Apr 15, 2011

By Kevin Powell
Case in point are the very heated attacks Ms. Judd has received for saying, in her book, that "most rap and hiphop music -- with its rape culture and insanely abusive lyrics and depiction of girls and women as 'ho's' -- is the contemporary sound track of misogyny."

If anyone had bothered to read pages 58-62 of Ms. Judd's memoir, then they would know she put into context not only how she was asked to be a part of YouthAids, where hip-hop icons P. Diddy and Snoop Dogg were serving as spokespersons, but you get her evident grappling, as a sexual abuse survivor, as a feminist, and as a human being, of making peace with working with them, and 50 Cent, too, in spite of her real and righteous feelings about gender violence. And why wouldn't she? For example, besides a career weighted with lyrics calling women all sorts of derogatory terms, Snoop once showed up at the MTV Video Music Awards with two women on dog leashes. What woman, with any level of self-respect, would want to be associated with that definition of manhood?

Instead what we who call ourselves men, or hip-hop heads, or whatever, have done is myopically label Ashley Judd as "racist," "a dumb White woman," and other terms which are simply not printable in this space. As a man, as a Black man, as a heterosexual Black man, who has been deeply involved in both hip-hop culture and the hip-hop industry for 30 years, I was not offended by Ms. Judd's words.

That's because I believe in speaking the truth always: America in general has always been a male-dominated, sexist nation. This is nothing new. Hip-hop did not create sexism, misogyny, abuse, disrespect, a culture of rape, or violence against women. No. Those behavioral patterns go back to the days of the Pilgrims, the so-called founding fathers, and slavery, as if we are to be historically and culturally accurate.

But because hip-hop has been the dominant cultural expression since at least the 1980s, in America, in the world, it has also come to embody many of the worst aspects of male privilege and domination. In other words, if you are born a male in this nation, unless there was some sort of intervention at some point in your life teaching you that women and girls are your equals, that love is preferable to hate, mindless ego, and reckless competition, that nonviolence trumps violence and warfare any day, guess what kind of man you, we, are more than likely primed to be?

Moreover, given that hip-hop was created by working-class Black and Latino urban males, we have been the face of this cultural juggernaut in spite it being embraced by multicultural people worldwide (and barely controlled by us in terms of the mass production and distribution of words, sounds, and images). So when Ms. Judd declared hip-hop had a "rape culture" many of us went off, because our interpretation is that she is saying Black and Latino males are the ones doing this to women and girls. Of course that is not the case.


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