All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
Misogynistic Music: Why All of Us Must Do Better
You turn on the radio, and a song you’ve never heard is on. The beat is catchy, the bass is thumping; suddenly, you hear someone yell: “B** ain’t s***!”, and the song goes downhill from there.
When I was thirteen, I realized that rap music wasn’t exactly empowering to women, after I’d listened to an Eminem special on the radio and I heard Eminem rap verses like “support domestic violence, beat your b**’s ass while your kids stare in silence”. Before that, I never really understood what all the rappers were saying, the words being unintelligible to my young ears, but I after that experience I started noticing misogynistic and violent (sometimes a combination of the both) lyrics appearing in all sorts of songs. What could I do about it? The melody was really catchy and no one else seemed to find anything wrong with the song. Little thirteen-year-old me felt as if no one shared my sentiments, as rappers continued to top the pop charts singing about “hoes” and “all them b***s”.
Thus, quite some time passed until one day, I was watching TED Talks and I came across a talk called “Roxane Gay: Confessions of a Bad Feminist”. The talk turned out to be very amusing and powerful at the same time. During her speech, she said something that made my jaw drop: ” I have another confession. When I drive to work, I listen to thuggish rap at a very loud volume.” I groaned internally. “Thuggish rap”? Roxane Gay continued, acknowledging that the music she listened to was demeaning, which made me realize that there were people who could relate to me and that I was not the only one who was able to hear the misogynistic phrases through the mumbling and the loud bass. Which, I suppose, I should have known, but I suppose I never realized that there were probably many men and women who recognized that there was a lot of sexism in rap lyrics. Near the end of her illustrious speech, Roxane Gay said something that struck a chord with me: “We can change the radio station when we hear songs that treat women as nothing”. The rest of the speech resonated with me a lot, but the most revelatory segment was her part about rap music. Change the radio station. That was a good one. But would doing that be enough?
High school started and I started telling my friends about the misogyny in the music we listen to. I understood that the melody and beat of rap songs were phenomenal sometimes. However, it is not even remotely fine for rappers to call women “hoes” and “b***s” and combine that with violence and sex. While it would be unfair to demonize singers who simply sing about sex, when the “sex” they refer to is demeaning, violent, and seemingly non-consensual, then these songs are downright toxic.
I have asked myself before if I was being overly pedantic: maybe I should just accept these songs and their catchy rhythms, since the words “hoe” and “b***” were a part of the vernacular anyway. Maybe I was being too nitpicky. Maybe it was because I had not grown up in a community where rap music was even more dominant and I didn’t understand “the struggle” of the rappers. I began to have some doubts about the validity of my views, and I decided to talk to more people about it to gain perspective. One day, I saw someone share a really sexist statement from a rapper, and I began to speak up and tell others that we as a society shouldn’t support artists like R. Kelly and Chris Brown, the former of whom had a sex cult and abused women, and the latter of whom beat up his girlfriend and publicly shamed his new girlfriend. Of course, the other common denominator of these two artists was that they had misogynistic lyrics, and there were also more artists like that. I received a lot of affirmative responses from some of my friends, and from some people I didn’t really talk to that much or know that well. Those responses really encouraged me and made me feel reinvigorated.
Rap is important to black and/urban culture, and I think that rap is a very powerful genre that has a potential to create a message that will resonate with many. “Where is the Love” and “Crooked Smile” are two songs I really like, the former addressing social issues, and the latter encouraging and empowering women. Rappers like Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino use rap as a medium to embrace their heritage and rap about race and inequality. However, Lamar consistently uses the b-word, and Gambino demeans women, most notably with his fetishization of Asian women and his put-downs of black women. There are both positive and negative aspects of rap. It is when rappers disrespect women that the negative really shines through. In The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, the author writes that rap is “generally designed for white audiences” and that “the majority of consumers of gangsta rap are white, suburban teenagers”. In this manner, rap is not a revolutionary medium, nor is it a celebratory medium, it is instead something that promotes violence and sexism. Rap has a “bad rep” (or a “bad rap”) because of rappers that demean women, because of artists that are in problematic and abusive relationships, because of its commercialization of violence and the accompanying misogyny. In psychology, I learned about the mere exposure effect where being exposed to something more makes it more palatable. In this way, derogatory terms for women may become more normalized and prevalent. This demonization of women and women’s sexuality is truly not acceptable. I think that, like Roxane Gay said, we, as in people of all genders, should change the radio when we hear degrading songs. We must also let others know that the sexism in rap is unacceptable, that we should not use the words “b**s” and “s***s” and “hoes” when referring to women collectively, that we should not purchase the songs of artists who abuse women. And to those rappers out there: you wouldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) talk to your mother or your sister that way, so why would you call hordes of women just like them that in your song?
I hope that one day, we can listen to rap without being bombarded with misogynistic lyrics. Who knows? As more people speak up, and the artists themselves learn and grow, rap may take an entirely different direction.
Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow. Rev. ed. New York, NY: The New Press, 2012.
Gay, Roxane. “Roxane Gay: Confessions of a Bad Feminist.” Speech. TED. Last modified June 22, 2015. Accessed August 19, 2018.
Genius Media Group Inc. “Genius.” Low Down, Dirty. Accessed August 19, 2018.