27Mar/11Off

Blog Watch Edition 8b: Gender and Sexuality

Politically correct epiphanies are not limited to SXSW attendees, it seems. Details after the jump.

This Is My Rifle: Homosexuality and Hip Hop – Jason James’s article on Rainbow Noise’s “Imma Homo” video contains the derivative  “wondering aloud whether or not we’d ever see an openly gay rapper” sermonizing that Dom Passantino anticipates and mocks in response to the same music video. James isn’t nearly as interested in analyzing the actual content of the video as Passantino, though. “This Is My Rifle” is a condescending, meandering rant that the assails the readers, and hip hop culture at large, for homophobic mind-crimes while demonstrating a surprisingly unenlightened view of sexuality.

The article is primarily concerned with James’s lingering hang-ups. He begins the article by, well, protesting too much: “I am in no way, shape or form gay. I am straight as an arrow and I have never even slightly considered entering into a homosexual relationship of any kind.” These are not the words of a man who is comfortable with his sexuality, let alone with acting as the catalyst of a discussion about homosexual hip hop artists. I don’t think that this excerpt should be interpreted  as a direct window into James’s psyche, but if he intends to engage in a mature, honest discussion of such topics, this preface along with his pre-emptive attack on anyone who might besmirch the comments section with immature name-calling, undermines that intention.

James’s faint (backhanded?) praise of the video’s content is also perplexing: “Even though the subject matter is vulgar … and misguided, the message is a positive one … you get the idea that any one of the Rappers could have taken verses from popular mainstream artists and just put a homosexual spin on it.” I can understand having a mixed reaction to a provocative song/video, so I’ll play along and accept that to some “Imma Homo” can seem vulgar and misguided and yet positive all at once. Fine. But if the song is decidedly derivative, why spin that into a strength? This smacks of tokenism, which has never been a reputable avenue towards equality. Hip hop has always been competitive and rowdy. If we are to accept that an openly gay rap group is allowed to participate, shouldn’t we feel equally comfortable calling them out for their shortcomings? There’s a sign at the door: “No biting allowed” and it doesn’t say “no homo” in parentheses.

Nothing undermines James’s attempts at fostering dialogue more successfully than his mawkish, incredulous confessions, however:

I’ve never understood male homosexuality. To not be attracted to the beauty of femininity is such a far-out concept that I can’t wrap my mind around it … I’ve tried to be more accepting of it, because I hate prejudice in all its forms, but it’s one issue that I’ve never been comfortable addressing. Even as I write this I’m trying to get through it as fast as possible so I don’t have to think about it.

This hand-wringing is self-serving and tragically counter-productive. Those inclined to applaud James’s candor for its own sake should consider that he could have explained his baggage in a less hysterical manner. At the very least he should have abstained from characterizing male homosexuals as abnormal and perverse, especially after haranguing the readers for their intolerance and immaturity before they could even put such thoughts into words, Minority Report style. But as I’ve noted, this article isn’t really about dialogue or inclusion.

The Real Women of Hip-Hop Tackle Its Negative Images – Jacque Reid recently moderated a panel discussion featuring “MC Lyte, Salt-N-Pepa, Monie Love, SWV and Lil’ Mo, along with Eshe and Tasha Larae of Arrested Development” … as a part of Tom Joyner’s Fantastic Voyage cruise. Ok, cool, I guess. I’m not one to disrespect my elders just to get a few laughs, so I’ll assume that “Real Women Of Hip-Hop” refers to the fact that all of these women have made memorable contributions to hip hop music and as such are qualified to speak about issues that relate to their experience in the biz. That’s not unreasonable, right?

Well, judging from Reid’s description, the discussion was centered around bemoaning the current state of hip hop and casting females as the unwitting, helpless victim’s of hip hop’s sexist stranglehold. The level of cognitive dissonance appears to have been off the proverbial charts. During the talk, Nelly’s “Tip Drill” video, Snoop Dogg’s 2003 MTV Awards antics, and the case of an aspiring video model who died while receiving illegal silicone injections meant to enlarge her posterior were mentioned as examples of hip hop’s victimization of women, sure signs of a culture that strayed from  its formerly righteous path.

Since the women on the panel claim to be the mature, relevant, real face of women in hip hop, one might expect that they were forthright enough to ponder their own complicity in the overarching patriarchal scheme of things, right? According to Reid, the panelists agreed that they collectively represent a perfectly innocent time in hip hop history:

Over the years and still today, several of the women on the panel have given their fans plenty of sexy, but they have always kept it classy. Not once have any of them disrespected themselves or the sisterhood. And on the panel, the ladies admitted that things have taken an unfortunate turn.

I never expected that I’d see hip hop bashing and indirect slut-shaming integrated into the same agenda, but now that I think about it, I should have seen this coming years ago. The narrative that posits hip hop as an art form in a state of degeneration has always contained a sub-plot depicting the widespread adoption of an increasingly misogynistic world view by male artists and fans. Monie Love falls in line and insists that “black men in the industry need to be more accountable for their expectations of black women”; the reader is expected to unflinchingly accept the idea that men are the only perpetrators of the dirty business of misogyny who have any agency.

Reid shows no interest in challenging or even complicating such notions. With no sense of irony whatsoever, she cites Lil Mo’s anecdote of bleaching her hair blond in imitation of Salt N’ Pepa with such frequency that all of her hair fell out as a sure sign that “these artists display a genuine, mutual respect and affinity for one another.” And just in case you thought that the panel might have had the sense to draw a necessary distinction between artistic performance and real life conduct, Cheryl “Salt” Wray urges readers to “make a difference by showing support for the women in music who are putting forth positive images on and off the stage.” ((This doesn’t bode well for Foxxy Brown, who was kicked off the cruise for unspecified behaviors unbecoming to a lady.)) Which negative images are being tackled, and for whose benefit, exactly?

Bonus: A Few Words For Nate Dogg I have related my misgivings with Jay Smooth’s commentary on the misogynistic content of Nate Dogg’s lyrics at length in the comments sections here and here, so I won’t regurgitate them now, but I figured I’d link the T.R.O.Y. readers to the discussions already taking place. To make a long story short: I’m not thrilled with the way Jay Smooth appended a lukewarm critique of Nate’s lyrics onto a video meant to honor the deceased crooner’s legacy. — Thun

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