Anonymous asked:

Crystal, I stumbled onto your blog through some rabbit hole of links a while back and have been a reader ever since. You write some intelligent things about hip-hop which is rare and dope. One thing that I'm sure you've realized in your relationship with hip-hop is that it is a deeply flawed genre. For all its lyricism and rhythm, it is also deeply sexist. How do you, as a woman, reconcile your gender with your music? Tumblr gives me a character limit, but you get the idea of the question.

crystalleww answered:

Hi Anon, this question is phrased as well-intentioned, but it is also extremely boring.

Women much smarter than I have been writing about their relationship with the genre for well over a decade now. My favorite book is Joan Morgan’s When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost which is an easy read; it’ll take you an afternoon. If you’re looking for a vaster collection of materials, Melissa Harris-Perry’s Hip-Hop and Feminism class had an awesome syllabus. A lot of these books were extremely important to helping me unpack some of my more complicated feelings.

A very essential part of any sort of pop culture criticism is learning to critically examine the art that you love. There is an awful lot of sexism in hip hop, but there’s a ton of sexism in pretty much every genre of music, in pretty much every type of art. What I find much more alarming than the sexism in hip hop is how it’s shifted attention away from everyone. How many indie rock songs are there with the sad sack male lead singer exhibiting stalker-ish behavior? How many dance floor songs are about grabbing a girl and dancing with her (no consent asked, of course)? How many rock-n-roll songs are about beating women and non-consensual sex? How many times have you seen a female musician at a live show get catcalled to “SHOW US YR TITS”? Hell, what’s the gender ratio for male to female inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? (I am not picking on country here, if only because picking on country often seems like enlightened city liberals picking on backwards rural folk, but it also has its share of problems.)

Perhaps because of the exceptional attention paid to hip hop, I’ve found that as a genre it is extremely self-critical and self-aware. Women have been doing incredible things in hip hop since the very beginning. Salt-N-Pepa were making sex positive music at the same time as Madonna. Queen Latifah and MC Lyte wrote some of the most overtly feminist songs to have ever existed. Today, women in hip hop and who are tangentially related to it like Nicki Minaj, Kelly Rowland, and Beyonce consistently challenge societal norms behind gender more than anyone else. 

Finally, I don’t think that women who love hip hop are the only ones who think about its sexism. Men certainly don’t deserve extra points for being decent human beings and fighting sexism, but plenty of male critics do their job and point out the bullshit. A quick example that springs to mind immediately is Renato Pagnani’s review of Kevin Gates’ By Any Means, where he grapples with his feelings about Gates’ persona and the deeply violent lyrics in “Posed to Be in Love.”

So yeah, I do find hip hop to be deeply flawed in its relationship to woman, but I love it a lot. As always, the answer is to critically think about the things that you love. Maybe one day this will change, but for now, this question is boring.