Misogyny which is the hatred or prejudice against women, is widely known to be deeply rooted in our culture as Africans, the Western culture, and also in most common religions. It can be expressed in different ways such as patriarchy, sexual objectification of women, slut shaming women, sexual molestation of females, female child marriage, physical abuse against women etc. Before the recent awareness for gender equality in our society, a lot of these practices were seen as normal, for example, some religions justify child marriage with their holy books, the purity culture (also commonly defended by religion and tradition) until recently, used to be something expected of women, and before now, women who did not marry as virgins were disgraced publicly on their wedding night, while nothing was done to the men who deflowered them. Even though there’s still a very long way to go in terms of cleansing our society from appropriating misogyny, there has been a lot of conversations about how prejudice against women is a problem, and these conversations have helped create a lot of awareness. However, there hasn’t been so much change in the Hip Pop culture, as it has been the center for slut shaming and sexual objectification of women since its inception.
Slut shaming is the condemnation of women for engaging in sexual activities or behaving in ways that are presumed to be sexual, while men are praised for doing the same. It is common knowledge that men’s masculinity is deemed strengthened by having multiple sexual partners, women on the other hand get shamed by these “masculine” men that are assumed to be promiscuous by nature. One would wonder who these men sleep with to validate their masculinity, seeing as women are expected to be ‘pure’. The backbone of slut shaming females happens to be misogyny; the inability to see women as human beings, capable of making decisions about the use of their bodies.
Sexual objectification of females on the other hand is the act of treating females as mere objects created to satisfy the male’s sexual desire. Women are often judged by the clothes they wear and their body types more often than men are, there is a lot of emphasis on the clothes females should wear and too many songs about sexually objectifying women. Slut shaming and sexual objectification of women portray the idea that women are sex objects created for the sexual gratification of men, because looking at a woman and degrading all of her achievements as a human being to the amount of men she has slept with (slut shaming), or to the length of her skirt (sexual objectification), enforces the idea that a woman’s value as a person totally depends on her sex life. This school of thought places the whole value of women on their private part, which is despicable. Our society for the longest time has kept the value of women on just sex, so a woman can be the most successful woman in the country, but being a ‘whore’ is enough to make her completely worthless, which is absolutely not the same for men. Men can get to sleep with as many women as possible without being told he was ‘used’, or seen as less of a human being, or even slut shamed, whereas for women, it’s a different case entirely. This culture of sexual objectification and slut shaming ladies goes as far as blaming rape and sexual assault victims for ‘enticing the rapist’ by wearing short skirt or walking around at night. Regardless of the obvious cons of misogyny and slut shaming women, Content analyses have found that approximately 22% to 37% of rap lyrics contain some misogyny, depending on sub-genre .
As a very huge fan of Hip Pop, who is also for gender equality, I find myself cringing anytime I listen to rappers, hearing them use misogynist slurs like ‘bitches’ or ‘whore’ to describe women. One by my favorite rappers, did a song titled ‘No Role Modelz’ which comes out as really disturbing, because he’s one of the rappers considered to be woke, who still managed to do a whole song slut shaming women, talking about how some women are ‘sisters’, while others are ‘whores’ and shouldn’t be ‘saved’. He also went about how he wishes he wasn’t too young for certain types of women, also about how he doesn’t want ‘bitch from no reality shows’, this song was from 2014, which isn’t so far. Another very disturbing song is from one of the best rappers ever is titled ‘Wonda Why They call U Bitch’, although this is from 1996. The story-line was centered on why women are called ‘bitch’, with the artist giving reasons why people (‘they’) call ladies ‘bitches’. Some of the reasons included leaving kids with your mom and going to the club, wearing a tight skirt and having sex in a car. There is also a very recent one from another rapper titled ‘Love It’; This song was primarily about sexual objectification of a lady, with lyrics such as ‘you’re such a fucking hoe, I love it’. What I have come to realize when I listen to songs like these is that men aren’t called ‘bitch’ for having sex, being on reality shows or going to the club, only women are held to the high pedestal when it comes to morality, purity and being held ‘responsible’. Majority of these misogynist rappers are often ex-convicts, drug dealers or drug abusers, etc, but there’s not one derogatory word used to describe them, instead, they appropriate their wrong acts in their songs, while women get called derogatory terms for committing zero crimes. Violence has been appropriated so much for these men that they glamorize drug dealing, stealing, harassing and abusing women in their songs, and somehow, they think it’s up to them to shame women for having sex or stripping. They get applauded for returning from jail, and then go straight to produce songs about slut shaming women, not minding that there are kids listening to such songs, who will eventually internalize the disrespect and hatred for women among other destructive vices celebrated in their lyrics.
Hip Pop continues to be a very prominent genre of music in our society for young people, and music, just like any other thing we see on TV and social media, has a way of influencing us directly or indirectly. Lupe Fiasco, who is a rapper who doesn’t subscribe to downgrading women, made a song titled ‘Hurt Me Soul’. In the first verse, he talked about how he used to hate hip pop because it degraded women, and how it also glamorized drug dealing. Then he went ahead to talk about issues that affected both men and women that should be addressed instead. He also did another song titled ‘Bitch Bad’, where he gave illustrations on how using words that belittle women can be misunderstood by kids. Lupe fiasco’s first example was a young boy listening to his mother sing along to a song about being a bad bitch, and the kid unconsciously associates the word with his mom. The second illustration was about a group of young girls watching a music video, also about bad bitches, with half naked girls in the video, they unconsciously internalize the idea of bad bitches looking like the girls on TV, and they begin to dress like that. So while the young boy thinks ‘bad bitch’ should look like his mom, the young girls on the other hand want to look like another idea of ‘bad bitch’.
This shows how much misogyny hip pop music cultivates and spreads, and how problematic sexual objectification of women is; we teach boys to grow up to be men who cannot look at women as anything beyond a sexual object, either a sexually ‘pure’ woman, or a ‘loose’ woman. They learn very early to be entitled to the bodies of women, and think that they should be the ones to determine what is okay for ladies to wear or who they sleep with. They grow up internalizing the idea that a woman’s worth is her vagina, and any woman who dares to own her sexuality and not succumb to society’s idea of women keeping their bodies for men, should be ‘shamed’. It also passes the wrong idea of what beauty should be to young girls, because it constantly only shows praises for women who look a certain way. Music videos these days contain video vixens dressed half naked with false bodies, and lyrics to songs disrespecting women who look like that, calling them ‘whores’. Being half naked is seen as immoral, but somehow, these ‘immoral’ women are the ones we see everywhere, on TV, as social media influencers etc, they are what younger girls dream and aspire to be. This is not to say that these ladies shouldn’t dress or look the way they want, but there is simply too much hypocrisy in having such females dominate the fashion and entertainment industry, and still shaming them for it, it makes no sense at all. To some people, disrespecting women who look a certain way is not regarded as misogyny, because they are of the belief that women should be chastised for not being ‘morally upright’, but the truth is that women and women alone get to decide what they want to do with their bodies, and they should not be shamed for it.
A few words are censored on TV, but that still doesn’t cover all the negative messages passed across about women in these songs. How do you censor a song like ‘loyal’ that is about stereotyping women as sex workers who date for money and shaming them for it, or another where the artist talked about drugging a lady, ‘put Molly in her champagne, she ain’t even know it’. Even when words like ‘bitches’ are censored, messages of slut-shaming and abusing women are still passed across clearly to the listeners, and when these listeners are young, it creates a toxic mindset towards women, and teaches them to disrespect females. Some rappers even go as far as appropriating abuse against women, an example was the time Rick Ross rapped about raping a woman. There is really no shortage of songs about assaulting or slut-shaming women in Hip pop, it has been so appropriated that rappers don’t even get called out or adequately reprimanded (assuming there is a reprimand) for molesting women when they do.
As our society begins to view women as full human beings, and not based on their servitude to men, so should Hip Pop. Females should be seen as more than just sexual objects made for sexual gratification of men. Hip Pop should also begin to tilt towards gender equality, rappers need to do better, and stop preaching misogyny in their songs. The double standard needs to be checked, and women need no longer to be policed for being sexual beings just like their male counterparts.