The Issue of Being A Feminist In The Rap World
My boyfriend is a “rapper” and I listen to more hip hop than anything else. As many know, order there is often blatant disrespect for women in rap lyrics and beyond that, viagra a theme of putting us down and regarding us as only objects of sexuality. I listen to misogynist music almost invariably, and it permeates pop culture so deeply that it often goes over our heads. I would never listen to racist music, but I listen to music that’s discriminatory against women every day. I am trying to figure out why that is. Discrimination is discrimination and I do not condone it. I am disappointed in myself as someone who is dedicated to my feminism. In regards to things like food and music, humans can’t help their preferences. I have a predilection for music that makes me want to dance and is fun to sing along to, often forgetting the implications behind the lyrics. I find myself in this grey area.
When we started dating, my parents accused me of not being a feminist anymore because of my boyfriend’s music. They said that by being with him, I am telling the world that I am okay with his lyrics and the use of the words bitches and hoes etc. I consider myself a raging feminist, but they called me out saying it was ingenuine because of my boyfriend’s job and evidently his lyrics. Their lack of corroboration and valid argument has had me questioning myself and my relationship for a year. I love my boyfriend and his music and if he was any kind of misogynist, I wouldn’t be with him. Trust me his lyrics could be a lot worse in terms of objectifying women. After doubting my validity as a feminist I combed through his lyrics. This was important because it led me to realize that there is a significant distinction between talking about sex, and talking about women as sexual objects. It’s important to talk about sex openly to normalize positive dialogue about something so human and natural with the intention of destigmatizing the act. However, lyrics are subject to be interpreted by the listener.
The hip hop industry is a difficult one to navigate. To be successful, a rapper is limited to lyrics that flow, stay on beat, rhyme, and appeal to their audience. When I bring up the subject of my struggle, my boyfriend explains how being this persona is simply his job and he treats it as such. I am not dating Rejjie, I am dating Alex. Being Rejjie is his job. But is this me making excuses for him? He is still the one writing and saying these words. He is loving and supportive and most importantly willing to listen and talk about feminist issues with me and understands how important they are. As a feminist, my main obligation is to continue our discussion and influence others. I am so proud that he listens and is interested, and continues to have the conversations with me. Any of his lyrics reminiscent of misogyny come from a place of unintentional ignorance. As a male from a predominantly catholic and generally “uneducated” town, Alex was never taught about feminism. I’ve made it my duty to fully educate him. For example, he asked me why the word pussy is offensive. He previously thought that pussy was another, more common and less medical word for vagina. I explained to him that it came from a derogatory place and that while a lot of women aren’t offended by it at all, a lot of women are. I told him he has to be sensitive to words like pussy, because as a man, he doesn’t know what it’s like to have one. My heart melted when he looked puzzled and responded, “Well, what can I say instead?” I told him I liked flower and he now uses it.
He talks a lot about how his mother and grandmother ingrained in him how important it is to treat women well, and it shows in our relationship. He always treats me with respect and as an equal. He shows his understanding of the importance of consent. We don’t publicize our relationship on social media because I do not want to be known as Rejjie Snow’s girlfriend. I want people to be interested in me and keep up with me for who I am, for my art, and my originality, unrelated to him. We are two different artists, and we are not okay with me being seen as an accessory to his life.
Feminism means something different for every woman. That is why it is so empowering. A woman’s relationship with her feminism is intimate and unique and should not be judged by others. Some women are scrutinized by other feminists for shaving, and some are criticized for dressing more conservatively. Can I still be a feminist if my boyfriend says bitches? Hell! I say bitches all the time. Although I don’t use it to put other women down, I’m not proud of it. Words are words, and how you use them defines their meaning. I don’t agree with myself for that either because I will call out any white person for saying the N-word without hesitation and it is the same argument. Do you see my dilemma here? I am mentally swimming through a giant grey area.
How my boyfriend treats me is all that matters to me. And because he goes above and beyond to show me how devoted and caring he is, I am not particularly bothered by his lyrics. Then again, he has a voice and an audience, so should he use this opportunity to spread a positive message? Is he obligated to be a positive role model to youth that look up to him? I am a firm believer in women doing what they want and not caring about what other’s think. That’s feminism too, not caring what men or anyone else thinks of you, just being yourself. I’m interested in opening up a dialogue regarding being a feminist in the world of hip hop, and I want to hear what other feminists, rappers, girlfriends, sisters, anyone has to say.
Written by Scarlett Costello