12.17.2004

It must be Christmas because I woke up (a month late, natch) to find one of the essays that is one of those personal jesuses in my feminist understanding of the planet online over chez the fine Lynne D. Johnson. (Via that mystery girl over in our current fave boy blogger Sasha's world.)

I'll put up an excerpt here, but I can't urge you strongly enough to go read the whole thing over at Lynne's. bell hooks is so on point: she also goes into that Jane Campion movie The Piano and dismantles its near-universal NPR-applause.

The bold action at the end is from me: English departments, awards committees, Harper's, New Yorker, New York Times Book Review, etc.: this "middle-class decorum" means you.

Anyway:
"Misogyny, gangsta rap, and The Piano," by bell hooks, ZMagazine, February 1994

For the past several months white mainstream media has been calling me to hear my views on gangsta rap. Whether major television networks, or small independent radio shows, they seek me out for the black and feminist "take" on the issue. After I have my say, I am never called back, never invited to do the television shows or the radio spots. I suspect they call, confident that when we talk they will hear the hardcore "feminist" trash of gangsta rap. When they encounter instead the hardcore feminist critique of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, they lose interest. . . .

The sexist, misogynist, patriarchal ways of thinking and behaving that are glorified in gangsta rap are a reflection of the prevailing values in our society, values created and sustained by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. As the crudest and most brutal expression of sexism, misogynistic attitudes tend to be portrayed by the dominant culture as an expression of male deviance. In reality they are part of a sexist continuum, necessary for the maintenance of patriarchal social order. While patriarchy and sexism continue to be the political and cultural norm in our society, feminist movement has created a climate where crude expressions of male domination are called into question, especially if they are made by men in power. It is useful to think of misogyny as a field that must be labored in and maintained both to sustain patriarchy but also to serve as an ideological anti-feminist backlash. And what better group to labor on this "plantation" than young black men. . . .

Gangsta rap is part of the anti-feminist backlash that is the rage right now. When young black males labor in the plantations of misogyny and sexism to produce gangsta rap, their right to speak this violence and be materially rewarded is extended to them by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Far from being an expression of their "manhood," it is an expression of their own subjugation and humiliation by more powerful, less visible forces of patriarchal gangsterism. They give voice to the brutal raw anger and rage against women that it is taboo for "civilized" adult men to speak. No wonder then that they have the task of tutoring the young, teaching them to eroticize and enjoy the brutal expressions of that rage (teaching them language and acts) before they learn to cloak it in middle-class decorum or Robert Bly style reclaimings of lost manhood.
Snap.

xo Elizabeth
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