Saturday, March 10, 2012

It's Not Just Too Short, Y'all. It's Too Little.

I've been posting on this blog for more than six years now and, as best I can remember, I've never taken on the topic of woman hating as it's been mastered by some Black rappers. But every dawg has his day, they say. And I guess it's about time I should go on record.

I'm not even sure why I didn't do it before, especially since I've been teaching courses on the sociology of gender and sexuality every semester for the past several years. I mean, I always knew women got screwed out of their power somewhere along the line. I was born one and I definitely got the memo. But once I started teaching the topic and realized how cold-blooded and mean-spirited male dominance -- as a system -- is, it would seem that I would have wanted to have my say. Besides, I was never a big fan of the genre to begin with, I guess, though I tried to reserve judgement for a number of reasons.

For one thing, I thought it was a natural outcome of Black men being pushed so far for so long the blowback was predictable and even inevitable. I told audiences, "You think they're not pissed? Turn down the volume and just watch the body language and facial expressions. They're talkin' war. And they ain't wrong." Dollard suggested a long time ago, after all, that when folks are frustrated, they may take it out on whoever is more powerless and near enough to take the hit. Especially if there are no negative repercussions for doing so.

But besides that, who could resist the groove behind Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice"? So I brushed off his pimp personna as capitalistic broohaha. And when the shift to Cristal and diamonds and fat rolls of money became the rule rather than a groove-driven exception, I went along for the ride as more of the same. "Why shouldn't Black men have money and all the trappings that come with it (just like White men have)?" I might have been asking myself. And it helped that I didn't like it enough to listen to it and couldn't understand the words anyway when I tried.

So I ignored what was going on. Or tried to. I second-guessed my rational mind, telling myself that Black folks have a right to decide for themselves how they're gonna communicate with each other and the world, and it wasn't my business to butt in. "Maybe I'm just old," I thought.

I know so many young Black people -- students and otherwise -- who don't fit the stereotypes presented in those pimp-touting videos, but dance to them. I was, frankly, confused. So I stayed silent. Even though I spoke out -- long and loud -- about all manner of topics racial. As long as it left Pimp Rap (or whatever it's called) alone.

No more.

A few weeks ago, Color of Change sent out an email alert about an interview the rapper Too Short did with XXL magazine, a publication I've often noticed at the grocery store because its covers garishly sell a very straight-forward diet of gangstuh men's take-no-prisoner faces and women presented in spandex (being obviously, the only way women should be presented, as far as they're concerned). Apparently, the 45-year-old rapper later called his video-taped advice on how to rape a pre-teen girl the result of his being in "Too Short mode."

So what did that naughty "Too Short" jump out there and do exactly? According to an article at The Grio, he reached out in a "fatherly" way to his young Black male followers, saying:

"When you get to late middle school, early high school, and you start feeling a certain way about the girls...I'm gonna tell you a couple tricks...A lot of the boys are going to be running around trying to get kisses from the girls...We're going way past that. I'm taking you to the hole...You push her up against the wall. You take your finger and put a little spit on it and you stick your finger in her underwear and you rub it on there and watch what happens."

He admits in his subsequent non-apology that he has made a career out of "dirty raps." He claims he "would never advise a child or young man to do these things," though, of course, that's exactly what he did (he being Too Short in addition to being Todd Anthony Shaw). He reminds the public that he has tried to "somewhat balance the content of my music with giving back to the community," as if a check to a neighborhood program for at-risk kids buys him the right to get rich by teaching adolescent males how to rape little girls. He even goes so far as to say (in his so-called apology), "If you're a young man or a kid who looks up to me, don't get caught up in the pimp, player, gangster hip-hop personas." But he most certainly does not suggest that they don't buy the album he's about to release that encourages them to do the exact opposite.

I am beyond over this shit.

A recent study found that 60% of Black girls are raped by Black men by the time they're eighteen years of age. And that's up 20% since an earlier study done seven years ago. So things are not getting better.

And let's not forget that rape, molestation, manipulation and exploitation of women and girls for the instant gratification of men's dicks and their egos is hardly a Black problem. It's endemic to our entire society and, from what I can tell, the populations of most societies in the world today. In fact, a film entitled Searching for Angela Shelton, in which a documentary filmmaker locates all the women named Angela Shelton in America, finds that 87% of them have been raped or molested and otherwise abused. They represent every racial, class and geographical category and nearly nine out of ten have been the victims of male aggression. Unless we imagine there to be something very strange about the name Angela Shelton, we have to assume the possibility that what we're learning through this piece of work is that it may be that virtually all the women in this country have been victimized, not just by men, but by a system that teaches men and women that this is reasonable and to be expected.


Anyway, what I'm trying to point out in this post is that the pimpification of young Black men is, among other things, a tool of the White man's patriarchal system that disgraces both Black men themselves and the women they claim to idolize in their mothers. If nine out of ten women in this country are constantly in jeopardy of being raped or molested, gentlemen, do you really think your particular mother somehow escaped her own particular hell? Just because it may have happened before she had you doesn't mean it didn't affect her and her life.

Can you picture your mother or your sister or your own little girl at just thirteen (or even younger) being "put up against the wall" by some enterprising male manipulator who could take the opportunity to "turn her out" and into the "slut" that every girl is purported to be the minute a male can work or finger or force her to let him touch her? Do you think it never happened if you don't know it did?

Do you really believe that her inability to stop the process -- no matter why -- makes the whole thing her "fault" because guys "can't help themselves"? Rape is a crime because it's an act of violence, not an act of sex. It's one human being attacking another human being with an object or a body part as a weapon. Men that aren't mentally ill manage to keep their penises in their pants most of the time. So why are we instructed that they "just can't help themselves" sometimes?

The fact is that the problem is way, way bigger than just Too Short or "dirty rap" or magazines like XXL or Snoop Dogg clothing or Katt Williams videos. The problem is that men are socialized, they're actually raised to brutalize women and girls as a way to prove their "manhood." Even young men who don't want to rape get caught up in the process sometimes of having to prove to themselves or some other man (or group of men) that they're "bad" enough to "take it" without any consideration of what they're doing to themselves, the human being they're violating or the human race in general.

And let's not use that tired old excuse, "I know she wanted it. I could see it in her eyes." Especially if she's so drunk or high at the time that you can't really see anything in her eyes. That's just how men give themselves a get-out-of-jail-free card. In fact, research tells us that the vast majority of male college students who satisfy the criteria for having committed a legally-defined rape don't think whatever they did was wrong.

The bottom line is that the oppression of women -- as beasts of burden for men to do the work men don't want to do, as emotional and physical punching bags and cheerleaders to make men feel twice their size, and as receptacles for their semen so they can "get their rocks off" -- shouldn't give Todd Anthony Shaw or any other man bragging rights.

Women are sexual beings, yes, but not sexual objects. A system of oppression called patriarchy (which is very similar, by the way, to the system of White Supremacy) has taught us all that women are just things and that if one gets caught away from the herd, she's "fair game." What it doesn't teach men is that a man who is socialized to be a predator loses not only his manhood, but his humanity, in the process. Not to mention any possibility of ever being able to look any woman -- even his mother -- in the eye and still respect himself.

You can't have it both ways.


Z said...

Great post!

"Women are sexual beings, yes, but not sexual objects."

--That is what the conservatives and the machistas have backwards, or want to be backwards.

I am noticing a lot of parallel attitudes in metal and rap bands, they are sooooooo macho and so ultimately reactionary in my view.

My students are heavily into non gangsta rap, good boy rap, so I have to put up with it. It is *still* so machista.

I think a lot of academic guys feel they have to justify machista rap so they can be cool.

Changeseeker said...

Hey, Z. I was just checking out the lineup for the Festival next month. Is Gary Clarke, Jr., really gonna be there? I saw him on the LPB White House blues show. Good stuff. I hope you folks can seal him down.

Brotha Wolf said...

Excellent post.

I would also add that rape is also about power - power over another human being that is seen as weak. The rapist or rapists will use whatever means necessary to subdue the victim and make them bend to their will even by the use of physical force, mental manipulation, or both.

Z said...

Yes, the schedule is firm!

Changeseeker said...

Brotha Wolf: Exactly! Which is why rape isn't called something else when one man does it to another man. It's not about gender, it's about power.

Z: Glad to hear it. I'll be watching the schedule to see when he will appear.

Temple said...

I really appreciate this article. And I want to add that this behavior of black men towards black women was happening looong before hip-hop came into fashion.

From Paul Giddings' When And Where I Enter, concerning the status of black women & girls at the close of the 19th century:

"An anonymous writer for The Independent: We poor colored women wage-earners in the South are fighting a terrible battle. On the one hand we are assailed by White men, and on the other hand we are assailed by Black men, who should be our natural protectors."

Fannie Barrier Williams: "I believe that as a general thing we hold our girls too cheaply. Too many colored men entertain very careless, if not contemptible opinions of the colored girls."

There's much out there that confirms this. In general, black men view black women with the same disdain as whites.

Rappers like the person referenced in the beginning of your article are just a different face on a,so far unchanged,gendered racist narrative.

While anti-racists (white & black) often focus on racism as it affects black men in the wider society. Black women have been forging ahead under the combined burdens of racism in the wider society & gendered racism within the black group. While at the same time standing by & defending black men against racial oppression from without.

Thanks for this article.

Changeseeker said...

What an astute and much appreciated comment, Temple. It puts this post in the appropriate context of seven thousand years of patriarchy. And it reminds us not to fall into the reductionistic trick-bag of faulting one small component (like hip-hop/gangstuh rap) instead of facing the fact that it's not individuals; it's a system. To do away with oppression against women, we have to change the system. There's no other way. And in the meantime, White women should be reaching out to, encouraging, standing in solidarity with, and even protecting, when necessary and possible, women of color who, as you point out, must fight their battles to liberate themselves as women while fighting alongside Black men for liberation from racial oppression, as well. Thank you for your important clarification.