Hip-hop objectifies women, but so does society

While the blame for violence in general has largely shifted away from rap lyrics to video games, the blame for sexual violence and the misogyny that underlies it continues to rest squarely on the shoulders of hip-hop.

Rap music has always been under a microscope for its brand of misogyny, which is not only casual but even gives its artists masculine credibility for engaging in it. Lyrics that traffic purely in lewd language flourished into a hip-hop sub-genre in the 1990s, thanks to the influence of groups like 2 Live Crew. The glorification of pimping hasn't stopped hip-hop darlings like Snoop Dogg from gaining mainstream acceptance; the fact that he's spent decades telling stories about "the pimp game" and walking women across concert stages on leashes as if they were dogs hasn't ultimately kept the endorsements, or his international fame, away. Today, strip club anthems pull no lyrical punches in objectifying strippers (who technically are in the business of objectifying themselves), and pass out badges of honour to men who shower the female form with piles of cash.

In all fairness, there have been a handful of pro-woman hip-hop songs, but such anthems have been few and far between, and their messages too-often ignored. Take, for example, Queen Latifah's 1993 hip-hop classic "U.N.I.T.Y," in which she defends herself from street harassment with the lyric, "I ain't a b**ch or a ho." Fast-forward to Juelz Santana's "There It Go (The Whistle Song)," a minor 2005 hit that is as close to an actual street harassment anthem as a song can come, with lyrics like "move your thang/there it go/I don't need to ask I proceed to grab". It is clear that in its almost 40-year history, the misogyny in hip-hop has not budged. Lyrics such as Santana's are indefensible and, especially to the ears of the original hip-hop generation as it ages, embarrassing and stupid. As the audience for rap music has broadened and aged, however, such lyrics have taken heat internationally for contributing to a global culture of violence against women.

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