Who are we to say?

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Hip hop feminism is a difficult topic to approach because before beginning to explore the idea as a whole, one must consider what feminism in and of itself means to us:

Personally I am in no position to judge what is or is not feminism, because to me that is going against feminism. My opinion on the matter is rooted in the idea that feminism is the movement that should empower women to do whatever they want. That's pretty much it--I mean, feminism began because women were, for one reason or another, not allowed to simply do what they want. With this reasoning, I am able to appreciate everything that women do through feminist eyes, whether I agree with it or not.

Hip hop feminism is a difficult topic to approach because before beginning to explore the idea as a whole, one must consider what feminism in and of itself means to us:

Personally I am in no position to judge what is or is not feminism, because to me that is going against feminism. My opinion on the matter is rooted in the idea that feminism is the movement that should empower women to do whatever they want. That's pretty much it--I mean, feminism began because women were, for one reason or another, not allowed to simply do what they want. With this reasoning, I am able to appreciate everything that women do through feminist eyes, whether I agree with it or not.

So our idea of hip-hop feminism should not be based on whether we as spectators/ consumers/ critics approve of these women or not--it should be about whether they approve of themselves and are doing what they want. I do not believe I am in any position to even judge their motives either, because whether its for money or passion or fame or attention, they are ultimately doing what they want because they want to, whether it is "right" by my standards or not. When people harshly criticize a woman as being an "anti-feminist", they are only further contributing to the scrutinization that women are constantly crumbling under. If these feminist critics looked beyond their initial judgments, personal offenses taken, and emotional issues, they could maybe see beneath the surface and empower their sisters rather than ripping them down. It is one thing to dislike an artist, and it is another to disrespect them based on individual differences. Too often I hear women criticizing other women (in ways that men are not) and that is a slap in the face to feminists-- and ultimately women--everywhere. We have to appreciate the difference between who we respect and who we label as feminist or anti-feminist, understanding that just because our individual life experiences lead us to appreciate a certain style of hip hop feminism more than another, we cannot say that women we don't like are "doing it wrong". Breaking outdated social norms and expectations are half of the fight for feminists, and when we have talented women speaking, dancing, singing, and shouting out to break these ideals there is no way to say that they are not advancing the movement, even if it is not the way in which we would go about it.

With all of this being said, I also recognize that I have this stance on the matter because I have grown up with privileges that many of my sisters around the world have not. I have grown up being respected, encouraged and appreciated for who I am. I have not experienced true tragedy or severe pain as a result of my gender. In fact I am so far removed from this that the idea of it makes me shudder to even imagine, let alone experience every day. I appreciate that based on many of these women's' experiences, feminism has much more to do with these direct injustices that they have had inflicted upon them, and I fully support any and all efforts to counteract this. With that said, I also recognize the countless other aspects of society oppressing women, which contributes to the lingering idea that women "should" or "should not" do certain things. And while the side effects that stem from this idea are the most devastating and immediately threatening, I also believe that these deep-rooted ideas of female expectation must be removed before we can ever effectively and sustainably stop the tragedies.

Continuing this train of thought, hip-hop feminism then is merely about women who follow their own set of rules and inspire others to do so through their music. I believe that if any element of who their public persona is goes against society's idea of who a "woman should be", they are then a feminist advocate for hip-hop. Even when a female public figure does something that I can only refer to as "embarrassing herself", I still do not consider this being anti-feminist. She embarrassed herself. She did not embarrass women everywhere, because women are individuals and should not hold any woman's shame as their own. I actually see this as some form of feminism because the least they are doing is showing that they have the individual power over their life to screw it up themselves. I would much rather see a woman in trouble on her own account rather than see it inflicted upon her.

I am not trying to dodge this topic by saying that we as spectators shall not question the extent to which any hip-hop performer is or is not feminist. I believe this is a valuable discussion, however I also believe that it is one that cannot be authentically had until we come to the understanding that feminism is so closely intertwined with each individuals' life experiences, and we can only truly ever understand our own. The depth of understanding each other's intentions is endless, and there is no way to fully and accurately understand the meaning behind anyone's actions, opinions or artistic expression.

Here is a music video from an artist that I really don't like. But hey, at least she is saying and doing what she wants!

2 Comments

As much as feminism is/was about empowerment, it is/was also about the dismantling of the androcentric ideals of a highly patriarchal society. If anyone - man, woman - willingly accepts a role in the continuation of these notions, regardless of motives (money, fame, passion, or attention), is it really inaccurate to label them as anti-feminist?

First of all, I can see where you are coming from, and I do appreciate the simplicity in your definition of feminism. I do believe it is oppressive and hypocritical to judge and condemn someone for the action, identity and/or lifestyle they choose or do not choose to live and/or claim.
However, there are some ramifications to this definition. There is definately truth in that people should be able to do what they want, etc. But,it isn't always a choose. They system, capitalism driven by patriarchy practically forces (status quo) into particular systems and/or classes. Thus, people often find it easier to attack the victim. Here I agree with you on this. But, the real culprit is the system that perpetuates sexism and classim, etc. Thus, it is easier to conform then to rebel. For example, your music video. Is Nicki really, truly doing what she wants? Or, is she conforming to what dominant society wants to see/perpetuate? With this said, I do not condemn Nicki, rather, they patriarcahal system that put her in this position.

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This page contains a single entry by quar0035 published on October 3, 2012 11:11 AM.

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