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by Tori Moore
If you listen to rap and hip-hop, whether that of the Biggie Smalls and Tupac era, early-late 2000s rap from Kanye, Drake, and Nicki, or the faces of the new era of rap from Kodak Black, Lil Uzi, and Lil Yatchy, you know that women are referred to as b*tches and h*es, whether it's being used in positive or negative context. However, what about benevolent sexism? This kind of sexism - when just reading its name - may seem like it is not as harmful as outright sexism. However, the "harmlessness" of it makes it nearly as bad or worse than outright sexism. But why?
What is Benevolent Sexism?
I'm going to preface my entire argument with a clear explanation for anyone who does not know. It's okay if you don't know what it is, because I didn't know about it until a year ago. I recognized that it was a thing, I just never had a name for it. So, most of us know that benevolent means well-meaning and harmless. And sexism is, of course, the stereotyping or discrimination against men or women as a group. Now you're probably thinking, "how can sexism be harmless?" Well of course it can't. However, sometimes sexism is carried out in a way that is completely unintended; a way in which that person believes they are actually saying something positive and enlightening, when really it is demeaning, stereotypical, or discriminatory. It is often carried out when complimenting one type of women while bashing another type. An example could be this: a guy notices that his girlfriend does not wear make-up and compliments her by saying "I'm so glad you don't wear make-up like all those other girls. You're not like one of them." Both the girl and her boyfriend may be thinking that this is an innocent compliment. However, what about the other group of girls? This automatically creates negative connotation around the group of make-up wearing girls, whether intended or not, by saying that it is a good thing that she is not like the rest. This also creates yet another divide among women. Benevolent sexism is also carried out by women and it is not excluded to hurting only women. When women say things like how they are "not like other girls," because they are "one of the guys," they are painting femininity in a negative light. Benevolent sexism against men, for example, could be when women say that their man is "not like other" men because he is a genuinely good person. She means to compliment her man, and patronize men who are not good to women, however, she is implying that it is the norm for men to be bad people/boyfriends. It is also harmful because she is rewarding her boyfriend for doing the bare minimum of being a good person.
Okay, so where does rap come into play?
Now that you know what you're looking for, it'll be a piece of enlightened cake to find examples of benevolent sexism in music and everyday life - and maybe even stop saying things like this yourself. Many rappers and singers are guilty of this, however, they do not necessarily deserve to be "dragged" on the internet for it. Instead, they should be educated on why what they are saying is wrong. Before I get into examples, some of you may be wondering why exactly it is wrong. For starters, if a younger female fan looks up to their favorite rappers or artist and hears them implying that one group of women are bad and one is good, and she falls into the "bad" category, she may experience internal self-esteem issues that were not there before. If she falls into the "good" group, she may look down upon those who are "bad" and further divide women. If young males hear rappers talking about how you have to be tough, strong, violent, irresponsibly promiscuous, and not mess with women who are sexually liberated because they are "hoes" and all around hyper-masculine in order to "be a man," they may 1. Feel bad about himself and try to become like this 2. Start to view femininity and women in a negative light 3. Start viewing other men and women who do not fit into certain categories in a negative light.
Use of the word "female."
The word "female" is constantly replacing the word "women/woman" in rap and hip-hop music. All my life, I never really bothered looking into this and felt like it was no big deal. However, I, and others, started to notice that "female" was only usually being used in a negative context and seemed to detach itself from the word "women." "Female" is technically a scientific term that can refer to any female organism, while "woman" is described only for female humans. Now, some people who use this word may not look that far into it and may be using it to follow the trend, or because they are so used to hearing it. However, no one can deny that it does not grammatically "fit in" with the way we speak English. There is clearly a purposeful divide that is used to imply an underlying meaning. Whether intentionally or not, using female when you mean to say woman/women, and especially in a negative context, implies that these women are inherently of a different nature or species and categorizes her only by her sex, and not that she is a person. If you don't believe that "female" is typically used in a negative context, do a quick Twitter search of the word.
"Don't save her, she don't wanna be saved/One time for my LA sisters, one time for my LA hoes, lame n*ggas can't tell the difference, one time for a n*gga who knows"
Everyone knows this line from J. Cole's "No Role Modelz." J. Cole is known for being "different" and rapping about things that matter, and I will give him that. He's in my Favorite Rappers list for sure.....but....he was being unintentionally sexist. For the line "Don't save her..." he is implying that certain women need to be saved, whether from a promiscuous or poor lifestyle and he is warning someone not to save these kinds of women who he addresses later with the line "One time for my LA sisters..." He is clearly slut shaming certain women, and even if you don't think slut shaming is a bad thing, he is separating them and calling them different than his "sisters" solely due to their sexual promiscuity, nearly dehumanizing them. In fact, he outright says that there is a "difference" and even knocks the men who go after these women. Whether you agree with what I just said or not, he is - as it happens most of the time - being incredibly hypocritical. Just a few lines later, he says
"Out in Hollywood bringin’ back 5 or 6 hoes
F*ck em’ then we kick em’ to the door
N*gga you know how it go
She deserved that, she a bird, it’s a bird trap
You think if I didn’t rap she would flirt back
Takin’ off her skirt, let her wear my shirt before she leave
I'ma need my shirt back
Nigga you know how it go"
Wait a minute, but didn't he just say... never mind. He means well, possibly warning women not to be promiscuous, but he's got it all wrong.
"She ain't like the rest, I swear that hoe won't go"
Rich Homie Quan was trying to be sincere with his "hoe" and compliment her, but aside from the outright sexist decision to use that word, he kind of did the opposite. He was using, again, the "you're not like the rest" line that many use when committing benevolent sexism.
"You go get f**ked up and we just show up at your rescue"
What, Drake?! This came from his song Houstatlantavegas. To some, this could be seen as he and his friends helping their lady friend out when she is drunk. However, he is implying that women need to be saved and that it is a man's responsibility. Let the girl have fun!
"Girls, stop acting like you want a guy with traits like Romeo.
Bitch! That’s a fucking lie.
You always talk about how every man’s fake and you can’t take it, and you want something real, shut up tramp, save it.
Twice a week you put on your make-up and damn bracelets and head to the club, half naked with your ass shaking.
Pulling a low-life nigga who claim he cash making.
Till you let him hit and find out he works at a gas station.
One of them niggas got you pregnant, and you can’t raise it.
But you caused it, your actions made a fat statement.
You want Romeo? Then act patient"
Hopsin is still a pretty underground rapper, but if you know him, you know Ill Mind of Hopsin 5. Aside from the already sexist use of the word "bitch," Hopsin is trying to play the savior by telling women what they need to do in order to find a decent man. He is trying to give them advice and is, of course, slut shaming to the max. Then, later in the song he proceeds with "You want Romeo, you’re not worthy, you’re cock thirsty.
You’re nasty and probably got Herpes." If you've been paying attention, this one speaks for itself.
These are just a few lyrics I thought of off the top of my head. In general, benevolent sexism usually involves strong hypocrisy, slut-shaming, unwarranted advice, and out-of-date values.
So I should stop listening to these artists?
NO! Continue listening to your favorite artists and favorite songs. Even if it has negative connotations, no song or person is perfect, and at the end of the day, it is just a song. What it is important to do is to not listen to sexism or stereotyping in music -or anywhere - and feel like you have to change. If listening to certain music makes you feel that way, then that should be where you draw the line. Another place to draw the line is malevolent sexism, such as that which supports rape culture and the demeaning of women. And no, not all artists or rap is sexist. In fact, Complex put together a list of rap songs that paint women in a positive light.
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