I was intrigued by this blogher session with the subtitle: “negotiating a space dominated by men.” As a software engineer, I often find myself the lone woman in a roomfull of men. I was interested in the perspective of a woman in a completely different industry facing a similar gender imbalance.
Lynne D. Johnson gave a fantastic presentation which unexpectedly challenged some of my own assumptions about rap lyrics. I enjoy hip hop — the music, the poetry of the lyrics — but I have felt disturbed and alienated by some music of that genre which has explicit lyrics which degrade women and celebrate violence. It was enlightening to hear from a woman in the industry.
She spoke about starting to blog without a particular topic in mind, just about her thoughts and reflections on life. She became known as a “feminist hip hop blogger” without seeking that as role because she sometimes wrote from a feminist perspective about hip hop. Its funny how an audience can set their own expectations for a writer. I like hearing about how she thinks about staying true to her own voice.
Lynne spoke about being challenged as a woman in a powerful role (as an editor of Spin and Vibe) that she and other sisters were not outspoken enough against mysoginistic lyrics. She responded with a thoughful post, who’s gonna’ take the weight?, that cites many excellent articles written on the subject. In particular, she posted in its entirety an essay by Bell Hooks, “Misogyny, gangsta rap, and The Piano,” ZMagazine, February 1994.
Bell Hooks notes that “gangsta rap as a reflection of dominant values in our culture rather than as an aberrant ‘pathologica’ standpoint…Rather than being viewed as a subversion or disruption of the norm we would need to see it as an embodiment of the norm.”
Isolated in my bourgeois, predominantly white world, where mysogyny is discussed in safe discussions amongst the like-minded, it never occurred to me that these young black men are just telling it like it is. George Fox, one of the founding Quakers, did not merely create a creed of non-violent action in his peace testimony; he spoke about taking away “the occasion of all wars.” Could we take away from our society the underlying currents of hatred and violence that produce such lyrics?