Monday, June 18th, 2007

Matt Birkhold on Hip-Hop and Patriarchy

Great piece in WireTap Magazine today by Matt Birkhold:

By the end of the 2005 Feminism and Hip-Hop Conference, it was clear that hip-hop was central to the identities of many people present. After Joan Morgan, author of When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, said that hip-hop as she knew it was dead, many audience members grew visibly upset. They were further angered when Black Noise author Tricia Rose said that, because the music had internalized capitalism and misogyny, it was time to let hip-hop go.

The intellectual conflict between those angered by Rose and Morgan and those who were not was apparent during a panel that included video model Melyssa Ford and video director Jessy Terrero. Ford argued that there wasn’t a problem with her portrayal in videos because she was in control of her image. Terrero stressed that women were portrayed in videos in a manner that guaranteed profit for both the director and the label.

Terrero’s “sex sells” position was interrogated during the question-and-answer period, when Tricia Rose asked panel participants, “If having the Klan come through your video and lynch black folks is going to make you money, are you going to do it?” Terrero responded “No.” Rose followed up by saying, “We have drawn a line with race. When will we draw a line in regards to gender?” Terrero responded evasively (and elicited applause) by saying that if education were better, viewers would be equipped to make informed viewing choices and women dancing in videos would peruse other options.

Terrero’s response is problematic because it indicates an unwillingness to take responsibility for the sexist images he creates which are then televised around the country to a market that awaits subhuman, hypersexual images of black women. The crowd’s approval demonstrates their unwillingness to hold him accountable and also illustrates that they too would rather engage in a conversation concerning the failures of education than discuss the ways in which hip-hop has internalized patriarchy and sexism.

This squares with my recollection of the event as well.

A small sidenote: in Ms. Morgan’s defense, I’ve been on several panels with her since the 2005 conference. She taught a class on hip-hop journalism this past spring at Duke, and has told her students and her audiences her personal truth, which is that she no longer is as passionate a hip-hop fan as when she was in her 20s. I think she might say that, even though she said what she said at the University of Chicago, she certainly doesn’t believe hip-hop is dead.

posted by @ 1:22 pm | 3 Comments

3 Responses to “Matt Birkhold on Hip-Hop and Patriarchy”

  1. NeoRealist says:

    its not just sex anymore..its simple shit period..i just posted my 50 interview and even he thinks rap has been simplified -shakes head-

  2. M.Dot. says:


    Im bout to bag this and analyze.


  3. ronnie brown says:

    our reluctance to apply a moral standard to hip-hop culture is what’s killing it…when we continue to engage in asking questions we already have the answers to is evidence itself…

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