Rihanna is a Pop Diva on the rise. 11 number one singles, more than any other artist out. She is known a walking fashion show, a new hair do every 6 months, but since when ‘nappy hair’? And when is okay to refer to a black woman’s hair as ‘nappy’?
Nappy hair is used to reference tightly coil and kinky hair, common among women of African descent. Nappy is in no way a term of endearment. The term has been used for centuries to make Black women despise their hair, while the white woman’s silky straight hair has become the ideal hair type.
Hair Politics within the Black Community has always been a touchy subject. From the days in West Africa where a woman’s hair was crown and identity until slaves were brought to the Americas and had their hairs chopped off to remove their identities. “Treatments of black folks’ hair as a complex and simultaneously personal and political issue has not been dealt with so prolifically and to the same extent in children’s texts although much African-American adult literature deals with little black girls coming to terms with their hair in the face of culturally competing beauty mythologies” (Lester).
Recently, a natural hair movement has began and through this movement women of African descent have began to embrace their tightly coiled manes. Some women in the movement chose to reclaim the word ‘nappy’, to show that their is nothing wrong with having ‘nappy’ hair. Is it wrong for other races to hurl the ‘nappy’ word out to be malicious?
I honestly believe this young woman, who appears to be of Latino descent, was trying to be malicious believing that the Pop diva would not even respond to her. Being the sarcastic Bajan woman, Rihanna hurled back “becuz I’m black bitch”. From the tone of the tweet Rihanna was both defending her cover hair do and proving to accept her ‘nappy’ hair. The young woman met her match.
Lester, Neal A. Nappy Edges and Goldy Locks: African American Daughters and the Politics of Hair. The Johns Hopkins University Press. The Lion and the Unicorn, Volume 24, Number 2, April 2000, pp. 201-224.
Interracial Marriages in the United States. In 1967 miscegenation was ruled unconstitutional by the case Loving v. Virginia, lifting the ban on interracial marriages. Interracial unions in the US are rapidly on the rise in the black community. “In 2007, 4.6% of all married Blacks in the United States were wed to a White partner, and 0.4% of all Whites were married to a Black partner” (Fryer 2007).
The relationship between blacks and whites in the US is rooted in slavery. “Blacks and whites continue to be the two groups with the greatest social distance, and the most spacial separation, and the strongest taboos against interracial marriages” (Child 2005). Black Women hold the largest opposition to interracial marriages. This opposition stims from the historic relationship between the slave master and the black female slave as a sexual slave. The majority of interracial marriages involving blacks are between Black Men and White Women, which also have the highest divorce rate among all interracial marriages.
In the black community interracial dating is seen as betraying your race and subsequently lead to you being labeled a “sellout”. Many Black Women included in Child’s study, admitted they were taught as children to not date outside of your race because it is seen as the ultimate betrayal. Dating a white person for blacks in America unleashes the anger and hurt that hundreds of years of oppression, murders, and segregation for blacks.
Childs, Erica. Looking Behind the Stereotypes of the “Angry Black Woman”: AnExploration of Black Women’s Responses to Interracial Marriages. Sage Publications, 2005.
Fryer, Ronald. Guess Who’s Been Coming to Dinner? Trends in Interracial Marriage over the 20th Century. Journal of Economic Perspectives. Volume 21, Number 2—Spring 2007—Pages 71–90.
Hip Hop has been known for it’s majority male dominated atmosphere. Few women are welcomed to participate in any form into the culture. When women contribute in the culture, it is under the males discretion. Basically women inter Hip Hop on male conditions, be it rapping, as video vixens, groupies, etc.
Recently New Jersey rapper Joe Budden has come under scrutiny and praise by some for the mistreatments of his ex-girlfriend and mother of his miscarried child, video vixen Esther Baxter. Baxter’s resume was built on appearances in rap videos to portray the vixen that rap artist must have in their overtly sexual videos uplifting their masculinity. Baxter alleges that the rapper Budden was physically abusive,and on this certain occasions the situations escalated to new heights. After an argument the couple had, Baxter began to smash his laptop onto the ground which angered the rapper to sit underneath her chest to ‘restrain’ her. As a result of his ‘restraining’, Baxter experienced a miscarriage of the couples child. The rapper discusses the incident in his a song titles, Ordinary Love Part 3:
I swear to this day I re-enacted in my head
So I held you up, wasn’t what I aimed to do
I aint attack you, Bitch I was restrainin’ you!
But you was wifey, though I understand it was not a game
Could you imagine my surprise when the cops came
Handcuffed me..you pressed charges
But I made bail its just heartless
You cant smash my laptop on the wall
And then think I wasn’t gonna react, scratch that
Budden and his supporters excuses his actions because of their reconciliation. Women return to their abusers at alarming rates, and this does not diminish their physical or mental pain they receive at the hands of their abusers.
This act just furthers the misogynists stereotype the Hip Hop culture has taken on. Hip Hop is believed to uplift violence, especially against women. Lyrics from artists discuss murdering their wives, raping women, and using women as sexual servants. These male artist believe that it is acceptable to release songs discussing their disdain for the women in their lives.
Intimate partner violence has become acceptable in Hip Hop. The CDC explained intimate partner violence as violence that occurs between two people in a close relationship, be it current or former partners. “Each year, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner related physical assaults and rapes. Intimate partner violence resulted in 2,340 deaths in 2007. Of these deaths, 70% were females” (CDC). Hip Hop artist and supporters must not accept these actions from artists. It is never acceptable for violence against women, it surely shouldn’t be acceptable to hide behind it in lyrics, yet fail to show remorse for your actions.
Budden, Joe. “Ordinary Love Pt. 3”. Ordinary Love Pt. 3, SINGLE. E1 Music Company. 2011.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. October 7, 2010.
Lauryn Hill has be hailed as the best Female contributor Hip Hop has ever offered. Her soulful melodies, and uplifting and socially conscious rhymes inspired generations of black women, young and old. She uplifted black women, but also sternly criticized their actions lovingly.
Lauryn’s departure from Hip-Hop has left a complete void. No woman has been able to capture her essence, creativity, and talent to uplift new generations of black women. She was the voice in Hip-Hop that was missing for decades. While her female counterparts where half-naked divulging in their sexual escapades in their hyper-sexual lyrics, Hill discussed passion, heartbreak, and triumph. Hill made songs for black women. She spoke of the struggles it is to be black and female. She also discussed her struggles in love and finding the strength to move past her situations.
Father, you saved me and you showed me that life
Was much more than being some foolish man’s wife
Showed me that love was respect and devotion
Greater than planets and deeper than any ocean
See, my soul was weary, but now it’s replenished
Content because that part of my life is finished
I see him sometimes and the look in his eye
Is one of a man who’s lost treasures untold
But my heart is guilty, I took back my soul
And totally let my Creator control
The life which was his
The life which was his, to begin with
She sang about being renwed by God after being trapped by her love and devotion for a man she no longer loved. Lyrics like these are the reasons black women clung to her songs of perseverance.
In Cheryl Keyes article describing different identities women have in Hip Hop, the Queen Mother of Hip Hop is described. “The “Queen Mother” category comprises female rappers who view themselves as “Asiatic Black Women” and “Nubian Queens”, “intelligent Black women”, or “sistas droppin’ science to the people”, suggestive of their self-constructed identity and intellectual prowess” (Keyes 2000). Hill made it acceptable for Black women to accept their blackness. She made it beautiful to be Black woman admitting her faults, yet still proud of the Black woman she is. She embraced every part of her blackness from her hair to her skin complexion. She made it acceptable for Black women to accept all aspects of themselves in a society that tells them their unique beauty is unacceptable and unattractive.
Hill discusses everything that Black women experience everyday, from her unplanned pregnancy and records executives ressured her to abort her child to excusing her self from a mentally unstable relationship. She addressed issued that at the time were being ignored by Black women musicians. She is the most iconic Mother to Hip Hop, because of the nurture she brings to women through her words.
Hill, Lauryn. “I Used to Love Him”. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Columbia Records, Ruffhouse Records. 1999.
Keyes, Cheryl. Empowering Self, Making Choices, Creating Spaces: Black Female Identity via Rap Music Performance. Journal of American Folklore. Vol. 113, No. 449, 2000.
Hip Hop is form of musical expresion and artistic culture created by young African Americans in urban parts New York City in the 1970’s. In the beginning, Hip Hop was dominated by males, while women actively participated in the shadows of men, from the artist, to the radio dj’s to the executives and A&R. “Women have been a part of hip-hop culture since its inception. Early female pioneers discussed issues similar to men—marginalization, oppression, and urban decay. They also rapped about heterosexual courtship from the perspective of women, domestic violence, and sexism, among other issues” (Oware 2007). Women have been active participants in Hip Hop, yet are struggling to receive the same mainstream success at the same rate as male counterparts.
The female rapper is extremely rare in todays mainstream Hip Hop. "In 2006, only Remy Ma’s "There’s Something About Remy:Based on a True Story” cracked the year-end top 100, just making the cut at No. 92. Since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991, only 13 female rappers have appeared on the year-end chart out of a pool of 585 artists” (Concepcion). Female Rappers are struggling to maintain relevant in the male dominated culture. There has only been one female rapper since Remy Ma in 2006, that had a chart-topping album and that is Nicki Minaj. Minaj is none for her barbie antics, colorful outfits with matching wigs, and a catchy commercially successful songs. Many Hip Hop supporters are highly critical of Minaj, because she she is the only mainstream female rapper out right now. She is backed by one of the most successful male rappers out, Lil Wayne, and she reinforces the hypersexual rhymes that many female rappers have adopted.
Concepcion, Mariel. A Bad Rap?. Billboard. Vol. 119, Issue 23. 6/9/2007.
Oware, Matthew. A “Man’s Woman”?. Journal of Online Black Studies. May 29, 2007.
Beyonce Knowles is known around the world as the entertainer of our generation. With 16 Grammys under her belt as solo artist, she embodies what a Pop Icon is to be. Beautiful face? Check. Long, flowing hair? Check. Strong, yet smooth voice? Check. The capability to perform a live sow in 6 inch heels? Check. Knowles embodies everything that is meant by an entertainer, yet are our female entertainers allowed to express there womanhood? Could the worlds most famous Black Pop Icon be a feminist? Her new song titled “Run the World (Girls)” is set to an uptempo beat but has a strong feminist undertone.
Who run the world? Girls…
Some of them men think they freak this like we do
But no they don’t
Make your checks come at they neck,
Disrespect us no they won’t…
This goes out to all my girls
That’s in the club rocking the latest
Who will buy it for themselves and get more money later…
DJ don’t be scared to run this, run this back
I’m reppin’ for the girls who taking over the world
Have me raise a glass for the college grads…
I broke my 9 to 5 and copped my check
This goes out to all the women getting it in,
Get on your grind
To the other men that respect what I do
Please accept my shine…
Boy you know you love it
How we’re smart enough to make these millions
Strong enough to bare the children
Then get back to business
Who runs the World? Girls
Who are we? What do we run? The World.
The song boldly proclaims that girls run the world. Could a woman of Beyonce’s caliber proclaim these feminist sentiments? This song boast of strength that women posses to ‘make millions, bare the children, and get back to business’. She demands that men accept her ‘shine’ and capabilities, and not discredit her because of her gender. “The deployment of Girl Power discourse to make these post-feminism claims plays an important role in the disconnection of Girl Power and feminism by dismissing the need for feminist actions. Some journalist have used the language of Girl Power to claim that girls have attained all the power they could ever want, and there is nothing left to be done” (Harris 2004). Yes Run the World is song that promotes Girl Power and feminism, yet it still does not end anti-feminism actions and/or beliefs. Until women are treated as equals and our society as a whole accepts women as equals there will always be feminism through music, art, fashion, etc.
In a recent interview with the Daily Mail UK, the Pop Icon admits she’s a feminist ‘in a way’:
I think I am a feminist in a way. It’s not something I consciously decided I was going to be; perhaps it’s because I grew up in a singing group with other women, and that was so helpful to me. It kept me out of so much trouble and out of bad relationships. My friendships with my girls are just so much a part of me that there are things I am never going to do that would upset that bond. I never want to betray that friendship because I love being a woman and I love being a friend to other women.
There is no one way to be a feminist. Beyonce speaks to uplift and unite women in her music. It acknowledges women as equals to men, if not better. She is not what most men believe to be the stereotypical idea of a feminist, but she proves song after song that she is indeed all about uplifting women.
Knowles, Beyonce. “Run the World (Girls)”. Run the World (Girls) Single. Columbia Records. 2011.
Gordon, Jane. (2010, August 15). Beyonce: The multi-talented star reveals what she is planning next. Daily Mail UK. Retrieved on May 1, 2011 from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-1301838/Beyonc—The-multi-talented-star-reveals-planning-next.html?ITO=1490#ixzz0wcNYpsUv
Harris, Anita. (2004). All About the Girl: Culture, Power, and Identity. Routledge Publishing Company.