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Chapter 20

TCOM 301 Chapter Notes - Chapter 20: Reproductive Rights, Lauryn Hill, Hypermasculinity

Course Code
TCOM 301

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Chapter 20: “More Than Baby Mamas: Black Mothers and HipHop Feminism” by Marlo David Azikwe
Hip-Hop (and rap) culture has widely been regarded as misogynistic in the past. The last two
decades breaks this patriarchal image with the introduction of strong black women in the industry. The
early 1980’s and 90’s saw the emergence of Queen Latifah and Roxanne Shante, and later Lil’ Kim. While
all of these artists have received some amount of criticism for varied reasons, as a whole they have
made the way for black women to state their independence, sexual agency, and lyrical ability.
Various hip-hop critics analyze how black women create a progressive, feminist attitude within
the masculine world of hip-hop. For example, they criticize misogyny, materialism, and violence within
the genre. This is called hip-hop feminism, which is more clearly defined by the text as a feminism that
can read sexual objectification and agency within the same artist or textual production. Many traditional
black feminists had made an effort to acknowledge race and gender to liberate black women. More
modern hip-hop feminists argue that these traditional feminists failed to acknowledge many realities
black women must face. Some of the many issues hip-hop feminists address are as followed: sexual
agency, domestic violence, sexual assault, female economic survival, and empowerment.
One of the central issues in hip-hop feminism is the portrayal of black mothers and their bodies.
Alice Walker, a womanist, details the intricacies of black motherhood. Few mothers are shown in music
videos and examples of mothers in a song typically show them in a pitiful light. Essentially, the view is
not from women, but from a masculine point of view. It is rare that the perspective lies in the hands of a
female artist.
Black mother’s bodies are often shaped by the dominant group in society for manipulative
means. For example, in the past the reproductive rights of black women were altogether ignored in
order to create more black slaves. Post slavery, this can easily be applied to a low-wage welfare
economy. Essentially, many images of black women are presented as weak or exploitable.
Lauryn Hill: Killing Them, Softly
Lauryn Hill, an artist, has taken a stance against hyper-masculine ideas and aesthetics. By
creating a song directed to her son, she tackles to image of motherhood in hip-hop, which as stated
previously, is very rarely heard from the perspective of a woman. She seeks to empower the female
body and not present it as solely sexy. Hill describes her decision to have a child during the peak of her
artistic career and how her pregnancy overwhelmed her. More importantly, she details her appreciation
she feels towards her body’s ability to perform in the way it does. She does not describe her body as
something to attack men, but as something more personal and beautiful.
While she was pregnant at a young age, Hill realized she may be unable to continue her career
and be a mother. She details the choice she had to keep or terminate the pregnancy and recognizes that
choice like this have to be made. In the end, she chooses motherhood.
In the end Hill wants to be a catalyst for change. She views black children as a potential for
progressive change within black communities. Hill does not make the assertion that devotion towards
children should be seen as weak. In many instances of Hill’s work, her focus on motherhood is seen as a
legitimate contribution for the struggle for racial and gender equality. Hill ‘s arguments are focused on
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