Hip Hop’s Oppressive Gender Roles Explored with Bay Area Activists

Last week Tuesday, USF students gathered for “Hip Hop Conversations,” with Davey D and Andreana Clay, individuals that were introduced as “two of the Bay Area’s most important hip hop scholars,” to discuss gender and sexuality within the realm of hip hop.

Hip Hop Conversations are two nights in February that are put on by the Intercultural Center and the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholar Living Learning Community along with the African American Studies department. The events come in time for February, Black History Month.
On the night of the first event, students discussed ideas of women’s roles, masculinity and queer identity, the definition of hip hop between cultures, and the influence of hip hop artists in recent history.

Andreana Clay, a writer on hip-hop culture, queer sexuality, youth activism, and hip-hop feminism, spoke on how women are degraded in the culture of hip hop. “How can women respect the music when it doesn’t respect them,” asked Clay, who is also an associate professor of sociology at San Francisco State University. Although Clay is often offended by how women are portrayed in this culture, she is a hip hop lover herself. She explained that it is not always the case that men oppress women, and “the women that are in charge are part of the larger scene that are creating the [negative] images in the first place.”
Davey D is a hip-hop journalist, professor, activist, radio programmer and co-founder of Hard Knock Radio, a talk show for the hip hop generation. He responded to similar questions of gender and explored why such contradictions exist. Drawing from his involvement on hip hop as a DJ since 1977 in Queens, Davey D recognized that in all music, sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll is what attracts people — sex sells and consumers want rebellion.

Davey D and Dr. Clay agree that these hip hop’s contradictions are so pronounced because what society finds captivating isn’t always morally correct. One of these is the notion of being “hard,” exemplified by recent hip hop artists such as Rihanna, Dr. Dre and Naz—the danger being that acting tough can often result in promotion of violence. This relates to the expectation of men to not show emotion. Davey D thinks that the if we can break down this  stereotype, “more queer space” will be able to open up, he said. Although he was raised to  never come across as vulnerable, he clarified, “I’m not no thug type of cat!”

Through his “quest for social justice,” Davey D hopes people can start to move away from these gender stereotypes. “My identity demands that I stand against oppression,” he said. Surrounding oneself with people that are moving towards fighting such stereotypes and being an ally to victims is the easiest way to make this a way to life, he said.

For more from Andreana Clay and Davey D, check out the next Hip Hop Conversations event, “Activism and Politics,” in Berman Room, Fromm Hall on Feb. 19 at 6 p.m.

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