I’m a radical Black feminist and proud of it, but I don’t call myself an activist. I write and once in a while I get paid for it, but that’s about it. You’re not going to see me marching in the streets or getting arrested, mainly because I was a victim of abuse in my childhood and young adulthood, and I’m not going to willingly put myself in harm’s way again. Call me a coward. Call me a Weak Negro Intellectual Punk.
The other reason I don’t call myself an activist is because I don’t like to be around people with no home training, trying (and failing) to get them to see things my way. I don’t have a winning personality that gets people to take my side. I figure, I’m right—and if they don’t want to get with this right here, then they can get with that over there.
You can see how that might not be the most persuasive line of argument.
But at least I’m honest about the fact that I’m not an activist. I don’t pretend that my sitting in front of my computer, typing on Twitter, is going to change someone’s life.
You know what bothers me? People who do pretend to be activists, but who never seem to wade into a real fray, only a safe one.
For example, if you’re Black, are a fan of Hip Hop, and you check-in from time to time on social media like Facebook or Twitter, you probably have heard about Rick Ross’s strange lyrics/sexually abominable musings/whatever you want to call them concerning date rape on his song entitled, “U.O.N.E. O .”
In the song, he raps about slipping a woman a “molly”—slang for a rape drug—and taking sexual advantage of her. It’s gross, and, when one considers Rick Ross’s Big Juicy Unkempt Negro appearance on a regular basis, frankly, pathetic as well.
This same thing that happened a while back when Too Short went on record for “schooling” young Black boys how to “get some” from little, sexually unwilling girls. His advice amounted to advocating sexual assault and led many to question whether Mr. Short was a closeted pedophile.
I mean, despite his diminutive stature, Too Short is, in fact, a grown, rusty-tail man who shouldn’t ever be wandering into the realm of teenage boy sexual fantasy. He should leave that far behind him, the way many in his hometown of Oakland left their Carefree Curls, albeit quite reluctantly. In the late 1980s. Okay, the mid-1990s. Whenever.
In both the cases of Rick Ross/Big Juicy and Too Short/Humbert Humbert, Black Social Media exploded. But guess what? I did not—because they protested a bit too much, in my opinion.
These are the same folks who have had no problem with Jay-Z’s, Kanye’s, Common’s, etc. “b-word” & “h-word” usage for several years now, and these guy’s contemptuous, sexually demeaning depiction of women in their records and videos. Who defended Kanye’s depiction of a lynched woman in one of his videos—a woman hung by chains around her neck—and his holding the decapitated head of another woman as “art.”
What’s the difference? Well, several millions of dollars, popularity, and/or sex appeal, that’s what.
Kanye and Common are handsome and cavort around with beautiful women. Jay-Z, although not handsome (at least to me), sparks many African Americans’ imagination as a Black “Great Gatsby,” and his wife is considered one of the most gorgeous women on the planet. He has the net worth of a couple of West African nations.
So, two Runts of the Hip Hop litter get attacked. Surely, Rick Ross and Too Short deserve it. But are they any more culpable than others? No, they aren’t.
They are just a lot less rich, cute, sexually desirable, and relevant to the burgeoning academic field of Hip Hop that relies on that musical genre to continue cultural production. And those people who write in those fields need access to the rich, cute, sexually desirable Hip Hop artists. Rick Ross and Too Short are easy pickings and ready roadkill, and since no one cares about them anyway, discussing their contribution to “rape culture” is like spitting in the wind.
No, in order for someone really to dismantle “rape culture” in the Black community and beyond, someone has to tell the truth: commercial Hip Hop—which has been the only face that most fans of Hip Hop have seen—is rape culture.
Rape culture is not just about some guy saying, “Hey, I’m a sociopath who hates women and so I take advantage of them sexually,” while one of those cheesy soundtracks from a Lifetime Television for Women movie plays in the background.
Rape is not about sexual pleasure. Rape is about grabbing power, and that starts with taking someone else’s power away by demeaning her. And what is more demeaning than calling someone out of her name, over and over and over, hundreds if not thousands of times, for the last twenty-five years?
That’s rape culture, y’all.
In order to dismantle rape culture, you don’t just go after recent—and homely and not very rich—targets. It is necessary to look at how the entire popular culture of Hip Hop has eroded the power position of women in American society–during the exact same time in history that women’s reproductive rights in America have been assaulted, and during the same exact time that violent pornographic imagery in America has gained a foothold in the cultural imagination as well. And let’s not forget that, during the last presidential campaign, the words “legitimate rape” entered the political lexicon.
No, Hip Hop did not invent misogyny and rape culture, but it has gleefully participated in both. It is a player, pun intended.
And it is essential to talk about how the process of desensitization to women’s very personhood doesn’t just stop at name-calling. Now that new young men have gotten bored, in order to keep their numbed attention, Hip Hop must keep going into new, frightening territory concerning women. That’s why, when chastised about their “rape-y” lyrics, Rick Ross and Too Short responded with non-apology (sort of, but not really) apologies.
I may not like or respect either of these dudes, but I’m pretty sure they were intelligent enough to ask what I did of current Black activists: Why start now with the outrage? You ain’t been caring.