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Monday, December 04, 2006

Misogyny Double Standard

As a devout fan of hiphop music, I have made allowances for what kinds of lyrics offend me. I can listen to Kool Keith's song BukBuk or Ghost Face Killah's Shakey Dog (which both engage in animated gangsta violence storytelling) and I write it off as satire and/or social commentary. I can listen to Cypress Hill deify cannabus, or Snoop Dogg discuss how women should not take it personally when he uses them like prostitutes. At this point in my life, none of that stuff really bothers me. And maybe, like watching violent James Bond movies, I actually enjoy it as a form of escape.

But the two tracks on the listening station right now give me pause. I like both songs aesthetically very much. However, both Southland's Shining Sun and Smart Went Crazy's I Liked You Better use the word "whore" in reference to a woman that has pissed off the songwriter. I don't know why (maybe because these songwriters seem like middle-class white guys that I relate to) but this actually bothers me. Neither song advocates violence, but they both casually use the term "whore". I think it's actually the way the term is just tossed in that bothers me the most. Maybe if the song was an over-the-top diatribe about a woman's profligate ways, it would be better. I don't know. For the three of you readers who actually listen to music, what do you think?

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At 12/04/2006 02:01:00 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Here is my two cents worth (though you may think that is an overvaluation).

I think I disagree with your acceptance of gangsta rap's portrayal of women as 'hoes' more as it seems to represent a more pervasive attitude to women as worthless and the glorification of male violence toward them whether it is physical or sexual.

I also wondered whether Smart Went Crazy are referring to someone of the female gender - earlier in the song, they sing of the person as a 'dick'. I thought that the use of 'whore' fitted the mood of the song as a bitter attack on someone and also as a use of the word in the context of someone who might be less than faithful in ways other than sexual e.g. friendship?

The other song I thought had great music but some of the lamest lyrics trying to be hip and cool - I think I was more offended by that than the use of the word 'whore'.

At 12/04/2006 02:50:00 PM, Blogger Johnbai3030 said...

To be fair to Southland, this song is unlike any of the other tracks on their cd. I think they were either going for a Sublime/Grateful Dead-influcenced hit single, or they were mocking Sublime's subculture - what with their 40 ouncers, drugs and beach bum lifestyles.

And you gotta love the line: And all the addicts crying, "I can't afford my crystal meee....." Ethnic kid shot dead by a cop by the state.

At 12/04/2006 09:33:00 PM, Blogger Diane said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12/04/2006 11:11:00 PM, Anonymous mel said...

Is it better if songs and other art forms don't offend?

Or are they windows into parts of cultures and ourselves that are usually kept out of "polite company" and/or opportunities for more honest discussion?

Perhaps a third option is they are just evidence of lack of imagination and/or a limited vocabulary.

At 12/05/2006 10:45:00 AM, Blogger Johnbai3030 said...

Earlier, Diane had asked what the male equivalent was... what offensive term might be out there to describe men in such an unflattering light? She apparently deleted her comment (not sure why.) The only thing I can think of is "faggot". And I think I would have the same double standard... I can listen to various forms of music and the word wouldn't bother me, but if I heard it coming out of the mouth of a middle-class, white songwriter, I would flinch.

At 12/05/2006 11:00:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be fair to the gangster lifestyle, when you deal exclusively with men in your money-making pursuits, have no desire to raise a family, and have never known true love or any kind of emotional closeness or sensitivity because you had no family bonding growing up, what use would you have for women other than physical pleasure?


At 12/05/2006 11:02:00 AM, Blogger Johnbai3030 said...

I like your point Mel. Art should offend sometimes.

Also: I read recently that alt-country chanteuse Neko Case laughed at how much flak Eminem caught for penning a song about murdering his wife. She said old country tunes are full of murder ballads, and Eminem hadn't done anything that hundreds of artists before him had already done.

I swear I'm not one of those censorious bowdlerizers.

At 12/05/2006 08:04:00 PM, Anonymous mel said...

Johnbai (note the unhip spelling),

Good point. I was thinking of Eminem when writing my original post.

The other point about his songs, is that they do give voice to people in our society that feel marginalized- even if some may not consider white-male-working-class folks in that group. I'm not sure if that is exactly his group, so my apologies if I have that part whacked, he just has some disaffected people in his corner.

My point is there are people who feel like the world only wants to hear from the educated elite, the polite and oh-so-correct. When we participate (passively or actively) in shutting out their voice, it gives people like the Republican party and in- hey we are the people who value you and your opinions, without judgement....well unless you are not a white heterosexual......

Ok, it made sense in my head, yet in the light of day (or blog) it is just rambling.

At 12/07/2006 11:12:00 AM, Blogger Jon said...

Is there a difference between those who are marginalized economically and those who are marginalized morally?

Do we agree with the Voltarian ideal of supporting everyone's right to free speech however repugnant the views of some people? If we do, then do we support the idea that there can be such a thing as hate speech or even a hate crime?

Would it be OK if the songs glorified pedophilia or homophobia or Holocaust denial or is mysogyny less of a shocker ?

I think John's point is pertinent in the light of Michael Richard's recent tirade and the response by some entertainers to stop using the 'N' word.


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