica West is right, they wouldnt.

Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” refers to the “blurred line” between a good girl and a bad girl and people who want to “get naughty.” The whole song degrades women, and calls them “bitches” and “animals,” and the music video consists of Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams singing around half-naked girls. How much criticism did they get for this song? Well, if you guessed virtually none, you’d be correct. Blurred Lines won over EIGHT awards.

These self depreciating, suburban White guys in ripped jeans are about as different as you can get from big, tough, Black rappers from the Projects. But both genres reproduce harmful ideas about women and relationships. It’s essential to disrupt these narratives and hold White men accountable if we want to fight racism and sexism in our communities. — Erica West

So, why does all this matter? The point is that hip-hop is almost always wrongly accused as the only genre that has sexist messages for many reasons, but it’s not. Almost all music genres have at least a few artists and songs that convey misogynist ideals. And these misogynistic messages can, according to Monica Archarya, student at Georgia Southern University and author of the blog “Objectification of Women in Hip Hop Music Videos,” “give aspiring male hip hop artists [and all other artists] the wrong idea that the only way to success in the hip hop industry is by featuring naked girls in their videos.” Clearly, media and society has a warped idea of success in all industries. This warped idea of success affects the mindsets of the artists and the audience. Whether the genre is rock, hip-hop, country, or death metal, if you are looking for sexism, you will find it. And I think that is a problem that should be not only addressed, but also fixed.

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