Empowerment and Solidarity
In many hip-hop songs written and performed by women, women are brought to consciousness about their oppression and are provided direct messages of support to each other. Salt-n-Pepa’s “Ain’t Nuthin’ but a She-Thing” (1995) deconstructs the conventional role of women in the society and offers a solidarity-building message of women empowerment: I can be anything that I wanna be Don’t consider me a minority Open up your eyes and maybe you’ll see It’s a she thing and it’s all in me
I can be anything that I want to be Don’t consider me a minority Ladies help me out if you agree Then the female speaker in the song enumerates the socially constructed image of the women, which hinders their personal and professional growth. The line, “Go to work and get paid less than a man when I’m doin’ the same damn thing he can” clearly is a take on the glass ceiling that women confronts in the workplace. This is why many women in the corporate setting are denied any chance of climbing the corporate ladder.
The line, “When I’m aggressive, then I’m a bitch; when I got attitude, you call me a witch” is a commentary on the double standard that always favor the male sex. In a patriarchal environment, it is ok for men but not for women to become aggressive and demonstrate some attitude. The statement, “Treat me like a sex-object (that ain’t smooth), underestimate the mind, oh yeah, you’re a fool” is a rejection of the notion the role of women as a possession and as inferior to man in terms of intellect. Finally, the statement, “Weaker sex, yeah, right–that’s the joke (ha! ).
Have you ever been in labor? I don’t think so, nope” is an assertion of women of their role as the bearers of life, thus their importance in the continuity of a society. Salt-n-Pepa’s message is summed up in the last verse of the song: Now let me break it down to the marrow of the bone I’m a female and I got it goin’ on Don’t be fooled by my s-e-x It ain’t that simple, I’m more complex We’ve come a long way and baby that’s a fact Let’s keep moving forward, girls never look back Fight for your rights stand up and be heard You’re just as good as any man believe that, word!
The songs written and performed by the trio TLC also reject the traditional role of women by raising awareness on such issues as safe sex, HIV/AIDS, and women’s sexual empowerment. In addition, the group also addressed issues of vulnerability for women, like appearance and body image. Their “Hat 2 Da Back” (1993) encourages young women to wear comfortable clothes, even if such clothes are considered masculine. Early in the song, the female speaker states, “I can be myself a lot and I’m proud of what I got. So I’ll never change for you.
” Towards the end, a young man who dares to challenge women’s choice of clothing is reprimanded. In the song, “Unpretty” (1998), TLC critiques social forces that make women feel ugly. The impact is enhanced by the music video, showing the members of the group – Chilli, T-Boz and Left Eye – applying make-up and tearfully smudging it off in repulsion over recognition of their own suppression to exterior beauty standards. The popular chorus goes: You can buy your hair if it won’t grow You can fix your nose if he says so You can buy all the make-up that M. A.
C. can make But if you can’t look inside you Find out who am I, too Be in a position to make me feel so damn unpretty Conclusion As the foregoing examples of hip-hop and rap songs illustrate, women artists are trying to translate ideas of political struggle and aspiration from the larger culture into street-level languages and contexts. Women rappers exhibit a traditional feminist orientation when they call for solidarity, talk back to men, through the dis tradition, in attempts at reclaiming women’s respectability and fighting back against women abuse.
While some mainstream discourses about rap suggest that women rapper accept, ignore, and even glorify the traditional gender roles in hip-hop culture, the songs considered in this essay reveal a more complex picture in which women take their men to task.
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