Wednesday, April 18, 2007

and god created woman

I did not intend to write about the Imus situation. I figured the deluge of dramatic and intense commentary would provide sufficient public response to Imus' comments and the aftermath. And in a sense, response has been sufficient--in volume. After two days of watching Oprah however, I thought I'd add a drop or so into the cesspool. Nothing major; just a comment or two.

Folks have been hustled by Don Imus. Let me explain. To take this situation as an opportunity to discuss (misogyny in) hip hop implicitly accepts Imus' argument that he learned the terms he employed to disparagingly describe members of the Rutgers University women's basketball team from rap music. I'm not particularly convinced by Imus' assertion. I believe he had access to that sort of language well before any young rapper penned his first 16 bars. Imus' comments regarding journalist Gwen Eiffel are a well documented and apposite example of this. More importantly, to take up a position on either side of the pervasive influence of hip hop debate that has formed in the midst of this event skirts a major part of the issue, and we won't hear from or about Imus again until he signs a deal with satellite radio.

That is not to say that misogyny isn't rampant in hip hop, that similar language isn't deployed in the music, or that the violent objectification of women in both lyrics and videos does not warrant a serious and public discussion. It is not surprising that the same environment that allows space for Don Imus has inspired the (d)evolution of hip hop into a genre that has become increasingly misogynistic and damaging to black women, while simultaneously becoming more and more hypermasculine. (What other reason has there not been a viable woman's voice in hip hop for nearly a decade?) Though I'd suggest separate discussions regarding both issues, I am not proffering the idea that Imus' words and hip hop are isolated entities; all of this is connected, mere (though quite damaging) cogs of a very oppressive and invisible whole. Yet, in the midst of this debate, hip hop and Imus have been yolked quite strangely, like odd "if/then" statements, or cause and effect.

The "We can't talk about Imus until we talk about our own issues," and, "This isn't about rap music, it's about Imus," rhetoric doesn't work itself out very well. It allows for more distracted debate that treads the same road. So preoccupied are we that Imus quietly settles into a Michael Richards'-like semi-retirement. Most significantly, the Rutgers women who had very briefly compelled us to associate a human voice with black female bodies (recall: they are athletes), are yet again silenced in the middle of discussion that was apparently both about and inspired by them. Unfortunately, the prior statement isn't at all ironic.


language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison


Blogger Hollambeeee said...

i don't know how you feel about hortense spillers generally, but this entry reads (to me) sorta like "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe" in her collection of essays Black, White and in Color...

that to say, i love this entry because it really does try to tease out the underlying problematics that remain fully intact: that black women's bodies are both poirnotroped and disallowed to speak...such is the case with the women at Rutgers...

18/4/07 20:15  
Blogger summer m. said...

you've no idea how many times i read that essay as a young grad student. in light of all this, maybe i should revisit.

18/4/07 20:19  
Blogger Hollambeeee said...

that is: "pornotroped"

18/4/07 21:21  
Blogger MB said...

you stay droppin' knowledge summer!!!

23/4/07 12:13  

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