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Gangsta Rap and Sexism

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            Sexism which refers to discrimination that is based on gender and in particular discrimination against women is manifested in several ways within the society. Gangsta rap is believed and argued to be one of the medium used to perpetuate sexism particularly amongst the young people. Music is one of the most prominent things in lives of adolescents. According to research, most teenagers spend many hours listening to music and watching music videos daily (Hansen 43). In fact, most name music as their most preferred activity out of school. Initially, rock was the most preferred type of music but has in the recent past been overtaken by rap music and in particular, gangsta rap. Gangsta rap is argued to be the most controversial form of popular music and one of the most criticized by watchdog groups such as the PTA, the Parents Media Resource Centre, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Coalition on Television Violence amongst several others (Hansen 43).

Just like rock and heavy metal music have been criticized for their effect on listeners, gangsta rap has been labeled by mainstream media opponents and other groups as intensely violent, misogynistic, sexually explicit as well as sexually violent, politically radical and, drug and gang oriented (Rule 42). In addition to supporting sexism, gangsta rap also has more capability than any other form of music to cause sexism. This genre of music includes sexism, sexist videos and lyrics to such an extent that it makes sexism a normal part of culture as well as its music. Women in these music videos show off their bodies and are displayed as sexually assertive while the men they subject themselves to  (the rappers) refer to them as ‘hoes’, ‘bitches’,  and other derogatory labels. This sends wrong messages sent to teenage boys and girls on the discourse of behavior between men and women. Gansta rap is therefore a negative social force in the society as it portrays, supports and can cause sexism in ways that we see other modes of sexism do.

            One of the ways through which gangsta rap portrays and/or supports sexism particularly towards women is through use of misogyny. Most of the lyrics in gansta rap express hatred and contempt towards women. In some songs, women are portrayed as users, tricksters and people who are out just to get money from men. According to Armstrong (182), some of the lyrics in gangsta rap songs are shocking. It is not unusual to find rap lyrics whose theme is description of women as users of men or reference to women as causers of trouble for men. Such music portrays women as a burden to men. Some rappers use words such as ‘snake’, or ‘gold digger’ and several others to refer to women. These words have a negative impact on listeners.

The group that is most affected is teenagers whose minds are still developing hence can not make sound judgment. Most teenagers lack the capability to filter what should go in, what to believe and what to ignore. As they listen to gangsta rap and adore the “famous and celebrated” artists, these young minds tend to believe and act according to the lyrics in the songs and music videos. Hansen (46) explains that research has shown that young people tend to emulate those who are held with high esteem. Male teenagers end up believing that women are as portrayed in the songs (users) and grow up hating women. If these individuals are not guided to change their minds and perception of women, they end up having contempt for women and treat women without any respect, hence the violence we are witnessing today particularly against women. Use of misogyny which is very common in gangsta rap is unnecessary as it contributes a lot to sexism against women.

            In their music, gangsta rappers glorify sexism by using words and shooting videos that are degrading and exploitative of women. There are many gangsta rap songs that refer to women as being beneath men. Others display women as objects that are useable and discardable (Riley 299-300). While some authors use lyrics to explain this fact, others stress on the music videos. It is argued that most gansta rappers produce music videos that are sexually explicit in which women are objectified. This is very true. When one watches a typical gangsta music video, one sees women who are half naked while the men are fully dressed. Women will also be seen doing funny things such as trying to get the attention of the man who is interested in another woman or following a man who has left them for another. Other videos will display a man sleeping with several women and getting away with it.

This degrades women and describes them as sex objects that should be exploited. Most rap songs also use disparaging statements and words about women in relation to sex. Listen to a typical gansta rap song and one will not have to wait even for five seconds before the word ‘bitch’ is used to refer to a woman. Most of the famous gangsta rappers such as Snoop Dog, Tupac, Notorious BIG, Ice Cube and several others refer to women in most of their songs as ‘bitches’ and go on to say they way women should be laid. A teenager listening to such a song will believe that it is okay to just have sex with women and leave them. Sex is no longer a sacred thing. These songs glorify sex, encouraging teenagers to engage in premarital sex irresponsibly without caring to know that it has consequences. Women are the most affected by such behavior as they are the ones who lose the most including having to drop out of school because of pregnancy or being infected by sexually transmitted infections.

            Third, gansta rap portrays violence towards women and in particular, African American women. In so doing, it also influences youth in this community to act the same way. According to research, violence towards women in the United States is highest amongst the black community. Gansta rap is also a music genre that is most prevalent amongst African Americans. Statements that involve violence toward women and in particular with regard to sex are common in rap songs (King 611). Videos and lyrics that depict men treating women harshly in relation to sex and leaving them because they do not want to be trapped with responsibility and commitment are typical in gangsta rap. These rappers warn their fellow men against falling for ‘gold-diggers’ or sexual women who use their sexual power against men. They advise men to be emotionless, aggressive, and violent, and not to entertain such women for them not fall in such traps. Such images intimidate men, causing them to thirst for power over women. Men end up being insecure and hence fear the woman being superior. This contributes to sexism within the society.

            In addition to portraying gang culture, drugs and violence gansta rap greatly contributes, and in fact glorifies sexism towards women in their music. This music uses misogyny, portrays abuse against women, degrades and exploits women (Ross 43). Gangsta rap is very offensive and because of its influence on the youth, women, particularly African Americans are experiencing negative stereotypes. Gansta rap is therefore a negative social force in the society as it portrays, supports and can cause sexism in ways that we see other modes of sexism do.

Works Cited

Armstrong, Edward G. Devil Music and Gangsta Rap: A Comparison of Sexual Violence in Blues and Rap Lyrics. Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies, 33.3 (2002) 182: 191.

Hansen, Christine, H. Predicting Cognitive and Behavioral Effects of Gangsta Rap. Basic & Applied Social Psychology, 16.2 (1995): 43-52.

Riley, Alexander. The Rebirth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Hip Hop: A Cultural Sociology of Gangsta Rap Music. Journal of Youth Studies, 8.3 (2005): 297-311.

Ross, Andrew. The Gangsta and the Diva. Nation, 259.6 (1994): 191-194

Rule, S. (1994, April 3). Generation Rap. The New York Times, Section 6, pp. 41-45.

King, Lovalerie. Nuthin’ but a “G” Thang: The Culture and Commerce of Gangsta Rap.

African American Review, 40.3 (2006): 610-612.

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