"Misogyny wears many guises, reveals itself in different forms which are dictated by class, wealth, education, race, religion and other factors but its chief characteristic is its pervasiveness."
– bell hooks quoting Joan Smith in hook’s 1994 article, "Sexism and Misogyny: Who Takes the Rap?"
Seems like a good time to quote bell hooks. Ludacris caused a mild storm (at least in my own mind) today when his new song, Politics: Obama Is Here was released. The song, a passionate and energetic call to arms to support Barack Obama, was also a horrific display of misogyny and sexism, not to mention violence.
In the song, Ludacris calls himself one of Obama’s favorite rappers and then goes on to say,
"Hillary hated on you, so that b^$&%* is irrelevant…"
Barack Obama immediately responded through spokesperon Bill Burton distancing himself from and clearly condemning the lyrics. From Politico.com:
"As Barack Obama has said many, many times in the past, rap lyrics
today too often perpetuate misogyny, materialism, and degrading images
that he doesn’t want his daughters or any children exposed to," said
spokesman Bill Burton. "This song is not only outrageously offensive to
Senator Clinton, Reverend Jackson, Senator McCain, and President Bush,
it is offensive to all of us who are trying to raise our children with
the values we hold dear. While Ludacris is a talented individual he
should be ashamed of these lyrics."
I know many will use this as an opportunity to talk about how horrible rap lyrics are in their portrayal of women. But, as bell hooks notes, while male rap artists must be held accountable for the misogyny in their lyrics, "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 by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy."
I offer these words not by way of an excuse for Ludacris’ inexcusable choice of words but as a lifeboat for us all, as we swim together through these incredibly difficult waters.
Ludacris is no doubt right that there have been politicians "hatin on" Obama; that there have been despicable jokes and more subtle, though no less disgusting, racism lobbed at Barack Obama.
Yet, instead of including women – both Black and White – in his call to support Barack Obama in his historic run for the White House he single-handedly, metaphorically gives us a good slap in the face. These lyrics are nothing if not indicative of a sexism that pervades society and with a broad sweep turns both black and white women, women of all colors, shapes and sizes into "b****s" and "hos."
Ludacris is repeating nothing, however, that hasn’t been said or acted out in a milion different ways throughout history. As hooks notes, these ideas are not a " a black, male thing." These ideas are encouraged and promoted by the dominant culture in this country.
Hillary Clinton suffered the misogyny that Ludacris spouts, throughout her campaign, by men of all colors. And she did so because of the societal acceptance of sexism. The same sexism that still – in the 21st century – disavows women of our bodily autonomy, freedom and equality under law. And Barack Obama has suffered the slings of racism to a degree that reveals just how deeply ingrained racism is in our society – so cemented in the bones of our citizens that many white people who say they are not racist refuse to acknowledge its presence at all. It’s the same racism and misogyny that undercuts all women’s abilities to control our
reproductive lives, to be seen as equal members of society, and to be
free from gendered violence.
Barack Obama is making a truly historic run for President of the United States – and this campaign season has been one where race, gender and ethnicity are not barriers and yet not invisible either; where racism and sexism still interfere.
The thing is, supporting Barack Obama is one thing. Opposing Hillary Clinton, fine. But any racial healing – or gender healing for that matter – will never happen this way. The history of racism and sexism is intertwined and need not be pitted against each other. Ludacris recites what many have thought and others have said. Obama squarely denounced it. We must denounce the misogyny on all levels and everywhere – whether in regards to reproductive freedom or racism. It’s the only way this historic moment will truly benefit us all.
H/T to Julianne Shepherd who pointed me towards this post on the topic from Sandra Rose who straight up writes, "Mind you, these are the same misogynistic lyrics rappers have been using to describe their Nubian sisters for three decades."