Hip Hop’s Influence on the Image of Black Women in America
It’s time to take responsibility and analyze the black community’s role in oversexualizing our own.
Black women in America have been oversexualized since the birth of this nation. Literature, rhetoric, film, television, newspaper, magazines, social media, propaganda, law, etc., have performed as tools, used by white America, to sexualize and devalue the bodies of black women. It is easy to examine how white America has used these tools against our women, but it is equally important that the African American community looks into how it also supports those ideas, specifically through hip hop.
Hip Hop is a major part of black American culture. It is our own outlet to expressing ourselves, our communities, our struggles, and our accomplishments. There have been many instances where hip hop has been used to stand up for injustice and humanity, one of the most popular being N.W.A’s powerful stance against police brutality in their record “Fuck tha Police”. As popular as it is for hip hop artists to use their platform for the greater good, there is also an equally popular trend of using black women as props in music videos.
It is extremely common (not always) for black women to be formed into inanimate objects for a visual experience through their clothing, dancing, actions, and sometimes speech. Although hip hop can be thought of as an art form, the type of message these music videos send can be detrimental by “[marking] all black women in similar ways”
Let’s begin by discussing how there is an exaggerated emphasis on the body, which makes it easy for black women to be sexualized. Stereotypes regarding black women often surround the physique.
In “Why do music videos portray black women as exotic sex objects?”, Iramara Larasi draws attention to the emphasis put on the bodies of African American women, which are “seen as inherently sexual and animalistic, with a heavy focus on body shape, particularly the posterior. The black woman’s ‘butt’ has been considered a distinct point of fascination for centuries”. Sir Mix A Lot’s iconic song and video to “Baby Got Back” drew attention to the shape of black women’s bodies, specifically regarding butts. Over time, big behinds have become associated with black women as a whole.
In April 2017, rapper Rick Ross released a music video to his song “She on My Dick” featuring superstar artist Gucci Mane. The video takes place in a strip club where most of the women are showcased as sexual props. The women are seen barely clothed (some not at all) and dancing provocatively around the men.
The amount of black women in a video with this title alone is also problematic.
“Re-Thinking Intersectionality” sheds light on the danger of only seeing all black women as one: “Black women are treated as a unitary and monolithic entity”. Jennifer C. Nash argues that the law needs to recognize different factors of the black women. Instead of only being discussed in terms of race and gender, other elements must be considered: citizenship, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexuality, class, age, colorism, gender, etc. The music videos in the hip hop world further push the agenda of keeping black women in a box.
The hip hop community needs to take a good look at itself. Speaking of for black rights also includes speaking up and protecting black women.