Misogynoir In Hip Hop

Over the span of the later half of the pandemic we’ve seen the characteristics of misogynoir personified heavily throughout the black community, more specifically towards black women in the music industry. 

Many of us already know of the events that transpired between Houston-rapper Megan Thee Stallion and the vertically-challenged Tory Lanez, but here’s a bit of a refresher: On the evening of July 12th, Megan suffered gunshot wounds in both of her feet following an altercation between herself and Lanez. Lanez was arrested on gun charges while Megan was taken to the hospital for surgery to remove the bullets. The story first broke on TMZ less than an hour after the incident occurred.

Now, given all of this information can we all come to the conclusion that what happened to Megan was an act of violence and a crime?

Unfortunately, we cannot. 

We all saw the memes, the tweets, the comments. Each one mocked and placed the blame toward Megan instead of making clear how serious the situation and her injuries were. Many focused on her physical appearance, implying that the loss of her sex appeal mattered more than her atual life. This behavior brought to light the age-old trope within Black culture: intentional violence and sexual objectification against the Black woman. 

Coined by Black feminist Moya Bailey in 2010, misogynoir is a term described as “the brand of hatred directed at black women in American visual and popular culture.” 

Since the late 80’s we’ve seen the exponential growth of misogynoir in hip hop- from the lyrics to the music videos that profit off of sexual objectification of Black women. All of this has lead to the negative portrayal of Black women in the Hip-Hop industry.

The recent music-industry documentary, On The Record, follows several women within the industry who claim to have been sexually assaulted by music mogul Russell Simmons. Since the documentary’s release in early August, Simmons has been under fire as many more allegations against him are beginning to emerge.

Drew Dixon, a rising  A&R executive who worked closely with Simmons to create Grammy-winning hits that catapulted her career also claimed to have been raped by him in 1995. Fearing for her standing within the community, Dixon didn’t speak up about the incident for nearly two decades saying, “I didn’t want to let the culture down. I love the culture. I loved Russell too.”

With the golden age of hip hop in the 90’s came Lil Kim and Foxy Brown, the image of the female rapper became heavily sexualized. As the list of successful female rappers continues to expand decades later, the framework still remains the same.

The genre of Hip Hop was born from the ever-present abuse and brutality Black communities face from law enforcement but also upholds the patriarchal system. It is a place where Black men can emulate the power ideals of whiteness. 

We all remember in 2009 when those graphic and chilling photos of Rihanna surfaced after Chris Brown physically assaulted her, yet his existence on the Billboard Hot 100 never took a hit. Instead of being held accountable, he was awarded continual success built on the dehumanization of Black women.

To fully understand the notion of the Black male gaze, it is important to realize the role objectification and degradation of Black women in film and media plays in the practice of violence against Black women. Oppressive structures like these stand firmly on the foundation of erasure and intentional neglect of those who are marginalized. Being one of the few influential structures in a white supremacist society where cisgender hetero Black men can be in positions of power, hip hop is unique. 

But it is not the responsibility of Black women in hip hop to address the racialized and sexual violence towards their community. It is up to the Black men who dominate those spaces to speak up against misogynistic behavior within the culture, instead of remaining silent.

Featured photo credits: musicexclusives.com