Reading Assignment WGS 2224
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verified elite notetaker
verified elite notetaker
verified elite notetaker
verified elite notetaker
verified elite notetaker
verified elite notetaker
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Date Created: 09/07/16
▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯ ▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯ ▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯ ▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯ ▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯http://www.jstor.org/stable/466678 ▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯ Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=duke. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Duke University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Social Text. http://www.jstor.org Bitches, and Hoes Fly-Girls, NOTES OF A HIP-HOP FEMINIST Youknow Boo, it's beensixyears sinceI've beenwritingabout hip hop on the Joan Morgan womanist tipand I'm stilgettingaskedthesame questions.t work, theintelli- gentsia typeswant to know if,Giventhe undeniably highcontentof sexismand misogyny inrap music,isn'ta declaredcommitmentto both,well,incongruous?" And my girlstheyjustcome rightout, "Youstill wit thanigga?" So tellthemhow goodyou do thatthingyou do. Laugh and say I'mjust a slave toyour rhythms. ThenI wax poetic aboutyour artistic brillianceanthe voice (albeitpredominantlymale)you gave an embattled,in pain, nation. And then assurethemthat call you out on alofyour sexismon the regular.hat works, untilsomeone,usually sista-friend,allsmeoutand says thatwhileallof thatwasvalid thatnone ofitexplainedwhy stayed in anobviouslyabusiverela- tionship.And can't lie Boo,thatwouldstressme. 'Cuz my answerswouldstart like thosebatterewomen writeabout. sounding Sure,I say,alldefensive.t'seasy tojudge-to wonderwhat any womanin her right mind would be doingwith that wack motherfucka ifu're entering thesweettimes.But thesweetnesswas therein the this now, before beginningof on-againoff-again loveaffair.t startedalmostsixteeyearsago,aroundthetime when TonyBoyd all mocked-neckand fine gave me myfirst tongue kiss in the back I.S. 148 and theSouthBronx birthtoa culture. of gave Thoseoldschool deejaysand M.C.'s performedcommunity serviceat school- yardjams. Intoxicatinghecrowd with beatsand rhymes,they wereshamanssent to uswith the blues.As wedonned provide temporaryrelieffrom ghetto's forsisters, our flare-legee'sand medallions,became fly-girls,d gaveup thelove.Nobody even talkedabout sexismin hiphop backin thosedays. All an M.C. wantedthen was to bethebaddestin havea and takeridesin his battle, fly-girl, fresh O.J.If we were beingobjectified(andI guesswe were),nobody cared.At thetime,there seemedto be greater sins thanbeingcalled"ladies,"s in, "Allthe ladies in the house, 'Oww!"' Or as "What do?" it was say "fly-girls,"in, you gonna Perhaps becausewewere beingacknowledged as acomplementarypart of a whole. But girlfriend'sgot point,Boo. Wehaven't been fly-girls forvery long time.And all thelovein theworlddoesnot erasethe thenew stingingimpactof invectivesand brutalimagery-ugly imprintsleft on cheeksthathave turnedthe other way too many times. Theabuseis undeniable. Dre, Short, Snoop, Scar- face-I givethemall theirdue,but the new school'sincreasinguseof violence, straight-up selfishndividualism,and woman-hating (half of them act like it wasn'ta womanwhoclothedand fedtheirblack asses-and I don'tcareifmama was Crackhead Annie, then therewas probably grandmother who keptthem alive)maskseven from my own eyes theessenceofhat Ifellin lovewith. Portions of this in VIBE ? essayoriginally appeared Magazine, reprinted by permission. Copyright 1995 by VIBE Magazine. Things wereeasierwhen your onlyenemies werewhiteracism and middle- class blacfolk who didn't want all thajunglemusic reminding them theyhad kinky roots.Now your anger is turnedinward.And I've spenttoomuchtimein thecrossfire,tryingtoexplain why youfind itnecessaryto hurteventhosewho looklikeyou. Not to mentiona habitcalledcommercialismand multipleperfor- mance andI to tell attimesI've rea- failures got you, found myselfscroungingfor sons tostay. Something morethan sixteen years being long-ass time,and not quiteknowing how to walk awayfrom a nigga'whose growthprocess has helped existence. defineyour So here Iam, Boo,lovin'you, myself,my sistas,my brothers,ith loyalties thatareas fierceas theyare divided. Onething Iknow for certainis thaifyou arewho believe to thevoice a in and then really you be, of nation, pain insane, any thinkingblackwoman's relationshipith you isgoingtobe ascomplicated as herlovefor blackmen. Whether likeit or not,you playa criticapart indefin- my can me theanswerto the so us ing feminism. Onlyyou give question manyof areafraid toask,"Howdidwe gofrom fly-girlsobitchesand hoesin ourbroth- ers'eyes?" You are to thelockerroom.And whileit's truethat musicholds mykey your some offifteen-tothirty-year-oldlackmen's ugliesthoughts aboutme it is the onlyplace whereI canchallengethem.You arealsothemirrorin whichwecansee ourselves.nd there's like timein thelockerroomto sisters nothing spending bring facetofacewith theways we straightup playourselves.Thoseare fleshand blood womenwho put theirtittiesn theglass.eal lifeoneswhomaketheir livingsby waitingbackstage and slingin'priceags on thepunanny. And ifourfeminism is evergoing to mean anything, theirsare theliveyou can help us tosave.As for theabuse, theprocess ispainful, yes,ut wars are not won by soldierswho are afraidtogo the battleground. So, Boo, I'vefinally gotnanswer to everybody thatwantsto talkaboutthe incongruityofour relationship.Hip hopand myfeminism are notat war,but my community is.And you arecriticaltooursurvival. I'm yours Boo. Fromcradle to thegrave.1 Since definitions of feminism tend to be as as the women who disparate use them, let me define mine. My feminism places the welfare of black women and the black community on its list opriorities.It also maintains that black-on-black love is essential to the survival of both. We have come to a point in our history, however, when black-on- black love-a love that's survived slavery, lynching, segregation, poverty, and racism-is in serious danger. The statisticsusher in thisreality like before the death march: in the last thirty years the number of black taps two-parent households has decreased from 70 percent to 38 percent. The leading cause of death among black men ages fifteen to twenty-four is die the hands of other black men. homicide. The majority of them will at As the following South Bronx tales reveal, women are the unsung victims of black-on-black crime. Last month a friend of mine, a single mother of a newborn (her "babyfather"-a brother-abdicated responsi- 152 Joan Morgan before theirchild was bility born),was attacked by pitbull while walking her dog inthe park. The owner (a brother)trainedthe animalto prey on other dogs and the flesh of his fellocommunity members. A few weeks mother called to tell me about the murder ago, my upset feminism of a familyfriend. She was troubled young woman with a historyof sub- Any stance abuse, aggravated by her son's murder two years ago. She was found beaten and burned beyond recognition. Her murderers were not that failsto "skinheads," "the man," or "theracistwhite power structure."More likely acknowledge than not, they were brown men whose faces resembled her own. Clearly, we are having avery difficult timloving each other. feminism that fails to how black folks in 1990s how black folks Any acknowledge America are livingand tryingto love in a war zone is useless to black in 1990s America women and to men. Rap music is essential to thestruggle againstsexism because it takesus straightto the battlefield. are and living My decision to expose myself to the sexism of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Doggy Dog, or the Notorious B.I.G. isreallymy plea tomy broth- trying to love ers to tell me who they are. need to know why they are so angry at me. is me one of the few thatwillmakethem feel like in a war zone Why disrespecting things men? What are they going through on the dailythat'sgot them acting so is useless to fucked up? As a black woman and a feminist listen to the music with a willing- blackwomen ness to see past themachismo in order to be clearabout what I'm really dealing with. What Ihear frightensme. Booming track afterbooming and men. track, I hear brothers talking about spending each day high as hell on malt and chronic. Don't What for "40 and a blunt" liquor sleep. passes good times in most of hip hop isreallyalcoholism, substance abuse,and chemical dependency. When brothers can talk so cavalierlyabout killing each other and then reveal that they have no expectation to see their twenty-first birthday, that is straight-up depression masquerading as machismo. Anyone who istruly curious about theprocesses and pathologiesthat form the of the and criminal-minded should check psyche young, black, out the Notorious B.I.G.'s platinum album, Ready to Die. The album chronicles the life and times of the urban "soldier"-a blues-laden soul trainthat takes us on Biggie'slifejourney.We board with the story of his birth, strategicallystoppingto view hisdysfunctional, warringfamily, his firstrobbery, his first stintjail,urder, drug-dealing, getting paid, par- tying, sexin',rappin', mayhem, and death. Biggie's player persona may convince the listener that he's livin'without a carein the momentarily world, but othermoments divulge his innerhell. The chorus of"Everyday Struggle"-I don'twannaliveno more /ometimes seedeathknockin'at my frontdoor /I'm livingeveryday a hustle/Another drug juggle /Another day another that is also with struggle-reveal "Big Poppa" plagued guilt, regret, Fly-Girls,itches,nd Hoes 153 and The album ends with his suicide and the fol- depression. ultimately lowing chillingwords: Allmylife I've beenconsideredas theworst Lying tomy mothereven stealingther purse Crime aftercrimfrom drugstoextortion Made my motherwishshehada fuckin'bortion She don'tevenlovemelikeshedid when was younger Suckin'on herchesjusttostopmyfuckin' hunger I wonder Idiedwouldtearscometoher if eyes Forgiveme formy disrespect Forgiveme for mylies. The wall of sexism and machismo in music is seemingly impenetrable rap reallythe mask worn both to hide and to express the pain. Hip hop is the only forum inwhich young black men, no matterhow surreptitiously,are allowed to express their at all. pain When it comes to the struggle against sexism and our intimate rela- tionships with blackmen, some of the most on-point feminist advice I've received comes from sisterslikemy mother, who wouldn't dreamof using the f-word. During our battle to resolve ourcomplicated relationships with my equally wonderful and errant father, she presented me with the following gems of wisdom: "One of the most important lessons you will ever learn inlife and love is thayou've got to lovepeople for what they are-not for who you would likethem to be." This becomes crystalclearto me when I am listeningtohip hop. As black women, we are hurt when we hear brothers callingus bitches and hoes. We feel that the real crimebeing committed isn't the name-calling but theirfailureto love us-to be our brothersin the way thatwe commit ourselves tobeing their sistas. But what we'vegotto realizeis that a man who doesn't trulylove himself iincapable of lovingus in thehealthyway we want and need to be loved. It'stellinghatmen who can only see us as bitches and hoes referto themselves as only niggers. In the interest ofour emotional health and overall sanity,black women have got to learn to love brothersrealistically,nd that means honest with ourselves about where are. Black men are being they engaged in a war inwhich the realenemies, racism and the white power structure, are masters of camouflage that have conditioned our men to believe the is brown. The effects of this have been as wicked as enemy they have been debilitating. Beingn battle with anenemy that looksjust likeyou makes it hard to believen the basics of lifevery human being needs. For too many blackmen there is no trust,o community, no fam- ily.ust self. Since hip hop is the mirrorin which so many brothers see them- Joan Morgan selves,itissignificantthat one of the music's most prevalent mythologies is that blackboys rarely grow into men. They remain perpetually post- adolescent or they die. For all the machismo and testosterone in the music, it'sfrighteningly clearthat many brothers see themselves as pow- erless when it the of comes to facing evils the largersociety. As black women, we've got to do what any rational, survivalist- minded person would do after findingherself ina relationshipwith some- one whose makes him abusive. We must continue to the love pain give up butfrom a distancethat'ssafe.Distance is agreat enablerof unconditional love and support because itallows us to recognize that theattack, "the bitch hoe bullshit,"isn't but of the illness. personal part As feminists,our focus has got to change. We can't afford tokeep expending energy on banal discussions ofsexism in rap when sexism is only part of a huge set of problems. Continuing on our previous path is akin to demanding that a fiending, broke, crackhead not rob you blind because it'swrong to do so. If feminism intends to have any relevance inthe livesof the majority of black ifit intends to move and become women, pasttheory functional, it must rescue itself from thivory towers of academia. Like itor not, hip hop is notonly the dominion of the young, black, and male, it ialso the world in which black women live and survive.A functional femi- young nism for us, one that isgoing to be as helpfulto Shequanna on 142nd as it is to Samantha at Sarah Lawrence, has got torecognize hip hop's abil- ityto articulatethe pain our community is in andthen use thatknowledge to createa redemptive, healingspace. Notice my emphasis on "community." Hip hop is not only instru- mental in exposing black men's pain, it is a vittool in bringing to the surface the blackwomen have healing got to do. It'stime tostop ignoring the fact thattheserappers meet women dailywho reaffirmtheir depiction of us on vinyl. Backstage, the road and the hood are populated with women who would do to be with a for an hour if anything rappersexually not a night. We do ourselves a disservice when we pretend to not know who rapper Jeru the Damaja istalking about when he says: with bitchezit's thesameold Dealing song theyonly wantyou 'tilsomeonerichercomesalong Don't getme wrongstrongblackwomen I knowwhosewho totalrespect'm giving... Now a queen's queenbuta stunt'sa stunt Youcan tellwho'swho the want by thingsthey Most chickswant things,iamondsand Benz Spendup alyour ends Probablyfuckyourfriends ... They begiving upsexforgoods. Bitches,and Hoes 155 Fly-Girls, Black folkshave Sex has long been the barteringchip that women use to gain protec- tion,material wealth, and the vicarious benefits ofpower. In the black reached finally community, where women are given less access to allof the above, "trickin"'becomes a means oflevelingthe playingfield.Denying thejus- the point where tifiableanger of rappers-men who could not get the time of day from these women before a few dollars and a record deal-is not feminist or we can recognize strategic.Turning a blind eye and scampering for moral high ground diverts our attentionaway from the young women who are being denied how we engage access topower and are sufferingfor it. in oppressive It may be more convenient to turn our "feminist" attention to "the sexistrepresentationof women" inthe latest Sirix A Lot video,to con- behaviors which tinue fussingover onesexist rapper, but it would be infinitelyore pro- ductive to address the self-esteem of the 150 or so half-naked failing white folkshave young women who are willing, unpaid participants. Perhapsinstead of expending allofour energy reading brothers who callus out ofname, we littleo do with. might examine how flipwe are when it comes to using the b-word to describe each other.At some point we've allbeen the bearersor recipients of the competitive,unsisterly, "bitchy"ways in which we can sometimes act,particularlywhen vying for male attention. Black folks have reached the where we can finally point recognize how we engage in oppressive behaviorswhich white folkshave littleto do with. Though complexion prejudices and classism are illnesseshat have their rootsn white racism,the perpetrators arecertainlyblack. Similarly,feminism must confront theways in which we arecomplicit in our own oppression.Men's exploitationof our images and sexualityin hip hop is,inmany ways, done with the permission and cooperation of our sisters.We need to be as accountable to each other as we believe "racetraitors" (thatis,100 or so brothersin blackface cooning in a skin- head's music video) should be to our community. To acknowledge this doesn't deny our victimization but it doesaisethe criticalissuef whose responsibilityit is to endur oppression. As a feminist,I believe itstoo great aresponsibilityto leaveto men. A few years ago, on an airplane making itsway to Montego Bay, I received another of wisdom from a self- gem girlfriend sixty-year-old, declared nonfeminist. She was meeting her husband to celebrate her thirty-fifthedding anniversary. After tellingher was twenty-seven and very much single,she looked at me and shook her head sadly. "I feel don't know how have sorry for your generation. You to relationships, especiallythe women." Curious, I asked her why she thought this was. "The women ofyour generation, you want to beright.The women of my generation, we didn't careabout being right.We justwanted to win." Too much of the discussionregarding sexism and the music focuses on being right.Wefeel we're rightandthe rappers arewrong. The rappers feel it's therightto describe their"reality"in any way they see fit. The 156 Joan Morgan stores feel it's thrightto sell whatevertheconsumers want to hear.The consumers feel it'stheir to be abletodecide what want to listen right they to. We may be the "rightest"of the bunch but we sure as hell ain'doing the winning. I believe that can uswin. We can startby hip hop help recognizing thatitsilluminating,informative narration and itsabilityo articulateour collectivepain isan invaluable tool forexamining gender relations.The information we amass can help create aredemptive, healing space for women. blackmen and black We are all winners when a space exists fobrothers to honestly state and explore the rootsof theirpain and subsequently their misogyny, sans Itis criminalthatthe our society forTupac judgment. only space provided Shakur to examine the pain,confusion, drug addiction,and fear that led to his arrestand damn near his assassination was a prison cell. How can we win ifa prison cellis theonly space an immensely talented but trou- bled black man could dareutterthese words: "Even I'm not young though guiltyof thecharges they gave me, I'm not innocent in terms ofthe way I was acting. I'm justas guiltyfor notdoing things. Not with thiscase but with life. I had a to do and never showed Iwas so scared of my job up. thisresponsibilitythat was running away from it."We have to do better than this for ourmen. And we must do better forourselves.We desperatelyneed aspace to address our the we sexualizeand lovingly failingself-esteem, ways objec- tifyourselves,ourconfusion about sex and love,and theunhealthy, unlov- ing,unsisterlyways we treateach other. Commitment to developing these our the forremedies based on honest, spaces gives community potential cleardiagnoses. As a black woman I am aware that this doubles my workload, but without these candid discussions thereis littleto hope of exorcisingthe illness that hurts and sometimes killsus. We've alreadytried,"You're wrong. You're fucked up and I'm going to lightnto you every time you do thatshit."Let'sflipthescriptand think about how much more effective itis tohear, "Ilove and I want to you always have you back. That's why I need to know why you're illinglike this because it hurts me. And itimpossible forme trulyto have you back when you're hurting me." At the end of the I'd the love to the of day, prefer empty victory being rightand alone anyway. Wouldn't you? Note 1."Girl Thing,"Joan Morgan, VIBE Magazine, June/July1995,p. 122. Bitches,nd Hoes 157 Fly-Girls,
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