Violence Against Women is Okay

Women of Color in Rap Lyrics: The Pornographic Gaze

I came across the wonderful study by Margaret Hunter and Kat Soto while trolling the internet for information on an article that I was asked to contribute to. Score! You know that I think that much of hip hop is ugly, not well written, and sometimes downright mean! You can imagine how thrilled I was to come across an official scientific study confirming my thoughts. I sent off an email to the co-authors and they were kind enough to speak with me.

The study looked at 49 songs on the Billboard charts over two years to find out that 1) violence against women is okay 2) women are demeaned sexually and 3) women are often shown as hoes, strippers, etc. The project was begun because undergrad, and dj, Kat Soto was paired with Professor Margaret Hunter in the sociology department. They both had an interest in women of color and a long love of hip hop, so a study of this sort was logical. Kat explains the study this way, “it’s what came out of the lyrics. The songs informed the research. We used Billboard because it’s prominent. We used the top 25 singles chart”.

Some of the findings have been controversial. When they presented the paper at a few conferences responses were varied. Margaret says, “some called us prudish and said that we were being up-tight and old fashioned. Some people saw the paper as an attack on hip hop. Some were disgusted by the lyrics”. If you bring up hip hop amongst hip hop heads I dare say you would come across a similar spectrum of comments. Some women look at sexual lyrics as empowering; they say, “if the boys can do it, so can we”. Others think that it’s a matter of perspective. Margaret sums it up this way, “when I was young and into hip hop, I didn’t listen to it with depth. I didn’t listen to the lyrics”. Most of us can relate to that. Go back and listen to Yo-Yo’s “Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo” one more time. Hmmmm ….

Speaking of listening to the songs. Let’s take a minute to think about how women themselves contribute to the messages, presented both through audio and video, in hip hop. Many times, Kat says, “women are singing the hooks”. We all know the term “video ho” so there’s no need to touch on the plethora of negative visuals in hip hop. Kat puts it, “these people cannot be themselves. They are a character that we love”. Do we love it? Many would say we do. Think about what songs are in your mp3 player right now? How many of them refer to women in terms such as “hos”, “bitches”, “stunts”, etc. and advise that, “bitches need rules”, tell women to “bounce that ass”, etc.? Do you dance to those songs? Did you know that sometimes, “singles are chosen by taking the singles to the strip club and letting the strippers dance to them. Whatever gets the best response. That’s what the next single is” says Kat. When did strippers start ruling the world?

So what’s the point of a study like this? Kat thinks, “a big part of it is education. We don’t learn how to critique the music and how we’re seen. I was never taught to critique anything I saw on t.v. or listened to. We have a lot of power, but we don’t know it”. Margaret agrees, “hip hop is an amazing cultural phenomenon, but commercial rap is problematic for women and people of color”. She says, “I don’t listen to [hip hop] as much as I would like. I’m frustrated with commercial hip hop. No diversity. Degrading women. Buying things”. I completely agree. Kat has the perfect sentiment to end the post, “I hope people who read this are disgusted and want to change”.

To read the whole article click here.



  1. This article is real. I agree with it. Not enough good music and not enough women standing up to show we can do it better. Seems as if a lot of artist are focusing more on what they think people want to see and hear and not on real creative talent. Artist seem to not realize all it takes is for a true artist to step out the box and make good music, yet they make what I call simple music or music that degrades women because everyone else is doing it.

    Most everyday listeners that buy into music are 9 times out of 10 followers. The average “commercialized” music head likes what he/she hears on a daily basis (on the radio, BET, MTV, VH1). If more talented people get together and show the world we can make better music…then I think we can prove it’s more out here than what they are use to hearing.

  2. Have you checked out the Killing Us Softly video series by Jean Kilbourne?? AMAZING, I took a couple of journalism classes in which I had to watch these videos and another one Hip Hop beyond the Beats and Rhymes…. heres’ th elink to that one and u can find the other one on YouTube as well…

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