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A hip-hop feminist is defined as a young feminist born after 1964 who approaches the political community with a mixture of feminist and hip-hop sensibilities, hip-hop feminism. The term hip hop feminism was coined by the provocative cultural critic Joan Morgan in 1999 when she published the book When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip Hop Feminist Breaks it Down,[non-primary source needed] which The Root described as "seminal".
Hip hop feminism is based in a tradition of black feminism, which emphasizes that the personal is political because our race, class, gender, and sexuality determine how we are treated. In the book Hip Hop's Inheritance: From the Harlem Renaissance to the Hip Hop Feminist Movement Reiland Rabaka writes, "Seeming to simultaneously embrace and reject the fundamentals of feminism, the women of the hip hop generation, like the hip hop generation in general, have blurred the lines between the 'personal' and the 'political' by critically dialoguing with a culture that commonly renders them invisible or grossly misrepresents them when and where they are visible". An important idea that came out of early black feminism is that of intersectionality. The term intersectionality was first coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw and was first used in a paper where Crenshaw outlines how black women are often marginalized by both anti-racist and feminist movements, because their identity and concerns are not encompassed by only one group. Rabaka built on this idea by theorizing hip-hop as an analytical locale where lines of inquiry intersect, opening its critique up to include topics regarding media, music, feminism, and intersectionality. As Rubaka writes, "hip-hop feminism is much more than feminism, and it focuses on more than feminist issues, misogyny, and patriarchy. Hip-hop feminists use hip-hop culture as one of their primary points of departure to highlight serious social issues and the need for political activism aimed at racism, sexism, capitalism, and heterosexism as overlapping and interlocking systems of oppression" 
Hip hop feminism is a different kind of feminism than "traditional" feminism; it is a way of thinking and living that is grounded in different lived experiences than the "traditional" feminism of the Women's Liberation Movement, which was a mostly white movement and was more interested in advancing women's rights than civil rights. The Hip-Hop feminism movement gained traction primarily because there was no avenue for young black women. As human rights activist, Shani Jamila states in her book, Can I Get a Witness, "As women of the hip-hop generation we need a feminist consciousness that allows us to examine how representations and images can be simultaneously empowering and problematic." As many women and men involved in hip hop culture are not white, they will have a different way of viewing the world; a desire for intersectional change in the spheres of how both women and non-white people are treated in America.
Joan Morgan (American author) believes that "more than any other generation before us, we need a feminism committed to keeping it real. We need a voice like our music; one that samples and layers many voices, injects its sensibilities into the old and flips it into something new, provocative, and powerful. We need a feminism that possesses the same fundamental understanding held by any true student of hip-hop. Truth can't be found in the voice of anyone rapper but the juxtaposition of many". In the book When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down, Morgan identifies as a feminist and discusses how she loves hip-hop which was known for being misogynistic and homophobic. This, Morgan notes, are things that seemingly go against feminist ideologies. Morgan comes up with the concept of "fucking with the greys" which to her meant embracing contradictions such as being a feminist while at the same time loving hip-hop and even enjoying the parts of it that are patriarchal and misogynistic.
Brittney Cooper, who teaches a seminar about hip-hop feminism at Rutgers University, believes, along with Aisha Durham and Susana M. Morris, that hip-hop feminism remains deeply invested in the intersectional approaches developed by earlier black feminists. To them, Hip-Hop feminists must insist that women and girls of color remain central to analyses, particularly in light of critical gender approaches that treat black women as an addendum to intersectional approaches black women have honed, effectively relegating them to the sidelines of a stage they built. Within hip-hop feminist studies, hip-hop and feminism act as discrete but constitutive categories that share a dialogic relationship. They see hip-hop feminism as a generationally specific articulation of feminist consciousness, epistemology, and politics rooted in the pioneering work of multiple generations of black feminists based in the United States and elsewhere in the diaspora but focused on questions and issues that grow out of the aesthetic and political prerogatives of hip-hop culture. Thus, Hip-hop feminism is concerned with the ways the conservative backlash of the 1980s and 1990s, deindustrialization, the slashing of the welfare state, and the attendant gutting of social programs and affirmative action, along with the increasing racial wealth gap, have affected the life-worlds and worldviews of the hip-hop generation.
In "Using [Living Hip-Hop] Feminism: Redefining an Answer (to) Rap", Aisha Durham defines hip-hop feminism as "a socio-cultural, intellectual and political movement grounded in the situated knowledge of women of color from the post-civil rights generation who recognize culture as a pivotal site for political intervention to challenge, resist, and mobilize collectives to dismantle systems of exploitation". She goes on to further expand on hip-hop feminism as a distinct movement aimed at examining and engaging with the effect culture has on shaping black female identity, sexuality, and feminisms. According to Durham, hip-hop feminism "acknowledges the way black womanhood is policed in popular culture ..." and "recognize culture as a space for feminist intervention— especially when we do not wield power in traditional politics."
According to Durham, "Hip-hop feminism is not a novelty act surfing atop the third wave of difference in the academy. It is not a pinup for postfeminism put forth by duped daughters who dig misogynistic rap music and the girl-power pussy politic of empowerment. Hip-hop gains its popularity from its oppositionality and from its complicity in reproducing dominant representations of black womanhood."
Hip-hop feminism acknowledges the problematic, misogynist nature of culture and its formative effects on women (especially young black women) and empowers them by enabling participation, response, and owning self-identification. "For some, the term "hip-hop feminism" offers up quite the enigma. Critics position misogyny as hip-hop's cardinal sin, which raises the obvious question: How do women actively participate in a culture that seems to hate them so vehemently? For self-described hip-hop feminists, attempting to answer that question is not their only task, since understanding what hip-hop feminism is and isn't goes far beyond responding to women-bashing sentiment." Hip-hop feminism can be influential towards social change. Treva B. Lindsey's scholarly article "Let Me Blow Your Mind: Hip Hop Feminist Futures in Theory and Praxis", demonstrates that Hip-hop feminism can be used as an explanation for social justice and as a practice in education because it covers a broad spectrum of minorities and their lived experiences which can combat the conception of hip-hop being for Blacks and males.
The mediums for initiating social change are growing, and hip-hop is one of those mediums. Rabaka observes that "the majority of hip-hop feminist mobilization at the present moment seems to emerge from cyber-social networks, mass media, and popular culture, rather than nationally networked women's organizations based in government, academic, or male-dominated leftist bureaucracies"; as a result, music videos, which appeal to popular culture, can be disseminated as mass media through cyber-social networks, making them a perfect platform for motivating change. Abiola Abrams, an author and inspirational speaker who has appeared on BET and MTV represents a more mainstream voice in hip-hop feminism. Her hip-hop feminist play "Goddess City" produced at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and 2007 debut novel Dare, a love story retelling of Faust set in the hip-hop world, are key works fusing hip-hop culture with women's empowerment. T. Hasan Johnson believes hip-hop can work as an intersectional platform: "Hip-Hop can be the site whereby such meditations and re-evaluations can occur, offering participants the opportunity to re-imagine masculinities and femininities in a multitude of ways to suit a variety of contexts". Kyle Mays supports this claim, in that Native American hip-hop artists can find, and give, support among the hip-hop community. One media example of this fellowship is "Solarize" written by Desirae Harp, Fly50, and SeasunZ.
Rabaka explains the way in which creative mediums such as hip-hop can be used to wreck the interlocking systems of oppression in America:
"The point is to offer the women of the hip-hop generation feminist and womanist alternatives to the patriarchal (mis)representations of womanhood spewing out of the US. culture industries. Whether they meant to or not, "the women of the hip hop generation have created a body of work that offers up feminist or womanist answers to many of the hip hop generation's most urgent interpersonal, cultural, social, and political issues" and "recent feminist scholarship suggests that in its own controversial and/or contradictory way the hip-hop feminist movement may very well be the most politically polyvocal and socially visible manifestation of the ongoing evolution of the Women's Liberation movement prevalent in contemporary US society".
Music artists, as they are in the public eye, have the ability to be influential social figures. Between social media and fanbases, music artists can influence and represent social movements. Social media is a powerful medium for social change to be performed and seen. It can reach and influence people of all ages and locations. Music artists can utilize social media platforms to express perspectives on social change in positive ways, despite what motivates them to do so. For several decades, Hip Hop has served as a multipurpose medium to rap and sing about social change, but talking about it on social media outlets nowadays are common. Participation in Black Lives Matter has been one of the most prevalent forms of social change exemplified by artists in the industry. These movements gain momentum because of the wide audience reached due to fanbase followings on social media. Social change becomes active when it is heard and seen by younger generations.
In 1992, R&B singer Mary J. Blige released What's the 411? on Uptown/MCA Records and was considered the pioneer of hip-hop feminism. Women such as emcees Missy Elliot and Queen Latifah followed suit. In 1995, Queen Latifah broke the glass ceiling of black women in hip-hop by winning a Grammy for her song "U.N.I.T.Y.," which revolutionized hip-hop feminism's ideal of sexual empowerment and the autonomy and ownership of the female black body. Behind Queen Latifah came hip-hop artist Lauryn Hill who became the best example of hip-hop feminism with record-breaking worldwide sales of her album "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" and has won five Grammy awards in 1998. Artists such as Latifah and Hill mimicked the hip hop rhetoric of males in the scene and generated a massive amount of attention. Missy Elliot was often seen dressed similar to male hip-hop artists and utilized the same body language and aggressive delivery of her lyrics as a means of protest, while still preserving her femininity. Even after losing weight over the years, she made sure that while performing videos the camera were faced to her face and her dancing. These artists have carved out a new politically conscious identity in Hip-hop for women. Also, artist like Nicki Minaj has changed the way fashion and sexuality is looked at in Hip Hop. She uses the way in which she expresses her self through her body to send a message that she being comfort in your skin and with your sexuality is okay. These issues don't only affect the United States, as hip-hop has traveled and inspired movements beyond American borders. In Cuba, a hip-hop trio group known as Las Krudas Cubensi, rap about commonly overlooked challenges that people of color, specifically women of color, face.
According to Katherine Cheairs, these artists were connecting the link between hip-hop music and the feminist movement. From these revolutionaries stemmed current popular artists like Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and so on that have been made relevant by popular culture. For example, in the early 2000s, Ciara and Beyoncé followed Missy Elliot's style of male mimicry with hit songs such as "Like A Boy" and "If I Were A Boy" to highlight the lack of respect black women were given as well as to show the juxtaposition of black men and black women in society.
Fast-forward to the 2010s, and hip-hop feminists have moved passed the male rhetoric and doused the genre in feminine prose. For example, many modern hip-hop feminists utilize their voluptuous figures in a commanding manner rather than adopting male rapper outfitting and lyric style. Aisha Durham writes that hip-hop aided in creating a style icon out of the female black body. In another one of her writings, Durham also stated a solution to the problem of patriarchy, homophobia, misogyny, et cetera that is present in hip-hop: hip-hop feminism. She stated, "[Hip hop feminists] are moving and mobilizing and rescuing ourselves from virtual action blocks ... Hip-hop feminism is the answer (to) rap." Additionally, Nicki Minaj utilizes the female black body as a power symbol. In fact, in the 2011 issue of Ebony magazine, Minaj asserted her place in the hip-hop world that she can stand on her own in the male-dominated genre and use her body in an empowering manner rather than an oppressive one. Rihanna is another mainstream hip-hop feminist. In her most recent album "Anti," her lyrics assert black female independence. Given Rihanna's past, the hip-hop feminist scene looked to her as a role model to stand up for domestic violence against the black female body. Many women artists has play a big role in how hip hop has evolved.
Hip-Hop Feminist Scholars
As hip-hop feminism has garnered a reputation as a legitimate area of study, numerous individuals have contributed to its body of scholarly work.
Joan Morgan, as previously mentioned, was the first to use the term "hip-hop feminist" in her book When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost. Black feminism and Hip-Hop feminism is greatly attributed to her works.
Seth Cosimini's analysis of the performativity and self-presentation of Nicki Minaj articulates how women in hip-hop culture may simultaneously challenge and conform to stereotypical representations of femininity. As explained by Cosimini, Minaj uses contradictory public personas in order to construct a hip-hop identity that recognizes the social oppression driven by race, gender, and sexuality within and beyond hip-hop culture. Cosimini's contributions to hip-hop feminist scholarship have offered a unique perspective on the role of self-presentation in identity construction for women in hip-hop.
Murali Balaji has contributed to existing research on the roles of "video vixens" in hip-hop. Balaji argues that hip-hop music video models have the opportunity to utilize a sense of agency in order to negotiate their positions within hip-hop culture. Through an analysis of Melyssa Ford's music video career, Balaji highlights how it is possible for women in hip-hop to harness their sexuality as a form of political resistance. By way of carefully calculated self-presentation, video vixens are given the chance to subvert objectification and benefit from their own commodification.
Reiland Rabaka examines the history of the hip-hop genre, looking at the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts movements and the Feminist Art movement. He critiques traditions in hip hop culture, highlighting black masculinity and how this masculinity is performed in hip hop. Rabaka assesses how this black masculinity is reproduced and consumed by the public, looking at white people in particular. Rabaka claims that critical scholarly inquiry can be applied to the hip hop movement. When understanding political and social activism, Rabaka says that the contributions of hip-hop must be considered.
Tanya Saunders places emphasis on the importance of including hemispheric, non-English, equally marginalized (with varying struggles), black activists into American hip-hop feminist conversations. In many of her publications, Saunders attempts to vocalize the need for greater connectivity between black mobilization in the United States and similar mobilization in the Global South, specifically Latin America and the Caribbean. She also uses the word "artivism," which merges "artist" and "activist," in an argument stating that feminists in nations such as Cuba and Brazil, where hip-hop feminism is present, are not given enough credit for the agency and resistance that emerges from their art. Saunders urges hip-hop feminists in the United States to recognize their privilege as a referent for activist movements, and the power, privilege, and responsibility that comes with living in a global hegemon. She also stresses that without a transnational outreach that breaches language and geopolitical barriers, American hip-hop feminist praxis will, in fact, be limited.
Aisha Durham refers to the work of communication scholars when discussing the role of the black woman's body in hip-hop culture. With an epistemological approach, Durham cites her own experiences in hip-hop, touching on how the black female body is sexualized and policed within the hip-hop industry. Her work examines how black women in hip hop are depicted and challenges media representations and objectification. She emphasizes that through hip-hop, artists communicate with other artists, the public and the media.
Rachel Raimist identifies as a professor, filmmaker, and a crunk Feminist. Raimist is a member of the Crunk Feminist Collective since 2010, the Crunks is a collective of feminist activists, scholars, and, artists. Raimist earned her B.A. and M.F.A degree in Directing, but she also earned her M.A. degree in Women's studies and her Ph.D. in Feminist studies. Being able to teach and the love for storytelling and cameras gave students the accessibility to learn about filming and the roles of females behind the scenes through her. Her research help train females get comfortable with cameras and comfortable getting into the entertainment industry. Raimist mainly focuses on "feminist filmmaking, women of color feminisms, hip-hop feminism, pedagogy, and digital storytelling." Among her fine accomplishments, Raimist also taught a class out at the sea and four of the seven continents in a program called "Semester at Sea." Out on her voyage, she taught global cinema, digital photography and women's literature.
Imani Perry references Cade Bambara who "asks us to consider the use of metaphors, themes, and other ritualized structures to create meaning in American film". She quotes, There is the conventional cinema that masks its ideological imperatives as entertainment and normalizes the hegemony with the term "convention", that is to say the cinematic practices—of editing, particular uses of narrative structure, the development of genres, the language of spatial relationships, particular performatory styles of acting—are called conventions because they are represented somehow to be transcendent or universal, when in fact these practices are based on a history of imperialism and violence.
Perry notes that "when it comes to feminist messages, often the words and language of a hip hop song may have feminist content, but the visual image may be implicated in the subjugation of black women" and points out "the tensions between text and visual image in women's hip hop". Hip Hop feminism and the objectification of the black female body in music videos has also become a subject of visual art, exemplified in artist Michelle Marie Charles's 2012 video Explicit and Deleted, which was included in the 2013 exhibition at the Cue Art Foundation Goddess Clap Back: Hip Hop Feminism in Art, curated by Katie Cercone and featuring artists such as Damali Abrams, Kalup Linzy, Narcissister, Rashaad Newsome, Noelle Lorraine Williams and Hank Willis Thomas.
In her article "Solarize-ing Native Hip-Hop: Native Feminist Land Ethics and Cultural Resistance," academic scholar Jenell Navarro provides an analysis of Native American hip hop artists (Desirae Harp, Fly50, and SeasunZ) so as to consider their contributions to hip hop subculture itself. She describes the reasons for her analysis as needing to "examine the poetics and politics of Native hip-hop that continues the resistant strain of early hip-hop that was committed to speaking truth to power, giving voice to the voiceless, and highlighting the injustices that people face in the United States." This includes hip hop artists who use their platform to advocate for a Native feminist land ethic, as well as encouraging community-building among diverse people. In this case, with the help of United Roots Oakland, the three listed artists produced the song "Solarize" as a response to environmental neglect on Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California. Desirae Harp incorporated her native language into parts of the song so as to stay true to her roots, all the while starting dialogue over mistreatment of land by the very colonizers that had taken the land away from the Natives residing in the area. As we consider the various elements of hip-hop, we must also consider the ways in which hip-hop has been the microphone for activists and artists alike to discuss environmental and social issues.
As Gwendolyn Pough (2004) pointed out, because hip hop's sexism is so prevalent, and because there is only so long that the women of the hip hop generation can embrace either the super-strong black woman or video vixen identities, hip hop feminists have "found ways to deal with these issues within the larger public sphere and the counter-public sphere of hip hop by bringing wreck to stereotyped images through their continued use of expressive culture'". One performer who has strategically created a persona for herself using many elements of her work to her advantage has been Nicki Minaj. "In Nicki’s case, she deploys black femme gender performance as part of her public persona, particularly in her music videos. These performances remind us of the difficulty of enacting a black femme subject on the screen, partly because her very presence threatens to "dislodge the racist, sexist, and homophobic conceptions" that structure our domination." Since there are such few ways for women to elevate their work in the hip hop industry, Minaj like other female artists, began to use her sex appeal to her advantage. Sexual exploitation has been one of the only ways to allow women to be represented in hip hop music but, artists like Minaj are embracing their sexuality and femme-hoods in a way to "disrupt hegemonic scripts."
However, there are some opportunities for women to resist a Hip-Hop video culture that simply fetishizes their bodies and limit them to what Rana A. Emerson calls a "One-Dimensional Womanhood". This resistance became extremely prevalent in the 1990s with artists like Erykah Badu, Missy Elliott, and Lauryn Hill. Rather than conforming to this hyper-sexualized, and powerless image these women used their music videos to challenge these heteronormative and patriarchal motifs, by asserting their independence and strength.
In her book Black Noise, Tricia Rose speaks to the lyrical and visual objectification of women within hip hop, primarily attributing narratives of sexual dominance as a means of coping with a lack of normative indicators of heterosexual masculine power. These, she writes, may include insecurities associated with self-worth, racial discrimination, and access to various types of resources. Although a common stigma associated with 90's rap through present is a marriage of pornography and music, Rose argues that to solely attribute this hypersexualization to hip hop is to ignore the embedded sexist social norms the emanate through dominant culture, despite these interactions being less visible. "Few popular analyses of rap's sexism seem willing to confront the fact that sexual and institutional control over and abuse of women is a crucial component of developing a heterosexual masculine identity."
Hip-Hop Feminism is one of the most incorrectly represented phenomenons in modern media; but there are some visual representations of feminism that do it justice. Language and lyrics that describe the limits placed on women, and that preach for women to break these limits, are feminist diction. Lyrics that encourage women to embrace their bodies and appearance for themselves, and not the pleasure of men or society, are also visual representations of HIp-Hop feminism.While some people may think that videos that display and glorify female genitals are automatically sexist, there are some visuals in which a genital is used to promote positivity, love, and respect for the female body, such as the images used in "Pynk" by Janelle Monáe featuring Grimes. And by the same token, if visuals that adorn the female body can be feminist, visuals that cover the female body may be feminist as well, if they do so with respect. For example, in "Hijabi (Wrap my Hijab)" by Mona Haydar, the artist expresses the disdain she feels for people who criticize her choice to conceal her hair. She argues that her inner beauty and adoration for her religion should be seen as just as beautiful as any other woman's.
Within Hip-Hop Feminism, there are many hip hop songs from the 1990s that become hip-hop feminist anthems. Artists and groups such as Queen Latifah, TLC, Salt-N-Pepa, and many other performers. TLC had a few songs that constitute as feminist hip-hop such as "Unpretty" which addresses unrealistic beauty standards within our society as well as "No Scrubs" essentially explaining to women that they do not need a man in their lives in order to be independent and happy, including lines such as these "I’m not going to let you get away with sleazy actions just because you are a man". Another anthem is "U.N.I.T.Y." by Queen Latifah which addresses the degrading of women by men and that women should not take any type of abuse from a man.
The most important factors that determine whether or not a visual properly promotes feminism or if it misses the mark are the respect and positivity placed on the female body, the promotion of ambition and excellence, and acknowledgement that all of mankind should function as an egalitarian society.
Feminism and the elements of hip-hop
Hip hop and feminism and the intertwining of the two, a path in which Joan Morgan—first person to coin the term and call themselves a hip hop feminist—describes hip hop feminism as "[finding the truth at a] juncture where 'truth' is no longer black and white, but subtle intriguing shades of gray." Examining how hip hop and feminism coexist is a great way in examining and analyzing "the grays" that Morgan speaks of in her work.
Deejaying in and of itself is a very male-dominated part of hip hop, essentially acting as a microcosm for not only the Hip Hop community itself, but of the music industry in which Hip Hop is encased, and so on and so forth. The narratives around DJ's and DJ-ing are very male-centric. However, just like every other aspect of hip hop women were involved, too. An exemplary example of women who DJ, would be Beverly Bond, who has been deejaying since 1999. Not only is she a DJ, but she's an entrepreneur as well, and founder of Black Girls Rock; an initiative which has turned into an annual awards show—on the BET network—which commemorates and honors Black girls and women who are making impacts on their communities.
Graffiti is regarded as an element of hip hop. Graffiti as a subculture is one that has overlapped with hip hop feminism. Though women actively participate in the graffiti subculture, they are often underrepresented and underestimated. Graffiti gives female writers the opportunity to demonstrate the importance of community and claiming space in a visual way through their work which ties back to the role that hip hop plays in society, particularly for female writers. Its secrecy has made graffiti a form of expression that is not judged at the surface level by gender, since you can't truly tell who made the graffiti.
Breakdancing is also a part of hip hop. Breakdancing is also male dominated like both dejaying and graffiti. Women get mixed reactions about this form of art, a woman from the female crew Full Circle spoke about how when a man lost to her in a battle, he said that it was because it was hard to focus because he was attracted to her because she was a girl.
Rapping is the most well known part of hip hop, so much so that it is thought of as the only part of hip hop. There have been a plethora of female emcees past and present who incorporate feminism into their work. These women don't always explicitly cite their feminism, however feminist themes have always been present among female rappers. Rappers such as Queen Latifah and Lil Kim show just how far the spectrum of feminism reaches.
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