I get asked this a lot. The idea that rap music is largely homophobic and sexist is a widespread discourse. And it’s true, of course. There’s a lot of “bitches”, “faggots” and stuff like that up in there. But I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t just a cheap and stupid way of discrediting hiphop and deeming it less intelligent or civilised because it comes from black culture. White people telling black guys how to treat black women. And thus completely stomping all over the agency and experience of actual women of color. Because when was the last time these people picked up a SZA album, rocked out to Salt-N-Pepa, or put on FKA Twigs? Or demanded WOC have a larger role in music production? Why, suddenly, do they care so much, if it isn’t to just use the marginalisation of WOC to discredit a culture because they didn’t really like it in the first place?
I mean, as feminist, I’m looking at John Mayer, David Guetta, Calvin Harris, Ed Sheeran, and Coldplay to name but a few, and can’t help but think: what have you done for women in music lately? Sure, the sexism in hiphop is blatant and in your face, but does that make it any worse than the indirect sexism of having only male musicians and two female singers (one of whom he was dating at the time) that is on John Mayer’s latest album, Paradise Valley? Or the 4 out of 26 female personnel on Ed Sheeran’s debut album, +? And in the making of AM, the extremely successful album by Arctic Monkeys, not one single woman is listed as contributing in the studio. Of the 26 people making Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience zero women are listed as part of personnel. What a bold, non-misogynist statement…
So, while hiphop is extremely sexist, so is the rest of the music industry. Just because the objectification of women is less blatant, maybe a couple less naked women in the videos, behind the scenes, it’s still men. Just look at the amount of women (thank god for Beyoncé, I say to myself every night. She, by the way, has an all female band) on the Billboard Music Power 100.
This is no excuse. This situation is messed up. But dealing with sexism in the culture industry is just something you deal with as a woman. And by the way, I see few non-hiphop artists who are as politically engaged as Kanye, Common, Nas, Talib Kweli, Yaasin (formerly Mos Def). They’re having a huge impact on being role models to young black men, whereas most white male musicians, who are NOT speaking from a place of oppression like these guys are, do absolutely nothing (or very little) in terms of using their immense power to combat the awesomely unequal society we live in.