Friday, April 25, 2008

Why are degrading rap lyrics socially acceptable?

Being an avid hip-hop fan, rap lyrics are something I take for granted. I’m way more about the beat than the words, so I, like most people I know who like the music, don’t really pay much attention to what these guys are saying. But if you stop and listen to what most of these rappers are saying in their songs, it is some of the most degrading, objectifying, disrespectful stuff available for mass consumption. The lyrics are blatantly offensive to women, yet nobody seems to make a big deal about it, like they would if the lyrics were racially or ethnically degrading.

There was a hit song a few years ago by a group so irrelevant I’ve forgotten their names called “Shake That Ass.” The main lyric went something like:
“Now shake that ass, bitch, and let me see what you got!”

Excuse me? Are you calling me a bitch, and then telling me to shake my ass for your entertainment? Wow, that’s not just offensive, that’s downright degrading. And America’s response? It was a club staple and got massive radio airplay.

Now let’s say I took the same lyrics and applied them to race. Say the lyric was something like:
“Now trim that hedge, Hispanic, and let me see what you got.”
I’m guessing that one wouldn’t have been on every radio station’s Top 10 list all summer. Something tells me the local Mexican-American community probably would have made some noise, and rightfully so. But say something equally as offensive about women, and it's musical gold.

Or take the recent dance craze phenomenon that is the “Soulja Boy.” Perhaps the only intelligible lyric in the entire song involves Soulja Boy telling everyone to “superman dat ho.” This, of course, was accompanied by an adorable flying motion mimicked by awkward white people, college mascots and 5 year-olds nationwide. And what, exactly, does “supermanning dat ho” entail? It is a rather disrespectful sexual act which I won’t go into, but the point is that Soulja Boy is telling his audience to essentially disrespect a woman, perform this disgusting act on her, and call her a ho. And they’re playing it during timeouts at the Kings’ games.

But say the lyric was “punch that homo?” Somehow I don’t see Slamson (the Kings’ mascot) doing a punching motion that mimicked gay-bashing to help entertain the crowd.

The videos are no better. I can’t think of a popular rap video that does not feature women in thongs dancing around, having champagne poured on them, and being treated as property that the “flossin’” rapper has earned. And again, nobody bats an eyelash. They volunteer for it, they’re there for the money, so let them be property, the argument goes.

My point is that today, nothing in popular culture can denigrate racial, ethnic, or even sexual minorities without setting off controversy. Only when it involves putting down women is it ok and acceptable. And nobody, unfortunately, including myself, lets it stop them from consuming more.

1 comment:

Lisa R. Pruitt said...

You know me, Julia. I could not agree with you more. And I like your focus on social acceptability rather than on law. As we know, under existing doctrine, these lyrics are fair game in the great marketplace of ideas. If law's no help, why then, isn't culture? Why can't we make talking about women in a way that maintains and respects their dignity a significant tenet of political correctness?