I don’t know that much about hip hop but…

I’ve been working on a lesson about the representation of women and race in hip hop videos – which includes a variety of elements – but they key texts are bell hooks article “Gangsta Culture – Sexism and Misogyny: Who Will Take the Rap?” from the book Outlaw Culture  and the documentary Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes.   My class discusses lots of things in response to the ideas in these two texts but one element that I wanted to note here on Feminist Cupcake is that there has been cultural shift that has occurred when we consider how we represent female Hip Hop artists. Consider “Ladies First” By Queen Latifah and Monie Love, which was released in 1989:

At the very least this  video is an attempt to represent a message of empowerment and most likely many would consider it exactly that – radically empowering art. It features imagery and lyrics that are political  – women who have fought for women’s rights, riots against apartheid in South Africa, messages that work against stereotypes of both women and the black community and there are no objectified images of naked booty shaking background dancers. Okay, so that’s the good stuff…now the scary.

This is Lil’ Kim’s “How Many Licks,” released in 2009:

An anatomically correct doll?  Candy Kim? Really? This is clearly and image of a completely objectified and overtly sexualized female?  What happened to the Women of Hip Hop?  Really what happened to the idea of Hip Hop as a subversive art form that worked to overturn stereotypes and fight the power?  remember Salt and Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex”?

Where’ are the hip hop groups like this now?? Groups with positive messages which inform the population about their safety and new ideas of empowerment? Artists like Lil’ Kim encourage the understanding of women as objects and this understanding creates a culture in which women are abused and assaulted. If you are not familiar with these ideas about the objectification of women’s bodies  check out Jean Killbourne’s  “Killing us softly 3” – there is a fourth version but it’s not available on the internet for free:

Understanding a little Judith Butler…

So let’s be honest here – postmodern philosophers write using such dense language that I am fairly certain you need a graduate degree to dissect what they’re saying.  Perhaps and undergrad in philosophy can handle the serious post-modernists, but this PhD student (that’s right, I just talked about myself in the third person) didn’t really get a handle on postmodernists until grad school. That said, I think that  no matter whether you choose to agree or disagree with her, grasping Judith Butler is key to contemporary feminist thought/queer theory. In particular, I think we all need to genuinely understand her concept of performativty.

Judith Butler’s book  Gender Trouble (1999) presents the idea of gender as “performative,” implying that gender is not an innate quality linked to sex but rather a series of “fabrications manufactured and sustained through corporeal signs and other discursive means” (2584). Butler uses “the performance of drag” to exemplify “those aspects of gendered experience which are falsely naturalized as a unity” (2549-50). She shows how the very nature of the drag performance – the idea that both physical and mental gender codes can be enacted by any/either/all sexes – unearths gender as “parody” rather than innate bodily function (2550). In other words gender is an enactment separate from our chromosomal sex, which is learned and practiced, quite like playing the piano. Butler’s details an understanding of gender as performance and parody, so that she can underscore the idea that these performances are “repeated…with the strategic aim of maintaining gender within its binary frame,” which in turn maintains the patriarchal and heteronormative dynamic of western cultural traditions. Butler purposes that escape from this binary lockdown could possibly be achieved through the “failure to repeat, a de-formity, or a parodic repetition that exposes the effect of abiding identity as a politically tenuous construction” (2552). More simply, she is saying in order to escape the boxes imposed by culturally constructed gender norms, we have perform and repeat other gender constructions so that they might expose the nature of gender as performance.

If you are interested in Judith Butler’s ideas there was wonderful documentary  about her thinking created by Arte, which you can watch on You tube. Take a look at the first installment:

Work Cited

Butler, Judith. “Gender Trouble.” 2001. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed.Leitch Vincent, et al. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2010. 2540-53. Print.

15 Books Every Feminist Should Read

1. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir2. Gyn/Ecology by Mary Daly

3. Borderlands/La Fontera: The New Metiza by Gloria Anzaldua

4. The Great Cosmic Mother by Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor

5. Goddesses and Monsters by Jane Caputi6. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature by Val Plumwood7. Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins8. Maternal Thinking: Towards a Politics of Peace by Sara Ruddick9. Venus in the Dark: Blackness and Beauty in Popular Culture by Janelle Hobson

10. The Unbearable Weight by Susan Bordo11. Pornland by Gail Dines 12. Guyland by Michael Kimmel13. Gender Trouble by Judith Butler14. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by Bell Hooks15. The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions
by Paula Gunn Allen

Kim Gandy speaks for Clinton

SO I HATE TO PASS ALONG MESSAGES SECOND HAND, ESPECIALLY WHEN I HAVEN’T WRITTEN IN A WHILE….BUT THIS IS WORTH IT.

Message from NOW PAC Chair Kim Gandy:

In a few hours, at 4:15 am to be exact, I’m headed out in the cold to yet another airport, this time to Chattanooga and then Knoxville, Tennessee to rally and speak for Hillary Clinton.

I’d go anywhere, any time, to shout from the rooftops that Hillary Clinton is the right choice for women, for our families, for our communities and for our future.

Here is why I care so much:

Hillary Clinton is a national leader of the highest order, with the strength and determination and experience to deliver real change to our country. She has been a leader on women’s rights and civil rights for over 30 years.

It is of special importance to me that Hillary is an unparalleled champion for women’s reproductive rights, justice and health. In fact, I’ve just signed a letter from many leaders: Martha Burk, Gloria Feldt, Cecelia Fire Thunder, Lulu Flores, Ellen Malcolm, Irene Natividad, Ellie Smeal, Gloria Steinem, and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones on why Hillary is the best choice for those of us who care so deeply about these issues.

Hillary has been through fire and emerged stronger with each challenge. She can take anything the Republicans can dish out, and give it back double. The Democrats need her, the country needs her, and she needs your vote on Tuesday.

Make no mistake, Hillary Clinton is the strongest candidate to win in November, and to set our country right. She beat the Republicans in two landslide elections, despite predictions that she couldn’t win in upstate and rural New York. And it will take someone with her economic and national security strengths to beat John McCain. We know she can deliver on Day One — from getting our troops out of Iraq, to fixing the shattered economy and the mortgage crisis, to winning health care that covers every single person in this country.

Please vote on Tuesday for Hillary Clinton, and if you haven’t done it already, please email your friends and contacts in the Super Tuesday states and tell them that:

from her earliest days advising battered women, helping abused children, and providing free legal services to the poor,
to her time in the White House advocating for universal healthcare, championing the S-CHIP (State Child Health Insurance) program, and helping to pass the Violence Against Women Act,
to her service as a U.S. Senator, standing strong for reproductive rights and writing legislation to expand contraceptive access, helping win approval of emergency contraception, sponsoring equal pay legislation, and speaking out on the floor against the nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, specifically saying that they would damage Roe v. Wade if confirmed. She was right, and I know we can count on her to nominate pro-women, pro-choice judges to the courts at every level.
She’s always stood up for us, and now it’s time for us to stand up for her with our vote and say “I’m Ready for Hillary.”

I’m ready.

P.S. Robin Morgan’s terrific new essay “Goodbye To All That (#2)” calls out the stereotypes, double standards and toxic viciousness against Hillary Clinton – Our President, Ourselves – and she concludes: “Me, I’m voting for Hillary not because she’s a woman-but because I am.”