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Back Off! - "Caution - Women Standing Strong"

by Professor Marcyliena Morgan, Director of the Hiphop Archive

Back Off.jpgWomen's History month is the perfect time to reflect on the fact that many women unapologetically support both Hiphop and feminism. When I teach college courses on language use and identity, I ask all of my students to write the words they hear and use to describe women in their communities and on their campus. I also ask them to list the words used to refer to men. The young men and women don't have any problem doing this assignment, and they often chuckle as they do it. When they have completed their task, I compile the names and write the male and female lists on the board. Sometimes there is embarrassed laughter and excuses as I write male terminology and female terminology. However, the laughter stops cold when the reality of the list becomes clear. There are four times more names for women than men on the list. Moreover, women are overwhelmingly referred to as sexual body parts, according to disposition/attitude and with violent references. The overall problem is much bigger than Hiphop!

When it comes to the topic of women and sexuality, Hiphop is often criticized and attacked for being misogynist and irresponsible. Yet, as this issue demonstrates, many people take responsibility for these issues and their work is often ignored. Perhaps we need to approach this from another perspective. We are trying to teach young men and women to respect themselves and each other in a world that is working against us. We must continue to critique the pandering to the lowest level of heterosexism that goes on in Hiphop, but we must not forget the larger picture. Even the most outrageously sexist MC - and booty-shaking woman - wants to be safe and respected. Many young women cannot walk the streets safely in the U.S. and many parts of the world. Rape remains a growing problem in the U.S. and many parts of the world. The transmission of HIV/AIDS remains a problem in the U.S. and many parts of the world. Violence against women remains a problem everywhere!

Many Hiphop artists promote and support initiatives that address these problems and help our communities. We applaud these efforts and want even more support, more initiatives, more education, and more people to step forward. Everyone needs to be in this fight - not just us! We want control of our bodies and we want to learn more about how to take care of ourselves in terms of physical, emotional and spiritual health. We want the thoughtful, friendly and fiery critiques, debates and discussions to continue because it makes us stronger and more knowledgeable. We want an end to crimes against women! The women who support Hiphop are our sisters, daughters, mothers, friends and relatives. No disrespect, but instead of fixating on our bodies, fixate on what it may take for us to have a healthy, secure and fulfilling life. Fixate on how powerful our communities would be if we change how women are treated and represented in society.


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