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The Representation of Hip-Hop Feminism
Feminism in the hip-hop genre revolves around the representation of women artists and the manner in which they convey their art. Hip-hop has traditionally objectified women as it was a male-dominated music style; however, the emergence of astute female hip-hop artists like Nicki Minaj has given women a representation in hip-hop. While hip-hop is renowned for its biased depiction of women, female artists like Nicki Minaj seek to change the perception of women. Smith (2014) states that female rappers twist the simplistic interpretations of hip-hop as an all-encompassing space for the sexes. Durham et al. (2013) note that 1999 was the defining moment of hip-hop feminism. Evidently, the turn of the century heralded a myriad of strides for the trend, as it diverged from the black feminist movement. Feminist hip-hop is a powerful discourse for tackling sexism in the hip-hop genre.
Hip-hop feminism as presented by contemporary artists has redrawn black female sexuality. Crenshaw (2015) recognizes the pervasiveness of racial and gender discrimination in the society. The gender discrimination has taken root in the hip-hop industry through the commodification of females, especially by male artists. Consequently, feminism in hip-hop is presented as an avenue for breaking free of the male artists’ tendency to objectify women. As articulated by Durham et al. (2013), early 2000s hip-hop feminists resisted the school of thought that clearly delineated feminist roles. On the contrary, they vouched for a refined line of thinking that sought to “create” instead of critiquing. The authors further note that hip-hop artists prefer to work with contradictions (Durham et al., 2013). Feminism in hip-hop has set out to redefine female roles, and contemporary artists have adopted an uninhibited versatility with regards to their images. Nicki Minaj owes her success to her dynamic image which is pegged on her sexuality (Smith, 2014). Hip-hop feminism attempts to tackle sexual fulfilment in music and expressions of queerness serve to augment sexual attraction. In doing so, issues concerning black female sexuality are addressed within hip-hop.
Black hip-hop feminism has transcended the male monologue on the purpose of the female body in the genre. Smith (2014) writes that since time immemorial, hip-hop has been complex for female partakers. The domination of hip-hop by males has subjected it to male interpretation regarding the roles of women. There exists an “objectifying stipulation” where women are expected to be beautiful. For female black rappers to prove their lyrical prowess, beauty is one of the stipulations that has to be met. Rappers like Missy Elliot is a break from the pack as she employs a form of queerness in hip-hop, and this has enabled her to carve out her niche. The hip-hop feminist movement has redefined the purpose of the female body by impacting it with rap music. Durham et al. (2013) state that percussive feminism entails hitting the female body with some degree of force, which is hip-hop. The notion of percussive feminism stimulates analysis by placing two incompatible objects, in this case, hip-hop and feminism are compared side by side. The comparison of these two changes the perception of the female body in hip-hop from that which should elicit sexual awe to that which is considered a source of creativity and enlightenment.
Hip-hop feminism is a vital tool for social change. Both male and female hip-hop artists echo male privilege to the chagrin of female hip-hop. The genre began as a political voice for the socially, economically, and racially disadvantaged people (Smith, 2014). It is appalling that the genre still disrespects females through the use of misogynistic videos and lewd lyrics. Female rappers have a small window to express their queer tendencies. Durham et al. (2013) note that black and colored bodies have historically been regarded as excessive. The presentation of black bodies as excess has inhibited the intellectual presentation of black female artists as they are regarded as “Bitches” or “Whores” (Durham et al., 2013). Hip-hop feminism can be a precipitator for social change, particularly with regards to how black and colored female bodies are viewed. Crenshaw (2015) highlights the way sexism, racism, and other social inequalities undermine the society. Intersectionality is prevalent in social movements; however, black hip-hop feminism offers a unique opportunity for enabling social change.
Sexism is prevalent in the artistic world. Contemporary female hip-hop artists can utilize their bodies to empower each other, rather than promote the erosion of womanhood through the excessive objectification of women. When black feminism is placed in the context of hip-hop culture, the resulting movement can be an instigator for much-needed social change. Feminists recognize hip-hop’s gray areas and these are used to draw new theories for sexuality, as well as for empowering black and colored women. Hip-hop feminism offers the avenue for women to capacitate themselves to learn and critique their societies. The movement has to address sexuality and the female identity to recognize the preferential treatment of male artists. Contemporary female rappers have broken away from the era of female objectification to a period where they can initiate social change and offer social and political discourse.
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