In the summer of 1966, Percy Sledge sang about when a man loves a woman. The sincerity and anguish in his voice reflected a generation that knew what it was like to be truly in love. Fast forward to 2005, where men have stopped being in love with women and have decided to be in love with strippers.
Women are no longer ladies – they’re “hos.” The passionate ballads that once had women swooning has changed to raunchy, lewd, hip-hop tributes that focus more on a woman’s assets than any type of real romance.
On any given day, you can turn on BET and see a music video with a rapper who has half-naked women running around him. Very few videos present women in a tasteful, respectful way. Instead, women have become sexual objects in hip-hop culture. It was time for women to take a stand, and Asha Jennings did just that.
In April 2004 at Spelman College in Atlanta, Jennings and other co-eds threatened to protest a cancer fundraiser where Nelly would be making an appearance. Many students referred to his “Tip Drill” video as grounds for disapproval.
In the song, Nelly says, “I said it must be yo’ ass, cause it ain’t yo’ face / I need a tip drill.” A “tip drill” is a woman who is ugly but performs sexual acts for money. In the video, Nelly swipes a credit card between a woman’s butt cheeks, and other men throw cash between women’s legs. What started out as a protest turned into a national campaign called “Take Back the Music,” which is sponsored by Essence magazine.
Michaela Angela Davis, fashion and beauty editor of Essence, was quoted in an article on CNN’s Web site saying the image created by these kinds of lyrics is an image of a woman who “tends to be objectified, degrading, very stripper-like. And it’s not that that is wrong, but it becomes wrong when there’s no other quality or image that we have to choose from.”
The article goes on to say, since the main consumers of hip-hop are young, wealthy, white men, Essence fears that society as a whole is getting a “sick” image of who black women are. The stereotype that black women are promiscuous, submissive creatures is causing the everyday black woman to face problems such as sexual harassment on a daily basis.
The problem affects university life, too. In an Associated Press article, Erica Howard, a junior at Vanderbilt, said, “There’s a certain level of disrespect on campus toward African-American females.” She cringes at the memories of a string of incidents on her campus where “girls … were walking in front of dorms, and white guys would come up and grab them.”
Santina White, a black senior at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said she was at a Dave Matthews Band concert when a white male student started a conversation.
“The first thing he wanted to talk about is how sizable his manhood is compared to black men,” she said. “We are always being looked upon as if (sex) is all I like to do – that’s all I want.”
Regardless of whether hip-hop artists like it, it’s a big part of the problem. Unfortunately, those in the genre refuse to take responsibility. Remy Ma, a female rapper who wears a lacy bustier and thigh-high boots in her video for the song “Conceited,” says it’s not fair to blame hip-hop.
“Is that a rapper’s fault that that’s the way society is portrayed?” she asks. “Sex sells everywhere. Every commercial you look at, it’s all based around sex.”
I long for the days when female rappers such as Queen Latifah told black women that “you ain’t a b—- or a ho,” or when Salt ‘N’ Pepa gave props to black men for treating black women like queens in the song “Whatta Man.”
Unfortunately, those days are long gone. They are replaced with Lil’ Kim asking: “How many licks?” and Trina being the self-proclaimed “baddest b—-.” Young black females are growing up watching TV, seeing these images and believing this how they need to act to be valued. If the rappers won’t step up and provide alternative images of black women, then it’s up to the mothers, the female students and the women who participate in these videos to say “enough” and take back the music.
Shemir Wiles is a senior majoring in mass communications.