Joan Morgan on Rap Music
“In her essay, From Girls to Bitches and Hos, the author Joan Morgan who is a music writer, professor and most importantly a black woman and feminist, dissects the raw culture of rap music and the minds behind the songs that are put out there. Her usage of ethos, pathos, and logos is prominent throughout her essay with how she explains the true power and beauty behind rap music through the eyes of a feminist and how sexism connects through the lyrics. She effectively Morgan argues that misogyny is truly active through the portrayal of women. Women can try to better their image by not conforming to misogynistic ways and changing their behavior towards men by taking a stand and not going against what they have set in place.
Morgan opens up with introducing the term pathos by examining the reasoning as to how rap songs come about. Rap, especially in black communities is important as a way of expression and an escape. Rappers are especially writing from such an oppressed mindset based on what they have experienced and what they experience on a daily basis. Morgan clearly recognizes that “rap music is portrayed as part of the problem, rap music is essential to this struggle because it takes us straight to the battlefield” (534). This is essential because it does take us “straight to the battlefield” in terms of expression and what brings the black community together. She then goes to question why rappers such as Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and even Notorious B.I.G., are caught up in misogyny and they feel the need to downgrade, “despise”, mistreat and portray women in a light that is neither uplifting nor acceptable. Men often rap to express themselves and they usually express their emotions in a misogynistic perspective. In Notorious B.I.G.’s song “Everyday Struggle, a rap verse that really sticks out to the audience and supports Morgan’s argument in terms of misogyny is when he says “I don’t wanna live no more/sometimes I see death knockin’ at my front door”(535). This is just a snippet of what goes through a rappers mind and the hurt, pain, and turmoil they face.
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Through rap songs, this music is a way for people to express their pain but by doing so, sexism is present in the portrayal of women. Morgan puts herself in a situation where she exposes herself to sexism used by well-known artists Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Notorious B.I.G., her reasoning for doing so is because she wants to get the bottom as to why they are so “mad” at her (535). She doesn’t mean literally “mad” at her but at women in general with their use of harsh and derogatory language towards women. Ethos is shown when describing how women are “unsung victims of black-on-black crime”(534). Morgan shows the progression of women throughout centuries and how women often times would their sexuality to progress through work and even social situations (537). Rap music is very important to this struggle because it brings the black community together in more ways than one. Morgan strongly believes that any feminist that fails to truly realize that black people are trying to live and love in a war zone are useless to their struggle of sexism.
The distinction between men and women is crystal clear in Morgan’s essay. Morgan reminds us of one of the life lessons that her mom once told her which was “you’ve got to love people for what they are–not for who you would like them to be” (535) and this is an important wake-up call and lesson for all of us because often times, in this context, we think that rappers should cut down on the violence they show in their videos, or even their use of profanity. Yes, in most cases this might be true, but you can’t change how someone expresses themselves especially through rap because no one has walked in their shoes or been where they have been, so instead of us judging and criticizing, we should try and be more sympathetic and understanding. Morgan explains that its clear “men who call women bitches and hos are unhappy with themselves” (537) and maybe that feeling comes from resentment towards women. This war between both women and men will continue to progress if both parties don’t take responsibility. Logos is shown when addressing “the war black men are engaged in” which the real enemy is racism, the white power structure, and oppression (536). Yes, this is a war but it is more of a setup or even a trap that sets up these young black men and rappers up for failure and worse. The men are pit against one another only leading to more violence, anger and rage and more rap songs expressing exactly what they feel and what they are shown. This music is a way for people to hear and express their pain ad if they are willing to hear each other’s pain, they can move forward and figure out how to heal together.”