Quoted: Ashley Judd’s Feminism and Hip-Hop

Aside from the fact that Ashley Judd has no clue about Hip-Hop as an art form and a culture, her comment shows an underlying prejudice towards black men. She says that Snoop and Diddy’s participation in YouthAIDS raised a red flag for her. If she knew anything about Hip-Hop or maybe even had a conversation with either one of these men, she’d know that neither condone rape or create violent music (at least not in the last decade), both are intelligent and savvy media moguls, and both are fathers (each has a least one daughter). So why wouldn’t they use their star power and influence to spread the message to young people, and especially the Hip-Hop community, about the importance of HIV/AIDS prevention? Shouldn’t they be lauded? If their music is so sexually irresponsible, isn’t it a good thing that they are talking about safe sex considering that HIV/AIDS transmission rates are so much higher among African-Americans?
What’s particularly dangerous is the use of the phrase “rape culture” in this context. In the wake of the Cleveland, Texas rape case, we have seen how stereotypes of sexually aggressive black men spin out of control and dredge up historical beliefs of black men being rapists. This is the latest incarnation with Ashley Judd, a well-respected advocate for maternal health and women and girls, attacking Hip-Hop. Commercial Hip-Hop is misogynous. So is underground shit. Rock, metal, house, R&B, techno, etc. all have misogynous and violent content. But none is as popular, commercially viable, or controversial. There’s a difference between talking about the music as being misogynous and honestly deconstructing what’s behind that, and saying Hip-Hop as a whole promotes “rape culture.” It shows a lack of understanding of the diversity of Hip-Hop and the commercial decisions that shape how it is sold and capitalized upon (and who makes those decisions).
I know that she is promoting a book and people think it’s a publicity stunt. I don’t know…maybe it is, generally speaking we as listeners and consumers of Hip-Hop (at least her definition of it) aren’t her main audience. As a publicist and communications strategist, I think that’s idiotic and shortsighted but I’m also not a big supporter of the idea that all publicity, even bad, is good publicity. If that’s the case then mission accomplished…now people who didn’t know or care about her memoir think she is a racist dumbass. Or some people think she is speaking out about negative imagery of women in Hip-Hop and pop culture. That depends on your point of view. What I do believe is that Ms. Judd wants to advance the discussion of attitudes that lead to sexual assault and rape since she experienced sexual abuse. Yet this is hardly a constructive way to do it.
I have looked closely at the feedback I have received about those two paragraphs, and absolutely see your points, and I fully capitulate to your rightness, and again humbly offer my heartfelt amends for not having been able to see the fault in my writing, and not having anticipated it would be painful for so many. Crucial words are missing that could have made a giant difference. It should have read: “Some hip-hop, and some rap, is abusive. Some of it is part of the contemporary soundtrack misogyny (which, of course, is multi-sonic). Some of it promotes the rape culture so pervasive in our world…..” Also, I, ideally, would have anticipated that some folks would see only representations of those two paragraphs, and not be familiar with the whole book, my work, and my message. I should have been clear in them that I include hip-hop and rap as part of a much larger problem. It is beyond unfortunate that I am talking about some, for example, of Snoop Dogs’ lyrics, an assumption has been spread I was talking about every single artist in both genres. That is false and distorted. Here, I am again aware that it would be impossible for me to get this “exactly right.” Some will find fault, no matter how careful I am, no matter what my intentions.

Easily the most ludicrous thing about the Twitter wars has been the perpetuation of the ridiculous accusation I am blaming two musical genres for poverty, AIDS, and the whole of rape culture. Please, people. Seriously? It’s beneath all of us that this even merits a comment. Gender inequality and rape culture were here a long before the birth of the genres and rage everywhere. Someone pointed out American history includes extensive white patriarchal rape. I’d add genocide, too, but that is another essay.

Regarding what is happening on Twitter:

Thumbs Up: In those 2 paragraphs, I was addressing gender and gender only. However, the outcry focused so much on race (and at times class) that it was naive of me to assume that everyone knew I was discussing only gender. My favorite feminist teachers, such as bell hooks and Gloria Steinem, would probably have admonished me, as they write that gender, class, and race are inextricably bound in the conversation about gender equality. My amends for thinking you could read my mind and know I was only talking about gender. I understand why you were offended.

“Why don’t we [help] end rape culture instead of getting mad that we’re getting called out on it?”
Photo Credit: huffingtonpost.com
  • ashley

    I was thinking the same thing about Diddy. I can think of lots of negative things to say about him! But, I can’t recall any grossly misogynistic lyrics either.

  • Keith

    Hip hop is the culture and rap is just one of it’s many art forms. I don’t know why people confuse the two all the time. That’s the problem with culture appropriation and generalizations.

  • http://cocoafly.com CocoaFly

    Much of the hip hop consumed is misogynistic. “Concious” artists like the Roots, Talib Kweli and others do not sell records compared to rappers like Lil’ Wayne, 50, Snoop Dogg etc. Doesn’t that say something about us as consumers and what we WANT to hear? Clubs aren’t bumping Talib’s songs. But the party really gets started when you hear the Dogg Pound sing “When I met you last night lady…” It’s rare you see a hip hop video without some half-naked black girl shaking her a*s for the camera. And then the countless drops of “bitches” and “hoes” in the lyrics. Can we just be real about this? I grew up on hip hop, but a lot of the music is degrading to black women. And I don’t think Ashley Judd is ignorant or racist for speaking the truth. If black women put out music degrading black men, hip hop wouldn’t have lasted a week. I love black men, but I’m not going to sit here and pretend that many of the brothas in the industry have not reaped serious dollars projecting lyrics that dehumanize, sexualize, and insult black women.

  • http://heavyarmor.wordpress.com Heavy Armor

    The reason why Ashley is being called out for her racist statement is because she starts out on “race row” of her own:

    “Along with other performers, YouthAids was supported by rap and hip-hop artists like Snoop Dogg and P Diddy to spread the message. Those names were a red flag.”

    Whether she believes that she was being general about it or not, singling out 2 black men and using this as a springboard to further attack a genre that has been identified by the mainstream as being “part of black culture” is going to raise some eyebrows. Whether there is “evidence” to support her position is irrelevant.

    It also tells me that at the very least, Ashley believes that some people, especially Black Men, are incapable of changing their beliefs or maturing in their philosophy, even as she attempts to backpedal from her use of the buzzword “rape culture” without actually trying to. In other words, her own White Privilege was showing, and she got caught.

    • http://www.socialitedreams.com/ Vonnie

      “The reason why Ashley is being called out for her racist statement is because she starts out on “race row” of her own:

      “Along with other performers, YouthAids was supported by rap and hip-hop artists like Snoop Dogg and P Diddy to spread the message. Those names were a red flag.”

      Whether she believes that she was being general about it or not, singling out 2 black men and using this as a springboard to further attack a genre that has been identified by the mainstream as being “part of black culture” is going to raise some eyebrows. ”

      so her MENTIONING black men is in and of itself racist? When one is mentioning hip hop, WOULDN’T they mention black men? isn’t that who freaking makes up the genre? So if i mention Country music and note 2 white artists, then I’m racist? wtf? These were specific black men in the black run genre of hip hop associated with the foundation with misogynistic pasts, that should raise eyebrows.

    • Anonymous

      She singled out to black men because they are popular and their lyrics are sexist. It isn’t really that deep. Hip hop/rap does promote a “rape culture” Anyone who reads the lyrics knows that. Granted other genres of music are also sexist.

  • http://www.socialitedreams.com/ Vonnie

    i’m not understanding what you mean by: “What’s particularly dangerous is the use of the phrase “rape culture” in this context. In the wake of the Cleveland, Texas rape case, we have seen how stereotypes of sexually aggressive black men spin out of control and dredge up historical beliefs of black men being rapists.” The mainstream hip hop does breed a sense of ganged up “ain’t no fun less we all get some” type mentality. Should it not be spoken of because it makes black men seem dangerous if they themselves are saying the words and in the case of the cleveland texas case, doing the actions/crime? I don’t understand what you mean, could you clarify that part that was quoted, please?

    i’m tired of people praising hip hop as art when it hasn’t been, on a large level, in 20 years. Let’s be real here, people, these aren’t poetic lyrics to a beat anymore. it’s about banging hoes, big cars, doing the stanky leg, and asses (on the mainstream level that most people listen to, not stuff that we have to go search out and find on a hidden mix tape or something). We are so stuck in a time warp with everything, willfully. This is just how black women are stuck on “the white man just wants to rape you and use you” when NOW in THIS day and age it’s black guys doing it. Hip Hop ONCE was political and uplifting and cool, but not NOW in THIS day and age on a large scale. People are clinging on to stuff that hasn’t been true in 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years for nostalgia sake.

  • Vodalus

    @umm…what

    I don’t know, Snoop did voluntarily show up at an award show with two “dates” wearing little more than lingerie and dog collars. I can’t speak to anyone else, but Snoop comes across as pretty committed to disrespecting women.

    • Mjshah

      “I don’t know, Snoop did voluntarily show up at an award show with two “dates” wearing little more than lingerie and dog collars. I can’t speak to anyone else, but Snoop comes across as pretty committed to disrespecting women.”
      took the words right outta my mouth

  • Lila

    Not all hip-hop is misogynist but Snoop is, he has not changed, and he even admits he has no regret for his misogynist lyrics. This is a guy who continues to boast about how he controlled and exploited the prostitutes who worked for him when he was a pimp.

  • Good.

    I respect Ms. Judd for replying to these criticisms intelligently and thoughtfully–and admitting that she was in the wrong with her statements. Good on her.

  • http://DeadAmericanDream.blogspot.com AngryBroomstick

    I’m glad that Ashley Judd acknolwedged that what she said was wrong. Kudos. yes, some hip hop and rap are abusive…. but other hip hop and rap are extremely empowering… just like any other form of music… heavy metal and rock n roll are deeply misogynistic as well, but can be empowering in other ways…

  • umm…what

    “F*ck Hip Hop. Rip pockets, snatch jewels!”

    Ante Up Remix ft. Busta Rhymes and others.

    Mainstream Hip Hop is a very disingenuous world. I don’t see Judd’s comments as racist so much as they are naive to the realities of the recording industry. Artists don’t have much control over their music, it all gets filtered through focus groups and test markets before it hits the shelves so it is in opportunities like these that they get to act without a corporate leash. Also, who cares if Ashley Judd doesn’t follow hip hop much? Not everyone does, not even all people of color. We can’t read a dismissal or ignorance of hip hop as automatically racist. It doesn’t appeal to everyone and we can’t imply that those who don’t like it have some sort of racial bias at play. I wouldn’t think Ashley Judd was any less ignorant about black people than I do now if she was knowledgeable about Hip Hop and hadn’t made this statement at all.

    • Anonymous

      Exactly, and it is much more prejudiced to assume black people should be offended because of her remarks on hiphop, just on the fact that they’re black. HipHop fans being offendend for her lumping all forms of it together? That’s a different story.