Boobs, Booties and Sluts: Female Sexism in Rap Music
by Adamkolia on June 18, 2015 - 12:09pm
The role of music is paramount in today’s culture, more than it has almost ever been. Whether it’s used to study to, sleep to, or dance to at the club, music is a form of entertainment that prevails in our day-to-day lives. However, this becomes an issue when the music we listen to contains obscenities and purely negative messages. Rap is undoubtedly among the most significant of music genres, in terms of containing negativity and severely inappropriate subject matter. Essentially, the content in rap music revolves primarily around four things: violence, wealth, drugs and women. It is the latter of that list that concerns me the most. Portrayals of women in rap music and their music videos degrade them as mere objects. Therefore, we are faced with the options of either restricting or limiting the sexism in rap music, or simply allow it to continue.
In music videos, women are almost always found to be “twerking,” whilst wearing nothing but skimpy bits of material. From a deontological approach, this is morally unethical. Morality comprises standards of right and wrong that have authority in practical thought. In Western societies, one is duty bound to be gender equal. In music videos however, women are depicted to be highly sexual, as though their sole purpose was to please their pimps. It is rather difficult to come across a rap music video in which a female is found to be in a position of power. In actuality, the majority of these videos contain depictions of women that are significantly sexualized, which demeans them. For instance, in the music video for Ne-Yo’s hit song “She Knows,” all the girls are seen dancing on poles in a club, while the lead female dancer is shown to be dancing on a pole in a grocery store, wearing little to no clothes.
Whereas the sexualization of women is prevalent among music videos for all genres, it is in the lyrics of rap music where this genre is the most prominent. Derogatory terms are utilized in abundance and women are affiliated to nothing more than being whores and sluts. In one of Snoop Dog’s hit singles, he refers to women as “bitches that ain’t shit but hoes and tricks, lick on these nuts and suck the dick…” It is fairly evident that misogyny is alive and well in rap music. Though the private and public spheres days are long gone, women are unequivocally still objectified in rap music. A particularly interesting example appears in Danny Browns “Outer Space”, he claims that he “loves a feminist bitch, oh, it get my dick hard… so no apologies for all the misogyny.” In this verse, he identifies feminism and misogyny, but yet he still degrades women with profanity and objectifies them for personal pleasure.
Thus, the maxim to be gender equal is unequivocally not adhered to by a large amount of rap songs. By not abiding a maxim or formalistic rule, one is considered to be unethical. Moreover, misogynistic rap music also defers from Kant’s notion of the Categorical Imperative. By objectifying women, men are not treating all humans equally and are therefore not doing what they would will unto them. Hence, it can be said that the sexualized portrayals of women prevalent in the rap genre is immoral and wholly unethical.
Whilst it can easily be argued that the sexualization of women is unethical from a deontological framework, it can also be said that to limit the objectification of women in music is also immoral in of itself. Also from a deontological standpoint, to ban the sexualization of women is to impose a barrier on the artists’ creative licenses. Music is undoubtedly a form of art and is often also a form of expression. Disallowing the degradation of women in one’s music would infringe upon their freedom of expression and creativity. The former is an inherent right set out by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes an individual’s right to have an opinion and to impart the information or idea through any media (United Nations). The women depicted in the rap music videos have willingly volunteered to be in the videos, knowing they’d be objectified. Thus, regulating or banning sexualized portrayals of women in rap is nothing more than an infringement on the artists’ creative licenses and freedom of expression.
It can also be said that objectification of women is simply representative of gender views in our culture, and that rap music only depicts what the people wish to see. Furthermore, a teleological framework can also be applied, which would instill that the sexism and misogyny found in rap music is simply a mean to assert a rapper’s masculinity. Masculinity is a significantly strong idealization in rap culture, one that can only be met by degrading women and being surrounded by several harlots. Tricia Rose recognizes in her extensive research that the notion of the “thug and the hoe” largely shapes the genre of modern rap (Rose 170-171).
All in all, female representations in rap songs and music videos is a lot more significant of a moral dilemma than it is often deemed to be. Evidently, it violates Kant’s categorical imperative to treat others equally. On the other hand, disabling artists to represent women how ever they desire is a clear-cut infringement on their creative license and freedom of expression, which deontology would also interpret to be unethical. Moreover, it can also be that rap is only attempting to represent gender views or enforce the notion of masculinity. In my opinion, though I recognize the infringement on one’s right to creativity and expression, I believe that the overtly sexist representations of women in rap music are abhorrent and simply unethical. In western societies, one has a moral duty to be gender equal and to not discriminate based on gender. The depictions do not meet the Categorical Imperative, as men would not wish for themselves to be hyper-sexualized and degraded, therefore rendering it unethical. I believe that both genders should be depicted in the same manner, meaning that the representations of females should most definitely be desexualized.
Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. New York: Wesleyan University Press, 1994. Print.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, n.d. Web. 16 Jun. 2015. <http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/>
“Bitches Ain’t Shit” by Dr. Dre, featuring Daz, Snoop Dogg & Kurupt https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHoT-mVCKn0
“Outer Space” by Danny Brown https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fvAAb0R0Rs
“She Knows” by Ne-Yo, featuring Juicy J https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fk1ZO_980DI