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For many African-American women around the world, problems arise from left and right. Black women suffer from everyday intersecting oppressions and to further it more they suffer abuse and traumas from the ones they love and care for so much. In Joan Morgan’s article, “Fly-girls, Bitches and Hoes: Notes of a Hip Hop Feminist,” Morgan discusses many themes that African-American women live on an everyday basis. To name a few of the themes that Morgan discusses and that contribute to the pain and suffering of these women are sexism and machismo in rap music, controlling images, and mass incarceration.
Sexism is defined as, “prejudice or discrimination, typically against women based on sex” . Machismo is defined as, “a strong sense of masculine pride: an exaggerated masculinity”. “That seemingly impenetrable wall of sexism and machismo in rap music is really the mask worn both to hide and to express the pain. Hip Hop is the only forum in which young black men, no matter how surreptitiously, are allowed to express their pain at all”. When it comes to sexism and machismo and how it all relates to the intimate relationships between Black men and women it’s difficult to understand where it all changed. Rappers’ today rap about how they just want to have all these women and just have sex with them and exploit them for their bodies, they are essentially dehumanizing all women that would include their mothers, their sisters, and in most cases even their daughters.
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For example, rapper Tupac Skakur’s has a song dedicated to his mom yet he has another song about how he had sex with his friend”s girlfriend but they also express the pain they suffer for being a Black man in a “white” folk land. “For all the machismo and testosterone in the music, it’s frighteningly clear that many brothers see themselves as powerless when it comes to facing the evils of the larger society” (Morgan, pg. 155). Notorious B.I.G for example, in his platinum album Ready to Die, he takes us to through the story of his life, from his birth all the way to his death. He raps about his life journey, “we board with the story of his birth, strategically stopping to view his dysfunctional, warring family, his first robbery, his first stint in jail, murder, drug-dealing, getting paid, partying, sexin’, rappin’, mayhem and death” (Morgan, pg. 153).
In this he explains his life as a young black male who has to see a very chaotic family, how he commits his first crime and all the “stereotypical” things a young black man does. Another example is that since the beginning of time African Americans were forced into slavery, which meant they have long suffered by the hands of the believed to be dominant white race. White supremacy is a major theme in the history of African Americans, but still somehow black men, think it’s okay to degrade women in their songs. “We have come to a point in our history, however, when black-on-black love-a love that’s survived slavery, lynching, segregation, poverty, and racism-is in serious danger” (Morgan, pg. 152). The love between a black man and woman is like Morgan stated in danger after all it has been through and has survived, why are these black men attacking women in their songs, why are they hurting them instead of loving them?
To extend it even more, black men as well as society, has made it a normality to separate Black women as outsiders using controlling images to manipulate and exploit them. The use of controlling images has grown to be a part of a Black woman’s life. It has been made to control them and essentially create an image that damages their body and mind to keep them hidden and isolated. The mammy was the first ever African American women picture where it depicted them as “the faithful, obedient domestic servant.” It was created to “justify the economic exploitation of house slaves and sustained to create Black women’s long-standing restriction to domestic service” (Patricia Hill Collins, pg. 53), it represented the way every Black woman should behave.
Patricia Hill Collins states that there are “certain basic ideas crosscut these and other form of oppressions” (Hill Collins, pg. 70), and one of those ideas is binary thinking. In binary thinking it “categorizes people, things and ideas in terms of their difference from one another” (Hill Collins, pg. 70). In this kind of “thinking,” one element is objectifying and in this case, it means objectifying the “others.” In society, objectifying the Other is a way to finesse and constrain them. There are different types of binaries, for example in the culture/nature binary, it “argues that history can be seen as that in which human beings constantly objectify the natural world in order to control and exploit it” (Hill Collins, pg. 71).
Meaning we as human beings objectify things and we become more materialistic, not caring about what that person feels or what is right and what is wrong. White privilege always tries to objectify the inferior groups in society. Bell Hook’s describes that there are the “subjects” and the “objects” when it comes to the groups in society. As a subject, people have the right to make their own decisions and are able to choose and define their own “identities and name their history,” but as objects their lives and realities are drawn out by others, their identities and history are created by others, but only in ways that benefit the subjects. Therefore, “whites rule blacks, men dominate women, and subjects rule objects.”
African American women have been treated as objects since slavery, always being controlled and manipulated in horrible ways. Like, how some women during slavery were encouraged to have more kids and it would allow them to have better treatment as they brought in more “living machines” into the world or how they would keep them in the kitchen and force them to clean and cook for their owners or even how they use controlling images to demoralize their bodies, minds, and souls. Society continues to oppress these women using their race, class, and gender against them but that isn’t all society continues to do, society breaks families apart.
Mass incarceration has become the number one problem in African- American households. “The statistics usher in this reality like taps before the death march: in the last thirty years the number of black-two-parent households has decreased from 70 percent to 38 percent” (Morgan, pg. 152). “Thus, African American men are stereotypically viewed as criminals and absent fathers” (Witherspoon, Thomas, and Speight, pg. 307). Due to the number of mass incarceration increasing everyday, it becomes a normal thing to see on the news when a black man and even a woman is being arrested and thrown in jail, sometimes even when they haven’t done anything.
For example, in the video we saw for one of our Friday response papers, where the cop pulled out a black women from her car because she didn’t put out her cigarette and wasn’t following the cops directions (even though it was a women, she was African American). She knew her rights and the law, she didn’t need to put out her cigarette or get out of the car, yet the cop pulled out his gun and told her to get out of her car, why did he feel the need to do that, she wasn’t being aggressive or threatening the officer. “No other country in the world imprisons so many of its racial or ethnic minorities. The United states imprisons a larger percent of its black population. In Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital, it is estimated that three out of four young black men (nearly all those in the poorest neighborhoods) can expect to serve time in prison” (Alexander, pg. 7)
In all, the fact that sexism and machismo are related to the relationships between African American men and women is something beyond our understanding because Hip hop music will always degrade and hurt women. Morgan states that the reason why men exploit women in their Hip hop lyrics is because it’s, “done with the permission and cooperation of our sisters” (Morgan, pg. 156). Morgan acknowledges that Black women just let it slide because they are just so used to it. Apart, from exploiting women in their music, they are also exploited by controlling images of the mammy, the matriarch, the jezabel, the welfare queen among many more.
“In the same way, the employer who seeks to maximize expected profit will discriminate against blacks or women if he believes them to be less qualified, reliable, long term, etc” (Phelps, pg. 659). It’s sad to see that still to this day women are stereotypically seen like this in society, at work, at school and in many public places Black women suffer from the oppressions of everyday, they lose jobs to those who “look” more qualified and lose many opportunities because society doesn’t believe they are worthy enough. Furthermore ,society separates loved ones due to mass incarceration, “The fact that Black men are more likely to be incarcerated than any other cohort has reinforced the inference that Black men are uniquely subject to racial discrimination” (Krenshaw, pg. 23). Adding to that, “The leading cause of death among black men ages fifteen to twenty-four is homicide. The majority of them will die at the hands of other black men” (Morgan, pg. 152).
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