A Woman’s Real Place in Hip-Hop
Yeah, so generally I avoid talking about sexism in hip-hop at all costs. After all, the key to being a successful female hip-hop writer is to never, ever acknowledge (a) that you are indeed female and (b) that there is any sexism in hip-hop whatsoever. Any mention of either of these things serves as an invitation for dudes to scrutinize your private life.
But given the fact that several male bloggers insist on repeatedly raising the issue, and none of the female bloggers (not a single one of us five) have responded, I’m afraid the time has come to jump in. (Plus, it seems that the XXL site has become the spot to say all the stuff that isn’t normally said. Interscope that.)
Anyway, let me get to it: there is no denying that hip-hop is massively sexist. And not in a “my boss gave me an inappropriate look” or “I feel I may have been passed up for a promotion cause I took maternity leave” kind of way. Nope. Hip-hop is sexist more in that “so-and-so grabbed your ass, talked about porn, and suggested your meeting be continued at a strip joint” kind of way. (For the record, I have girlfriends that write about indie rock, and all the skinny rock people are just as bad, though their tortured artist pose serves as a decent cover-up.)
There are some very obvious pitfalls of ever addressing these kinds of things when it comes to hip-hop. First, you really don’t want to come off as some card-carrying feminist. Mostly because it’s these sort of women that have led the hysterical Parents Music Resource Center brigade, and have attacked hip-hop culture with a lethal combination of total obliviousness to context and openly hostile racism. And obviously you want no part of that. (Also, as an aside, these women tend to have no personal style. They’re famous for cheap polyester power suits and tacky shoes.)
Second, if you complain, the person you are complaining to will automatically assume you asked for it and assign you to the “whore” side of the running tally in their head that tracks all the women they come into contact with. Since there’s only two real roles for women in hip-hop—hold-it-down Good Girl and Scandalous Slut—you really don’t want to end up in the wrong camp.
The third reason you need to keep your mouth shut is because everyone in the business is connected to everyone else through a complex web of Sidekicks and MySpace pages, so if you shit on one man, you are essentially shitting on his entire social network. (You’ll notice that there are no names in this post. You won’t be getting any from me.)
So, to the aspiring young female hip-hop journalist, let me share with you some tips for handling sexism in the workplace. And by workplace I mean the club, the green room, the show, the video shoot, the photo shoot, and the listening party.
1. Understand that you will invariably be the only fully-clothed female in the room. Regardless of your Mennonite-inspired outfits, a good number of guys will still assume you know nothing about hip-hop and are only there in the hopes of hooking up with someone marginally famous and/or important. As such, many men will try to holler at you at any given time. Don’t take all this attention the wrong way. It does not mean that you are a supermodel or incredibly fascinating. It just means that you are in a room full of fellas who are bored and/or drunk, and who take your presence there as an indication that you have zero self-respect.
2. Respond to wildly direct come-ons with strategic evasiveness. You are skating on ultra thin ice here. You want to make sure that the dude pushing up on you gets the point that you are not feeling his advances. But you don’t want to bruise any egos in the process. So, if he says something like, “Hey Ma, your ass is fat and I’m trying to hit that from behind tonight” you might want to come back with something like: “Can you believe it’s still raining?”
3. Know that having a personal life will be difficult. You will become so accustomed to industry guys attempting to coerce you into random hotel sex that when regular around-the-way guys ask you out for dinner and a movie you will find the notion surprising, quaint, and old-fashioned. When you date a regular guy, he will become insanely jealous, due to the fact that you spend 90% of your working hours around dudes that are blatantly trying to hit it, have no qualms about creeping, and are on the radio reminding him of this every time he gets in his car.
4. Be a heinous bitch. If you aren’t, you are sending out mixed messages. Acting warm and friendly is a luxury that only male reporters can afford.
5. Occasionally, you will meet someone in the industry mix that is attractive and/or interesting to you. Deny your feelings. Never forget that he has nothing to lose and that your credibility and/or entire career is on the line. He’s off limits. Period.
6. Really, the best possible game plan is to act like a nun. Actually, it’s far better if you really do become a nun, because industry guys are worse than high school chicks when it comes to gossip—and if you’re just pretending, they will find out and IM everyone they know.
7. You may slip up from time to time and flirt a bit. Deny it when you do. Point to all the scandalous groupies that are hanging around to divert attention away from yourself.
There you have it, young female hip-hop journalists. If you love hip-hop, and love writing about it, it’s essential to play your part. Print out this guide and carry it in your handbag at all times.
P.S. It’s best if you don’t ever consume alcohol, because it’s absolutely essential that all your inhibitions are up and running at full steam.