Pimpin' Ain't Easy: Hip-Hop's Relationship to Young Women Is Complicated, Varied and Helping to Shape a New Black Gender Politics

By Sharpley-Whiting, T. Denean | Colorlines Magazine, May-June 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Pimpin' Ain't Easy: Hip-Hop's Relationship to Young Women Is Complicated, Varied and Helping to Shape a New Black Gender Politics


Sharpley-Whiting, T. Denean, Colorlines Magazine


WHEN HIP-HOP IMPRESARIO RUSSELL SIMMONS appeared at Hamilton College for an evening lecture on "Hip-Hop, Culture, and Politics" in April 2004, no one could have anticipated the fallout. Simmons, whose net worth hovers around $400 million, had been invited to lecture for his work as the chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN). The year 2004 was a critical election year for many who were tired of the mendacity and chicanery of the Bush administration. Some were also openly smarting from the voter fraud and widespread Black disenfranchisement in Florida 2002. Simmons's HSAN had voter registration among hip-hop generationers as their mission, as well as challenging the [New York state] Rockefeller Drug laws as unethical, racially biased, and harshly punitive.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

His lecture morphed into a Q & A session, as he made a last-minute decision to stray from the contractual script towards a "just kickin' it" dialogue. As with comedian Dave Chappelle's bodacious, street-creed-upholding character in the skit, "When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong," Simmons's attempt at "keeping it real" fell flat.

Riled by the television show BET Uncut and specifically the rapper Nelly's controversial video "Tip Drill," female students swapped volleys with Simmons. At one point, he suggested that the students just "turn off their television sets," an increasingly used line by corporate representatives when directly confronted by critics of such programming. Simmons's use had the effect of identifying him more with his lucrative financial interests than with his audience. The students though were more concerned about the 80 million television sets that were tuned into BET, and the unpleasant gender politics and sexual provocations that continually flowed from them.

One of the Hamilton students, a young woman, was especially agitated. While she was clearly misguided in her assertion that there were no networks devoted to promoting white culture, she nonetheless zeroed in on hip-hop culture's contradictory relationship with women and boldly declared that these videos impinged upon her sense of womanhood. As she fled the auditorium, Simmons delivered the "keep it street" coup de grace. He attempted to evoke empathy for the hard-knock life of so many male rappers. He suggested that after acquiring the requisite material trappings of success--cars, houses, jewelry, and "all the pussy" they wanted--many rappers were still quite unfulfilled. With the president and dean of the college and a gaggle of professors in the audience, Simmons exemplified for many the role that hip-hop has carved out for young women. They were either "hot pussy for sale" or they were "pussy for the taking."

But of course, hip-hop's relationship to young women is much more complicated and varied than that. In fact, hip-hop's commercial success is heavily dependent upon young Black women. Overexposed young Black female flesh, "pimpin," "playin," "sexin," "checkin" in videos, television, film, rap lyrics, fashion, and on the Internet, is indispensable to the mass-media engineered appeal of hip-hop culture that helps to shape a new Black gender politics.

Despite its dominance in CD sales and cultural influence, for some--like cultural critic Stanley Crouch--hip-hop music and culture loiters in the profane and ridiculous. Crouch's verbal beat-down of hip-hop, in a January 23, 2005 piece in the Daily, manages to saddle up to Black women in their ensuing battle over images and lyrics in hip-hop. The not always chummy Crouch, particularly in his editorializing on Black women and American sexual politics, writes in praise of Essence: "The magazine is the first powerful presence in the Black media with the courage to examine the cultural pollution that is too often excused because of the wealth ... The elevation of pimps and pimp attitudes creates a sadomasochistic relationship with female fans. They support a popular idiom that consistently showers them with contempt.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Pimpin' Ain't Easy: Hip-Hop's Relationship to Young Women Is Complicated, Varied and Helping to Shape a New Black Gender Politics
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?