Rap & The Tea Party: Musing on Violence and Rhetoric

I have been thinking about the resistance to the idea that words influence actions in general violence in particular.

In reality, the repetition of words is arguably one of the most powerful forces on earth.

Is there a connection between the ways in which rappers and Tea Party members use violent words, and how these words normalize violence against specific groups of people? It is certainly a question worth thinking about.

For example, last December, I along with Crunktastic, Crunk Feminists rep hard, wrote blog posts about Jay Electronica joking about choking women during sex during his concerts, his twenty thousand dollar bet with rapper Nas on whether “all women liked being choked during sex”, his silencing of dissent around the topic at his concerts and how this kind of rhetoric serves to normalize the conditions under which sexual violence occurs to women.

I had to block two people after I wrote that. They were incensed that I made the connection. On the other hand, many Americans don’t feel that there is a connection between Sarah Palin’s words and the violence that occured in Arizona recently either.

Go figure.

Interestingly Davey D wrote on a post on this topic as well in a post titled “If Rappers Can Take the Heat for Inflammatory Rhetoric, Why Can’t Sarah Palin.” I am not certain that rappers “take the heat” for their language. At least  not in a public and sustained way since 2 Live Crew. Oh wait, there ways Nelly and Tip Drill

Take a look at The Washington Post, Huffington Post or The New York Times for examples of the tension around whether words influence actions.

In trying to figure out why people think about defending positions they know or suspect are dead wrong, I ask myself, “what is their investment in the argument?”

Some people identify with rap music or The Tea Party so, to criticize either feels like you are criticizing them personally.

When talking about ideas and how they shape violence, what we are really talking about is our own willingness to acknowledge how we are complicit in that violence.

Words are powerful, and if you think they aren’t watch what happens when a grown White man calls a grown Black man a “Nigger.” #ummhmm.

Honestly, it was refreshing to see a conversation outside of the feminist blogosphere, where folks were talking about the harm of violent rhetoric.

What responsibility does a person, who has a large speaking platform,  have for their language?

Why is it so easy for young men and women to see it as an issue when it comes to race but when it comes  gender (men and women) they short circuit?

“Choking Women During Sex”: The Life of a Meme.

Justin Timberlake tug’s on Ciara’s chain in the Love Sexy Magic video.

Various conversations have been generated around Jay Electronica’s comments and $20K bet with Nas on whether “All Women Like Being Choked During Sex.”

Crunktastic wrote a post at Crunkfeminists, “Why Jay Electronica Can Choke on His Own Words.”

Then Latoya cross posted it on Racialicious.

Then Davey D linked to the post on his blog and made an interesting comment.

First he said,

all women deserve respect and maybe you with hold it when u get disrespected.. This aint a situation where folks need to jump through hoops to earn respect per se especially when they haven’t done wrong…

Because there is systemic violence against women all over the world simply because they do have vaginas and hence aren’t considered equal with men, then we should recognize that sort of oppression and counter.. ie there’s a woman in Iran who is getting stoned for some male defined transgression..

The gray text is a good working definition of gender based oppression concisely explained in 34 words. I appreciate Davey D for saying this. Makes my work a bit easier.

On Crunkfeminists, a commenter provides context for why conversations about “non vanilla sex” are important and the writer emphasizes the fine line between choking and non consensual sexual domination.  Commenter MtnTopFeminism writes,

While we do have to challenge ourselves not to have gut reactions against kinky or nonnormative modes of sex, that fact doesn’t get all forms of sex off the hook. It is critical that we engage in discussions that focus on the varying levels of sexuality and how pleasure cannot be restricted to vanilla norms. At the same time, it is also important that while we are open to new expressions of sexuality, we never lose sight of the dangers associated with them.

…Within a BDSM relationship trust becomes the main component. It isn’t just about “I like to get slapped around.” There is much more there. Without that open communication and honest dialogue, many practices, including erotic asphyxiation, are highly dangerous and even deadly. Not only that, but it isn’t just women who like to have such things done to them…a fact which is often ignored. Without discussing the three main tenets of BDSM—safe, sane and consensual—we head toward dangerous territory by merely accepting any discussion on kinky sex at face value.

Latoya cross posted Crunktastic’s post on Racialicious. And peep game. The sister of the woman who was at the concert and spoke up read the post and left a comment. (The internet amplifies offline sound and light, via @afrolicious).

Speaking of @afrolicious she mentioned this in the comment section around having expectations for artists gender politics. She writes,

I learned a long time ago not to trust an image, especially that of a rapper. As much as I want hip hop to respect me as a woman, I don’t get that often, even from the best of the creators. Additionally, I don’t expect progressive gender politics from most people, so to some extent I’m not disappointed.

It’s not a perfect rationale, but it’s how my filter works.

I hear her rationale,  and it is most certainly useful. I also believe that some statements can’t go unaddressed.

Another comment is from Rob, my colleague and a blogger at the Liberator (peep game here) wrote,

So here’s one of my initial reads: left-of-center hip-hop head blogosphere/twitterverse latched to jay because he’s a throwback to the golden age of conscious, Nation of Islam infused, east coast centric rapper who cares about his craft. However,the other side of all those early 90s dudes coming out of the NoI/NGE tradition is that when talking about women they were paternalists at best, if not outright misogynists. I don’t think anyone from that era escapes indictment.

I know lots of people have already made that connection, but I thought it bares repeating not to excuse what he did, but to historicize the comment and the evolution (or lack thereof) of gender politics in “conscious” hip-hop?

I responded saying,

I hear you on historicizing Jay Elec. However, I wonder if you or anyone would be willing to do the same thing in the face of White racism. What I am getting at is, in the last 24 hours, you are the second Black man to bring up the history out of which a Black man is rooted to contextualize their misogyny, the other time occurred in a conversation about Jim “I chase women out of windows” Brown last night.

I mean…I don’t hear people saying well you know…The Tea Partiers come out of a very particular history…..feel me? While I am not saying that Jay, the Tea Partiers or Jim Brown are analogous..I am certainly thinking of HOW and WHEN we deploy the “lets historicize” for a minute Renina steez. I guess this is me interrogating the historicizing…which is what your comment asked for.

He then explained that historicize is not the same as rationalize. I was relieved and I felt where he was coming from.

Our responses to Jay Electronica’s posts are influencing how I shape my research. I realize this after watching this meme evolve and, especially after a meeting with my professor Wednesday and hearing her tell me that I need to asks questions that give Black women the space to talk about desire, pleasure and danger. She felt that I was letting the interviewee’s off by going into pop culture and not asking them directly about #desire and #pleasure.

In responding to Jay’s comments I have read about women talking about their experiences. This is a positive outcome of this conversation.


Why does sexual conversation’s send people into rigid randy mode? Hella defensive?

See any good meme’s lately?

Pregnant and Feeling Like Erykah Badu

While reading the comments on various sites about Erykah’s pregnancy,
I couldn’t help but think of a property, double standards and marriage.
I thought of property because, it appears to me, that when Black women,
do things with their bodies, publicly, that involve the issue of sex or sexuality,
one would think that
they were public property based on the responses.

Historically wives were considered the property of their husbands.
In fact, historically marriage functioned property consolidation tool,

Marriage dates back several thousand years, emerging as a civil arrangement at the same time as the emergence of private property….anthropologists theorize that most primitive marriages were polygamous. Marriages were entered into in order to expand the land or material goods base of a clan, either through the receipt of a dowry or the merger of two clans’ assets. Religious guidelines ……were first used as a means of preventing different religious groups from losing wealthy followers by restricting them from marrying into other religions.

In more modern times, authorities historically turned a blind eye to women being assaulted by their husbands because the notion was the the wife belonged to the husband so he had the implicit right to hit her.

I make the above comments for the specific purposes of providing
some background on the institution of marriage as opposed to just
talking about it with blind uncritical acceptance.

If you think that I am overstating the issue, where is the wrath of criticism
for the number of out of wedlock children that Eddie Murphy, Mos Def, Diddy,
Lil Wayne, has?

Based on some of the comments its almost as if Erykah doesn’t have a right
to do, as she wishes with her body, yet there is a passive uncritical acceptance
of what men do.

To: Ms. Erykah Badu. From: Smooth Thug. Ms. Badu, Upon the completion of the reading of your statements and comments, I was very amazed, rather astounded, and most amused. I, therefore, find it highly necessary to inform you that I can not, and will not, go along with you in your assessment of the present state of affairs in your life. You stated that when it came to having your first two children you had ?2 wonderful partners by my side.? 1) Those were not ?partners?, sweetheart. Those were sperm donors….

...It?s 2008 if you end up pregnant its your fault..you are a GROWN A Woman and book smarts and common sense need to meet at some point. Baby number two. baby number three and still not in a commited relationship.One thing I found in myself and notice in other women is?we are the problem. No standards and no boundary lines for what we allow and tollorate going into a relationship. We do not demand a man that is going to commit and be respectful of the faith. We are just glad to have the company and something close to a title so we forgive and forget. My SISTA?S ITS TIME TO GO HIGHER! Higher in choices, higher in judgement. higher in selection. higher in relation… – Lovher Just because you are married to your children?s father, you can still be a single mother. There are men who are right in the household who won?t help their children get dressed for school,much less home school them. I feel more sorry for those women. At least she is not a depressed mother, who feels unloved by a husband. I would?nt care if I were never proposed to, marrige is not what is used to be. I will get married when I am old and need someone to take me to the doctor and to the grocery store. lol For now, I am happy going through life with me and my daughter.mo’star

The comments were mixed. I couldn’t help but wonder if the about the self righteous
commenter’s who care so much about holding her accountable for who she
procreates with, and where is the willingness to hold Mos Def, Diddy, Lil Wayne etc for either the messages in their music and for their out of wedlock children as well?

Perhaps, in their minds, its okay because they are men, or perhaps in their minds
if they criticized them, they would have to criticize R.Kelly, and if they criticized R.
Kelly they would have to stop listening to his music and you know no one wants
to do that.

Our ancestors came to this country as property, so it makes sense that,
until this issue is dealt with, both amongst us and in society at large,
that we will be seen as property. Everyday when we walk down the street, when we are propositioned by men who honk, wait, or honk and slow down, as if we are going
to turn around and walk over to their cars and given them our numbers,

we are treated like property,
not human beings.


Erykah’s situation is particularly personal for me because I recently let down
down my guard with the man that I am seeing and broached the “topic” of the
future. In the aftermath of the conversation I learned that there may or may not be the future that I envision.

Subsequently, I had to come to terms with the fact I may have to have my
child alone. With a support network nonetheless, but not within the system that society
has deemed to be the preferred nuclear structure that a child should be raised
in. I would imagine that that this is where being on the margins come in handy.

So many other women, Black and/or otherwise have done so in this world.
While this will entail a plan and a strategy, it is, on its face, no different than
the plan and the strategy that will take place should I choose to procreate,
shack up with and or marry the father of my child.

All of these scenarios involve choice because all humans have agency,
which is a will to act.

I recently experienced another incident that reminded me of how women
are treated like property. Last week I ran into someone that I met before left
New York last year. The key to the story is that right after I met him,
my phone was stolen, so I didn’t have a way to contact him.
Unbeknownst to me, he thought I met him and just never called again.

Part of the “you didn’t call me” anger apparently stemmed from the
fact that right after meeting him, I met his two young sons, so it came
across as a double diss. I was, however, under the guise that it was a
professional relationship as I wanted advice from him about the
investment banking world.

In the midst of our conversation we were talking about our
pasts and broken engagements come up. He clearly had anger towards
his ex- fiancee and so I said, “Well, she couldn’t have been that bad,
she moved in with you and you proposed to her. There was something
about her that you liked”.

He responded, “I didn’t like her, I just liked to f-ck her”.

I was floored, but stayed with my poker face, because I knew that
in that statement, there was a smidgen of rage being directed at me.
I also knew that his rage was his business and it had nothing to
do with me.

At that time, he worked 90 hours a week and went on to say, “At work, you have
no time to develop social skills, conversational skills or interpersonal
skills. When I got home, I had someone to f-ck. When I woke up in the morning
my shirt was pressed and my tie was laid out. I also had peer pressure
from co-workers and family to get married.”

It was incredible for him to say this because I have certainly heard this
alluded to, and we get the message from media and our families what
a woman’s role should be, but I never heard to spoken so honestly
from the heart.

When I saw the responses to Erkyah, all I could think was when we choose,
as women, what do with ourselves, and it involves sexuality and not
being on another person dime or watch, be prepared for the ridicule.

Erykah’s pregnancy, and the subsequent commentary speaks to
our lack of understanding of the history of marriage, our hypocrisy in attitudes
towards women who have children out of wedlock versus men, and our
unwillingness to see the way Black women have historically been treated like
property and lastly, how our attitudes today reflect a continued willingness to
see us a property.