Let Femininity Be the MC
I want you to make a mental list of all the rappers you can. Now, out of those rappers, how many of them are women? The rap industry seems to be dominated by men, yet one of its greatest criticism is of its characterizations of women. If women are at the center of this debate, shouldn’t they have a chance to control their narrative on the same platform?
The most notable women rappers of our time spit bars about personal freedom and embracing their sexuality. They rap to reinforce the idea that women don’t need permission to have outward expressions of nontraditional feelings. Women have sexual desire, the same as men and they should be allowed to express it. This bold outlook on what being a woman can be has too often been misinterpreted as a series of actions done for the purpose of pleasing men, instead of being self fulfilling . The messages hidden within the songs have been lost they’re being read as self-degrading text that glorifies the verses in the lyrics of their male counterparts. Today’s musical landscape continues to let the male perspective decide the narrative, rather than embrace the feminine view.
In previous decades we have seen more direct approaches to changing the political milieu surrounding the rap genre. In the 90s, Queen Latifah’s U.N.I.T.Y. mixed up the rap scene with a challenge to unity. In rap, like so many other fields, the idea of multiple successful women is challenged, resulting in media-fueled competition between them. The lack of women available to express themselves creates a one-track theme within raps made by women. Just as it is important to promote the freedom a woman has over her body, rap should not be confined to it. Explorations about modesty and declarations and intention to not be a prize for male consumption (as seen in U.N.I.T.Y. ) should also be made available at the same time. Women can decide how they present themselves and their body, and raps should be able to reflect the options women have chosen from. A part of the power of a woman is her sense of duality:the ability to be overt and modest. It doesn’t even have to be the total focus of a song, the feminist rhetoric can be the subject with full attention or it can be subtly woven into lyrics. Without more women involved in the rap game, they are reduced to one dimensional individuals, dismissing the complexities found in every woman.
As rap progresses, a combination of the messages of women rap should be fused together to make an energized force to amplify the genre. The era from U.N.I.T.Y. creates a pathway for women to exist in the space without division allowing for more women to have and maintain status in the industry. The bold and unapologetic wave from current females rappers from Cardi B to Nicki Minaj exemplifies the direct and whole hearted approach to a woman defining herself. To eliminate the gender bias in rap, an analysis of the past with an assessment of the present is the way to solidify the future.