The Gender Trap In Black Girls, White Girls and Rap

by Danielle C. Belton

Love Rap

In the latest issue of “my blues ain’t like yours,” a recent article on Vice magazine’s Noisy site, entitled “Why Are You So Intimidated By Girls Liking Rap Music” chronicled the plight of women who love rap music only to have their love of the genre “questioned” by concerned males.

Initially, when I saw the title I assumed it was yet another article about the plight of female rappers and their quest to earn the same respect, accolades, dollars, fame and credibility as their male peers. I was expecting some heated exchange about Iggy Azalea or Azaelia Banks or Angel Haze and the legion of indie rap queens trying to get put on against the overall dismissiveness some rap consumers – male and female – have towards a female MC. Mostly because the bar is so impossibly high. Couldn’t pull a “Mis-Education of Lauryn Hill” out of your ass on the first shot?

Floppity-flop-flop-flop they’ll say, even if you sell out arenas. To make it in the current rap game as a lady person you have to be a genius and look like you could be your own video vixen.

But instead I got a whole other problem I (initially) could not relate to:

From Vice:

(A)s with any Boys’ Club, being a female rap diehard means being repeatedly affronted as to whether your interest can possibly be serious and, if so, what are the ulterior motives behind your interest (namely, it seems, to get boys to think you’re cool). The amount of times I’ve been challenged by men who can’t wrap their feeble minds around the fact that, yes, I actually listen to Gunplay and can probably school their ass on #DeepGunplayMixtapeCuts continues to amaze me. Worse than incredulity, though, is the patronizing pat on the back for somehow overcoming my tragic vaginal handicap that prevents women from hearing music in the same way that men do—”Aw, you like Flocka, that’s so cute!” or, “Wow, you’re so different from other girls!” Really? How often do you speak to girls?

After reading the article twice to make sure I understood what was happening here, I realized that I was not reading an article about black people, gender and rap music, but white people, what some white men think of black men and rap music, and then trying to be all “No Girlz Allowed” in their Honey Comb Hideout of United A$AP Rocky Stans of America.

I wasn’t alone in my initial confusion based on these two comments on the story by others – who appear to be other black people:

I’ve actually had the opposite reaction. As a black girl, no one’s had a hard time believing I’m a hip hop head. It’s when I start talking about the other types of music that I get shock or disbelief.

And …

Not to be a dick, but is this for real? Or is this a vanity article? I thought we squashed the idea that women shouldn’t be listening to rap music in the f***ing 90s (Late 80s)? Maybe this is a regional thing. I don’t run into this sentiment on the West Coast. Maybe the rest of you motherf****s just need to catch up.

The misunderstanding reminded me of the time I referred to a gaggle of very sweet, elderly black women as “ladies”  in a newspaper article and one of my editors, a white woman, argued with me that using the term “lady” was sexist and offensive. Being 23 and inexperienced at the time, I had no idea of what to say as a counter to her argument other than it just sounded “wrong” for it to be bad to call a black woman a lady.

An older male editor got her to back down by pointing out I was raised by Southerners and it’s “probably not as offensive there.”

Now, much older, I get why my editor was so heated, but she also did not get that many black women are routinely treated like pack mules or degenerates or non-existent. Call me a lady now, even knowing what that “means” in terms of gender politics, and the most I’ll do is giggle.

My subjugation ain’t like yours.

But the most fascinating part of the article, was the notion of some nerdy white guys defending the so-called sanctity of white “trap” music fandom from white female cooties, telling said cooties they were not “legit” and didn’t understand what they were listening to or were possible Lil Wayne groupies or that they were only doing this to get into their white guy pants.

I wondered if these same white guys trying to protect the “purity” of 2Chainz’s “I love Dem Strippers” questioned it if they came across a black girl who was really into rap and knew her stuff? Which side would win? Race says the black woman – by virtue of blackness – has more ownership in Hip-Hop than a white person does, but GENDER says she does not, since rap is so overwhelmingly male.

What would happen? What could happen? It’s the virtual Schrodinger’s Cat of rap quandaries.

Except, it’s not. I can easily tell you the answer because I’ve lived it. I’ve had several white guy friends who were into rap more than I was and they never, ever once questioned whether I knew what I was talking about when we talked about rap music. Because, in America, black women aren’t women. They’re black.

The only people who tend to care how rap lyrics will affect black women are concerned black men and women who think the glorification of sex, drugs, and violence in “commercial” Hip Hop is glamorizing dysfunction.

The author of the Vice piece had a great point that was relevant and even necessary … if you’re going through that kind of sexism. But Black American gender politics are so different from those at play in the white mainstream that it’s in moments like these where even though I completely understand, I can’t really relate.

My problem isn’t people not respecting my love of certain rap music – it’s about my level of comfort with the images associated with it and my fears about what internalizing those images will do to younger black boys and girls. Part of being an outsider in a subculture is you don’t carry the burden of wondering what ingesting the more painful and uncomfortable images in that subculture means about you.

Because when someone says “bitch” or “ho”  they aren’t talking about you. They’re talking about someone who looks like me.

  • Kacey

    White people are the largest consumers of rap music so why would it surprise anyone (male or female) to encounter a die-hard white rap fan? I went to the Jay-Z/Eminem Concert at Yankee Stadium 2 1/2 years ago. The place was packed and it was sea of white. You could literally count the number of black people in the crowd. And these white kids knew every lyric to every rhyme by the featured artists and their guest performers. And Yankee Stadium is in a predominantly black and latino neighborhood in the Bronx and there were few locals in the crowd – just a bunch of white kids from the suburbs, many of whom probably rode the subway for the first time in their lives. So it never surprises me to meet white die-hard rap fans of either gender.

  • http://gravatar.com/herlilblackbook hlbb

    I can definitely relate.
    As a Black woman, no one questions my love of hip hop, but should I discuss rock music (assumed to be a “White” genre of music), or state my love of an artist or know all the words to a particular rock song, the reaction from White males is the same.

    “YOU?!”

    Yes. Me.

  • Hmmmm

    this sounds paranoid.

  • http://enchantedroots.wordpress.com teamtimberance

    Nice article.

  • JS

    The story of my life, girl.
    I can quicker sing along with a Fleetwood Mac, Genesis, or The Police song than I could name a current mainstream rapper and I’m forever getting the YOU?! reaction from people.

  • http://gravatar.com/missinformation7 Ms. Information

    LOL..me too…Im a semi Sting stalker and loooveee Nirvana, …….people are so surprised to see black women out of the box that they put us in..:(

  • http://gravatar.com/mimiandy1683 MimiLuvs

    “…Because, in America, black women aren’t women. They’re black…”

    “…I get why my editor was so heated, but she also did not get that many black women are routinely treated like pack mules or degenerates or non-existent. Call me a lady now, even knowing what that “means” in terms of gender politics, and the most I’ll do is giggle…”

    Have you ever experienced the ‘weight lifting off of your shoulders’ feeling, when someone finally understands how you are feeling? Or, when another person is articulate enough to describe an emotion that you are going through, better than you can, because the sh*t is so hard to decipher?
    The statements above, from Danielle’s article, is the reason why I feel like the weight is off of my shoulders right now.
    I work in an office, where I am one of the four black people there, and there are days, when I ‘butt heads’ with fellow women (white women) by the way, about things.

  • ASK_ME

    Don’t forget Journey and I LOVE Phil Collins.

  • JS

    @ASK_ME
    Yesss, girl! Phil is my man! I’ve been listening to him since 6th grade.

  • ?

    “White people are the largest consumers of rap music”

    Myth

    “I went to the Jay-Z/Eminem Concert at Yankee Stadium 2 1/2 years ago. The place was packed and it was sea of white.”

    Em has stated that his audience is always mostly white and Jay is now a mainstream artist.

    No shade. Just sayin.

  • ?

    This comment was meant for the first commenter.

  • ?

    WTH. How do you reply to a comment on this site?

  • ASK_ME

    Hit the “reply” button…though it doesn’t always work for some reason.

    I think the issue is this “floating” comment box. Sometimes the “post comment” button completely disappears if it’s a long comment. And sometimes the “reply” button doesn’t put the comment where it should be. This site should just switch to disqus or something.

  • Bria

    Just hit reply…its under the comment…. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/sabrinaconnects Sabrina Denise Whiteman

    Rap music will always be my baby even when it’s behaving badly. But like the other posters you will also find me listening to Pearl Jam incessantly and I am reigniting my love affair with country music that sort of fizzled when my grandmother passed away. I find myself seeking out underground artists like Kero One. And the super talented Theophilus London who makes me feel all warm and fuzzy in an early 90s hip hop with a leather medallion kind of way. I’ve watched rap music grow in a way that even current fans don’t understand. While I love the fact the others do want to claim it they do need to recognize that long time fans will give a side-eye. Even if for a few seconds.

  • AnnT

    I had an older white co-worker look dumbfounded and confused when I told his I was listening to Elton John and the Carpenters.

  • Cocochanel31

    DANIELLE IS BACK! Have been patinetly awaiting her triumphant return!

  • Sammie

    It’s not a myth. If you just think about the demographics of the US (72.4% white, of which 63.7% are Non Hispanic) and the widespread popularity of rap, it’s obviously true: that’s the only way the numbers will work out. But if you’d rather see a citation, here you go: http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB111521814339424546.html It’s from 2005, so it’s likely using some data from the 2000 census, which explains differences between their numbers and mine above.

  • Tallulah Belle

    Thank you, Danielle! You have written a grown-up, self-aware, standout article for Clutch. As a Black woman in her 40′s, I find most of the articles on Clutch wholly readable, but often dilly and quite provincial. (Clutch is like Tiger Beat for young Black women), with a little bit of Beyonce, lip liner do’s and don’ts and light self-righteous politics thrown in. But, this particular piece you wrote has some real anger and insight to it. You use hip hop as the prism for the Womanist sociopolitics that I find so darn intriguing. Yes. Yes. Yes. Black women are perceived as some tertiary or sub-gender when the broader white society talks about men vs. women. We are regarded, for a myriad of complex reasons, as neither gender. Hip hop is the perfect prism from which to qualify and explore this phenomenon. Thank you!!

  • http://cupofjo-jo.blogspot.com bk chick

    Ha ha I went to that same concert and saw the same thing…funny thing is when Mary J came out for her cameo the white audience was like…meh…while I saw the handful of black girls (including me) singing their hearts out..

  • AM

    Hey Miss Sting Stalker!! :)

  • http://melodymoose.deviantart.com/ Catpopstar

    People think I am odd for listening to Andrew W.K. and MGMT.

  • Chillyroad

    Very ironic considering black men invented rock music.

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    LOL at the… YOU? Yes. Me. You are preaching to the choir with that particular reaction because when someone picks up my iPod they usually do a double take. But this article gave me all types of life, very well written and beautifully stated especially the line “Because, in America, black women aren’t women. They’re black.” I often wondered are people really THAT ignorant or have provisional blinders on and only take them off when it affects their interest…things that makes you go hmmm….

  • E.M.S.

    Funny how so many people have yet to realize that anyone can listen to any type of music. 98% of the time, I detest rap music. I believe there are only a handful of talented individuals in the genre worth listening to. Lupe Fiasco anyone?

    I pretty much listen to everything else except rap, but I’ve been fortunate to never get the side-eye. There are those ignorant few who assume all black people like rap.

  • Black People

    The original Vice article had nothing to do with black women. It was in response to what was published in Complex magazine, which the writer (yes a white girl), has written for, felt that her fandom love of rap music was a joke and that her knowledge of rap history and lyrical meaning was cute, which she has stated in the article. Nothing was said of black women. There was a recent article of the fake geek girl by a white woman which is essentially the exact same thing here except instead of Star Wars its rap music. The article was not an attack on black woman. The article was essentially, how can you belittle my love of rap music, nothing more. The author aslo commented on how rap is bigger than what you imagine, incorporating all music generes from artist all over the world. Even Taylor Swift was belittled for loving rap music. Will there be an article for her next?

  • GlowBelle

    YES! As someone who went into music journalism (aka THE ultimate white boy club portion of journalism, imo) I got SO many side eyes whenever I was sitting down in a circle of nothing but white guys to discuss what the music column was going to be for the week and talking (and knowing) fully about The Police, The Killers, David Bowie, Talking Heads, The Who, [any indie rock band that was hot at the moment]…etc. Their mouths would drop and they’d stumble on their words. I LOVED it. Loved shocking the hell outta of them like that, it kind of kicks them out of their little privileged comfort zone.

    @AnnT: Your co-worker is hella silly! I grew up listening to Elton John thanks to my mother, who listened to him in the 70′s and she is, um, Black too, lol

  • GlowBelle

    “Because, in America, black women aren’t women. They’re black.” <— *nods* Oh my yes this is truth!

    I can't believe this is still a "thing" as I think it's pretty damn stupid for people to put racial and gender groups with certain types of music and artists, since the musicians who do them come from all walks of life, genres have been crossed and blended, superstars like Michael Jackson have reached out to all audiences of all ages, backgrounds, etc. But I guess some people are still stuck in their pre-determined boxes and that is sad.

    I grew up in the suburbs and you best believe I may have been the only Black girl in the class for most of the time, but I was the only person not listening to rap on the regular in the class, and of course I got the stares and the 'how dare you disappoint me because you aren't like the "authentic Black people" I see on TV!' attitudes. I even took an African-American studies class once and the surprise sub-topic was hip-hop and majority of the class were white kids and they were freaking EXCITED for it, while funnily, me and the other people of color in the class kind of groaned. It was kind of bizarre, funny, and ironic all at once.

    Glad to see you back Danielle and once again giving us something to think about!

  • Nakia

    I think you may have missed the point of the article. She’s quite clear about the intent of the original article and that it wasn’t for or about black women, as we’re being conflated with ‘black people’ and excluded from the category of ‘woman’ when these discussions arise. Basically, references to “women” really mean “white women”.

    “Because, in America, black women aren’t women. They’re black.”

    And this, based my experiences and discussions, I find to be realest isht I’ve read on clutch so far.

  • http://gravatar.com/mimiandy1683 MimiLuvs

    Danielle’s article wasn’t about…
    Never mind.

  • mEE

    oh they didn’t even have to ride the subway. they built a Metro North station there specifically to accommodate the crowds from Westchester and Connecticut.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.wright.775 Alex Wright

    missing the point, but okay

  • simplyme

    Did you even read THIS article? The author is well aware who the article was about thats kind of the point….

  • Jamz

    Forgive my ignorance, but why is a bad/ sexist to call a woman a “Lady” Assuming its not short for “Lady of the Evening”?
    Maybe I missed a chapter in the race and gender politics ever expanding rule book.

    Someone please school me.

  • SayWhat

    The one thing that white women will never understand is that while they are fighting to get taken off of the pedestal, we were never put up there. They are seen as delicate little china dolls that must be protected, and the nicest way that I can put it, is that we are not, especially those of us who have dark skin.

    One thing I noticed is that white women as a group, are never held responsible for their mistakes. Remember ‘girls gone wild’? it was seen as sexual empowerement, but when those videos started to catch up to them, people said that those women were taken advantaged of and they went after the producer like he was Bin Laden. The new thing now is #KUboobs where white women are tripping over themselves to share/tweet pics of their boobs in a college sport jerseys…THEY HAD TO TELL THEM NO NUDE/TOPLESS PICS…again, this new move is seen as feminism and empowerement, hell Huffingtonpost ran an article on it, but when ish hits the fan, they will be seen as young and the pics will need to be deleted. Black women don’t have the luxury of these errors in judgement, but they do because they are a protected class.

  • Chillyroad

    No disrespect ladies but your taste in “rock” music is a bit commercial. I hope you guys don’t think you’re extra cool. Listening to the Brintney Spears of rock music is nothing to distinguish yourself with.

  • Me1987

    Ah yes…Theophilus…. =)

  • TT

    Yes OMG! I grew up in the suburbs too. And someone told me that I was the whitest black person they knew. I even got that in college; someone wanted me to snap my fingers and roll my neck. Ugh I hate stereotypes. So basically I didn’t fit the stereotype of how black people are supposed sound/act or the music we’re suposed to listen to. I listen to whatever sounds good to my ear: rap, r&b, country, rock, dubstep etc. Black people don’t only listen to hip hop.

  • Kema

    I’m not sure why but I love your comments. Lol! I Iike buckcherry crazy b*tch. Commercial? Mayhaps. But then again my hip hop is too. *shrug*

  • useless middle class

    LMAO!

    Omg

    So let me get this straight – today’s complaint is that white people don’t challenge or question black women’s fan-ship of rap in the same way they do white women’s, and that failure to challenge black women’s fan-ship of rap is due to white people seeing black women as black before they see them as women.

    To summarize

    White people are insulting black women’s womanhood because they don’t act shocked when they meet black women who know their rap.

    rotflmbao!

    coulnd’t make this up.

    Insane-er and insane-er.

    I thought the madness to be white would stop at weaving and the swirl crusade, but we’ve plummeted to new lows of self hate and patheticness with this one.

  • http://gravatar.com/missinformation7 Ms. Information

    You are one of the most negative people that i have ever come in contact with..do you hate yourself? Do you need counseling…everything that comes from you stems from some sense of superiority coupled with negativity…get happy.

  • http://gravatar.com/blacksnob blacksnob

    Thanks for all the comments, guys! And it’s good to be back! Glad you all found the post worthy of discussion … :)

  • http://gravatar.com/blacksnob blacksnob

    Thanks for the love! Glad to be back …

  • http://gravatar.com/blacksnob blacksnob

    Thanks, MimiLuvs.

    I’ve worked in mostly white workplaces all my life and this routinely came up where white women, even sometimes my friends, assumed I would be on the same page as them on something and I would be taken a back because I clearly saw nothing wrong with it. Such as calling elderly black women “ladies.” Probably the last big throwdown I had over this issue was back in 2009 over Michelle Obama and various white peers of mine complaining about her not being more “political.” They didn’t get that Mrs. Obama choosing to take on a more traditional role WAS political if you’re the first black First Lady and black women aren’t viewed as “ladies.”

    I still remember one friend heatedly telling me that black women would realize how “awful” it is to be put up on a pedestal and I was like, “Um, well, lemme get up on that pedestal for a while and see for myself how terrible it is. Then I’ll let you know.” I guess it’s hard for some people to grasp the level of disrespect and dehumanization black people have to deal with, especially black women.

    Our day-to-day struggle with sexism colored by racism is so different.

  • http://gravatar.com/blacksnob blacksnob

    I love Theophilus London! “Why Even Try” and “Stop It” are my favs.

  • http://gravatar.com/blacksnob blacksnob

    Thanks, Tallulah! I’m glad to be back!

  • http://gravatar.com/blacksnob blacksnob

    Thanks, GlowBelle! Glad to be back!

  • Naps!

    “My subjugation ain’t like yours.” Love it, and love the piece!

  • Chillyroad

    @ms info

    That’s no way to speak to Kema. She seems like a wonderful woman.

  • Umm wow

    I think my handle says it all. This comment needs to be framed and hung somewhere in my home.

  • Kema

    Lol! @ chilly

    I’m getting thumbed down just by association now. The hate for you is strong in these parts!

  • Bluekissess

    I could be sleepy or somewhat distracted but I’m not understanding the point. I’m a subjective person so the article isn’t getting to the point for me.

  • Chillyroad

    @kema

    Lol. I do feel like Jesus in the temple sometimes.

  • Chillyroad

    “Our day-to-day struggle with sexism colored by racism is so different.”

    …or completely imagined most of the time.

  • Anne

    So as a black woman you know how it is to be a white woman, but not the other way around? Maybe somebody needs to look at a white woman as woman first and as a person of a dpedific race second? Oh wait, that is what you want for yourself too…

  • http://gravatar.com/missinformation7 Ms. Information

    @ Chillyroad…hit dogs holler….and Jesus you are not….more like his nemesis.

  • p

    @chilly road/qon

    Black men invented?…ever heard of Rosetta Tharpe

  • bdsista

    Ok, I have driven to other states to go to a James Taylor concert! I also know all the lyrics to the Beatles songs (dating myself)

  • bdsista

    how bout we put chillyroad in that box in the ground they put Kerry Washington in in Django and see how imagined that shit is? My mother couldn’t even use the bathrooms or try on clothes in department stores in DC! She has worked her entire life, hell yeah, she would love that pedestal, and so would I.

  • http://gravatar.com/handsomelustyblackladdiebrett1953 handsomerandyblackalwaysladbrad1953

    (C)RAP “noise” is for people with 66 or lower IQs or fat,fugly,frigid,b***hy black-and white,Latin,etc,”BROADS!!!!” (Long live Country music,dancing,rodeo and us handsome,randy older-I’m 59 [60 July 6] black cowboys and long-haired,big-eyed,
    broad-shouldered,-hipped,fine-bottomed,leggy,buxom-their bra,34C-42D-far younger-AGES 26 TO 40-VERY LUSTY white or Latina cowgirls!!!!

  • chike

    are you high or something?

  • Jamz

    “The world may never know…”

  • Pingback: The Gender Trap In Black Girls, White Girls and Rap « Brand Newz

  • http://www.facebook.com/ThisIsWendyDay Wendy

    If you were born in 1960, you are 52, not 60, Math Whiz! I see your taste in music, opinions, and writing ability are as on point as your math skills. #Troll

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