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03.06.07 07:01 PM

Does Hip-Hop Hate Women?

Since this is one of the topics I'm always pondering in this space, and in my speaking engagements, I thought it best that I give Felicia Pride's recent article on AOL Black Voices about an upcoming panel -- that deals with this question -- a full run in this post.

Does Hip-hop Hate Women?
By Felicia Pride
AOL BlackVoices


Does Hip-hop Hate Women?

This is the question that some of my favorite hip-hop thinkers and writers will discuss during a series of national townhall meetings. Organized by author and hip-hop activist, Bakari Kitwana (co-founder of the first ever National Hip-Hop Political Convention, former editor of The Source, and author of The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture and Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop: Wankstas, Wiggers, Wannabes and the New Reality of Race in America), in collaboration with the Community Technology Foundation of California, the national tour will focus
on popular culture's stereotypical representations of women and men in the hip-hop generation.

"For too long the hip-hop community has failed to set forth a national agenda for women," says Kitwana. "The goal of these gatherings is to jumpstart a national discussion that asks young people, the hip-hop industry and our policy makers to assume responsibility for their complicity in making hip-hop synonymous with misogyny and homophobia."

Beginning March 5, 2007 at Purdue University, Rap Sessions' interactive community dialogues will convene in ten cities across the United States. Panelists include: Mark Anthony Neal (Duke University Black popular culture professor and author of four books including New Blackman); Hip-Hop journalist Joan Morgan (author of the groundbreaking When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: My Life as a Hip-Hop Feminist); filmmaker Byron Hurt (director of Beyond Beats and Rhymes, a film about misogyny and hip-hop); Raquel Rivera (New York Ricans From the Hip-Hop Zone) and professor Tracy Sharpley-Whiting (director of African American and Diaspora Studies at
Vanderbilt University and author of the forthcoming Pimps Up, Hos Down: Hip
Hop and the New Gender Politics).

Reflecting on television programming like The Flava of Love, former Source editor-in-chief Kim Osario's sexual harassment ruling and books like the New York Times bestseller Confessions of a Video Vixen, Kitwana adds: "Throughout the last decade, from Congress to the campus center, hip-hop's troubling representation of women is the question that will not go away. This tour hopes to ensure that solutions to this debate go beyond the ivory tower to intervene in the lives of everyday people."

This is going to be a powerful panel. As a woman and a hip-hop baby who loves the culture, I cringe at some of the images presented within it. Even on the journey of writing my book, The Message, which looks at the messages in some of hip-hop's greatest songs, I wrestle with the music's portrayal of women. The issues of misogyny and homophobia aren't hip-hop's issues, they are our issues that we bring to hip-hop. Why do black men think it's okay to disrespect black women? Where does that impulse come from? Why do black women think it's okay to disrespect themselves? I'm interested in getting to the heart of the matter.

If you haven't seen Byron Hurt's documentary Beyond Beats and Rhymes, I highly recommend it. It's now available on DVD. I was recently on a panel for the Congressional Black Caucus about how hip-hop can be used for activism, and I cited this documentary as a perfect example. In Beyond Beats and Rhymes, Hurt dissects manhood by examining the violence, misogyny and homophobia in hip-hop. He shows how these three elements are tied to how society (we) define manhood.

If you're interested in the intersection of race, politics and hip hop culture, I recommend all the books by Bakari Kitwana. Both Mark Anthony Neal and Joan Morgan inspired me, a chocolate female who claims hip-hop, to exert my voice. Joan Morgan's When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost is a must-read for women of color. And I look forward to Tracy Sharpley-Whiting's new book, Pimps Up, Hos Down, which should drop this month.

To see if Rap Sessions is coming to a town near you, check out
www.rapsessions.org.

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