Does hip hop hate women?

Posted Dec 7 2007

Recently, Bakari Kitwana’s “Rap Sessions” panel came to Stanford University to discuss gender-related issues. This panel brings together some of the brightest minds in the hip-hop world for dialogue on contentious topics in a town hall-style setting. For the Stanford panel, authors/professors Dan Hodge (Auzusa Pacific University and Citrus College), Marcyliena Morgan (Executive Director of The Hip Hop Archive), Mark Anthony Neal (Duke University), artists/activist Invincible, and author and former Executive Editor of “Essence” magazine, Joan Morgan participated. Kitwana hosted the panel. I jotted down key points from the panelists and the crowd, which included noted journalist Davey D, Dr. Dawn-Elissa Fischer, and author Adam Mansbach (Angry Black White Boy). Some panelists spoke quite a bit while others listened and reflected. Some great points were made and while the following aren’t direct quotes, I think it’s good for more people to have a chance to know about these dialogues. On a side note, Invincible later came to conduct workshops at my high school and Kitwana and I are working on bringing Rap Sessions to our school.

Invincible intro

•    She discussed the formation of her Anomalies crew and made sure to mention that there are many dope female emcees out there who are not recognized. That’s different from not existing. 

•    Discussed her community organizing work, including media literacy and trying to offset the stereotyping of her hometown Detroit, and women in general. However, beyond education, need to create and work towards actual solutions.

•    On the business-side, she emphasized the importance of developing your own company so you can control the creation of the music and how you’re represented. She emphasized that she it wasn’t a Trojan horse situation as some way to become part of the corporate world. She also shouted out Mike Banks of Underground Resistance in Detroit for inspiring her.

Mark Anthony Neal intro

•    Challenged the BET special “Hip Hop VS America” as being misnamed since hip hop doesn’t exist outside of America. Nelly and T.I. were on the stage at all times, which shows that BET was appealing to a certain audience. The show was less of a discussion and more for entertainment. He also noted that it’s wrong to expect corporations to engage in meaningful discussions.

•    In regards to the Congressional hearings on hip hop*, Neal said that the real issue isn’t how hip hop treats Black women, but the hearings should’ve been about the social conditions of Black women that exist and existed before hip hop existed. He noted that there were no women in the discussion until the gender-specific panel came up and by then, most of the men who needed to hear had left. This type of thinking keeps women in a box.

•    He also discussed David Banner’s comments at the hearings, including his assertion that the word n*gg*/n*gg*r has been around for hundreds of years, but now that Black folks are using it to make money it’s wrong. Also, Banner’s comment about the money that many artists make benefits the community (such as Banner’s work around Hurricane Katrina) so it’s OK if they’re dogging out women. Neal noted that it’s easy to be critical of Banner and the holes in his argument and proposed that someone send him a box of books on feminism. He argued that Banner has the ability and skills to think critically and that he needs tools since young people listen to him, and not scholars on panels at Stanford.

•    He asked why there were not more artists on panels. His argument was that they don’t have the knowledge and awareness of the issues so there’s no point in bringing them on panel to get beat up.

Joan Morgan intro

•    Issues of gender are much larger than hip hop. Felt that these discussions limit her as the majority of discussion about gender have no reference to hip hop. Can talk to her girlfriends to three in the morning and it never comes up.

•    Doesn’t mind the “b” word.  It can very efficiently convey certain emotions. Discussing the ‘b’ and ‘n’ words usually lets people off the hook from real issues.

•    She argues that talking about Black women’s lives through hip hop is a really narrow lens. Wanted to make it known that when she leaves she doesn’t “live hip hop.” She didn’t watch the hip-hop awards on BET nor the Congressional hearings.

•    Felt like there needs to be younger people on panels, who are directly involved with hip hop.


1. Leopoldo Zubiri said at June 11, 2008 3:57 pm:

After reading your article I still think the same way. Women have a choice on what they want to do. sure there mind set is not as mature as an older woman but they still have a choice. They know how they are going to be viewed by their actions. I think the media is the one to blame because they show a certain image that its ok to be the way they are. I think that hip hop doesn't hate women because there have been a lot of women rappers in the game. There have even been positive up lifting women rappers like queen latifah.

2. Giovanna said at June 13, 2008 11:37 am:

This is one issue that I still don't know what to think on. When you look at hip hop today, the one thing that people think about is women wearing reavling clothes. Rappers today only use women as an accessory.This, I think, will never change. Sure some people like the artist Common let this affect him. From what I see he does not degrade women. Rappers are afraid of doing this because they think that their statues will go down. The only thing that is tumbling down is their respect for women.

3. Tania said at June 13, 2008 4:37 pm:

After readng this article i changed some points but think the same about some to. I think that us as women are enough old to know what we want to wear and why we wear that type of clothes. But also I think that for me they prefer seeing a women with clothes that show a lot. On music the only thing they sing about is about women doing different types of activites. They talk about the guy having all the womens they wants and using drugs and drinking alcohol. Many of us don't really pay attention to the lyrics we just hear it and like it because of it's rythim but if we really pay a lot of attention to it we will understand that it only talks about women. Womens for men in a song is basically about a woment that goes every guy that they like and that it has money. On a way that they are trying to put the women in a bad place or that she is the worst person in life.But is rarely the time when there's a song that talks about a women suffering over a guys treatment. But i agree with the panel because is tru about the rappers having a kyric of women just as their game. Because if rappers if they talk about women being the victim or being nice in their lyriccsthey might getlower fans. And will start loosing money because they are talking good about women. But i just dont really understand the rappers why they decided to do it like that.

4. Kellee' said at June 16, 2008 12:33 pm:

I think that people need to acknowledge female artist more often because then people wont have a reason to say that hip-hop hates women, also i think that when the rappers refer to women they way the do is because they think that women is ok with it when we're not. I hate when dudes try to call me out my name or refer to me as a female dog. I know thats not how their parents raised them. To me they are making their parents look bad because it seems like their parents didn't teach them how to respect women and thats not right.

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