“Let Me Blow Your Mind”: Response to Hip-hop Feminism
In “Let Me Blow Your Mind: Hip Hop Feminist Futures in Theory and Praxis”, Lindsey explores the origins of hip-hop feminism, its relation to Black feminism(s), and its application to urban education. She also challenges the centralization of the African American male perspective in hip-hop by focusing on the Black and Brown girls’ and women’s, transgender people of color’s, and queer people of color’s lived experiences. In this essay, I will examine the social context of the writer, how she describes current realities, how she analysis these realities, her vision and strategy for the future, and how the historical contacts affects this theory. I will end by sharing how this theory has relevance to my own life.
Dr. Treva Lindsey is currently a professor at the Ohio State University in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin College and her Masters and Ph.D. from Duke University. She specializes in Black feminist theory, women’s history, and popular culture studies along with work in critical race and gender theory, sexual politics, and African diaspora studies (Treva Lindsey). Lindsey is a self-described diva feminist, which she describes as “being audacious, vibrant, passionate, and fierce in [her] dedication to eradicating racism, poverty, sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance, and other forms of socio-historical, political, and cultural oppression and exploitation” (Lindsey), who is informed by Black feminist theory, hip-hop feminism, and her position as an African American woman in academia.
In her publication, Lindsey states that “women and girls not only play an integral role in the formation and sustaining of hip-hop culture(s) but also provide distinct standpoints, perspectives, and interventions into one of the most powerful cultural movements of late-20th and early-21stcenturies” (Lindsey 53). This idea is the base of hip-hop feminism that argues these contributions and perspectives are ignored or exploited by hip-hop culture. Lindsey describes “several key theoretical interventions of hip-hop feminismâ€¦including bringing wreck, kinetic orality, sonic pleasure, percussive resistance, and Black girl standpoint theory” (Lindsey 55) to challenge “the devaluation of women’s and girls’ engagement with hip-hop” (Lindsey 53). This devaluation benefits the African American male perspective in hip-hop which, as hip-hop feminism has argued against, has led to “pervasive sexism and misogynyâ€¦in rap music” (Lindsey 62).
Lindsey starts her analysis of this reality by first exploring the relationship, and the differences, between Black feminism(s) and hip-hop feminism. She explains that there are “material and discursive differencesâ€¦between second-wave Black feminists and women of the hip-hop generation” (Lindsey 56). While both feminisms address sexism and the patriarchy, Black feminists do not believe it is possible to base a feminist epistemology in a movement where sexism and misogyny thrive. Hip-hop feminism argues for a feminism that considers “the messiness and lived contradictions of human experience” (Lindsey 56), such as the women who participate in a culture such as hip-hop, to better understand the reality of women and girls. Lindsey describes this argument perfectly stating “if we do not take seriously the pleasure girls and women derive from music, even misogynistic and sexist music, we miss an opportunity to theorize the complexities of women and girls’ pleasure and enjoyment” (Lindsey 63). The analysis continues with her challenging the African American male as the subject of hip-hop. As stated, she used the theoretical interventions of bringing wreck, kinetic orality, sonic pleasure, percussive resistance, and Black girl standpoint theory to argue Black and brown women’s and girl’s roles in creating and sustaining hip-hop culture. Activities such as hand-games, Double-Dutch, and childhood chants are ways girls learn to preform race and gender, while constructing a “musical Blackness”, that then becomes a pivotal part of hip-hop (Lindsey). However, this “musical Blackness” is also vilified in the hip-hop community as shown by Lindsey’s twerking example. “The co-optation of twerking coupled with its decontextualized deployments in mass media also mirrors histories of cultural appropriation, hyper-sexualization of Black women and girls, and the demonization and devaluation of Black cultural forms and social practices performed by Black people” (Lindsey 60).
While Lindsey never explicitly states her vision, it is clear that she wants hip-hop to move away from the misogyny and sexism it is known for and for women and girls to both develop new music and to think critically about the music they listen to. She discusses hip-hop education as a possible strategy to address these concerns. It’s been shown that “the problematic lyrics and images of rap music were secondary to the beat of the music for the girls, even as the girls critiqued the music for its derogatory content” (Love 91). This means that teaching women and girls media literacy will help them recognize the misogyny and sexism in music but not stop them from enjoying the genre; which may lead to more of these women and girls to either move towards music, in the same genre, that is less or not misogynistic or to create music that does not have these themes of misogyny. Creation of new music in the hip-hop genre is where hip-hop education can play an important role. “Brown argues that we do not hear Black girls or their truths because their sound is at best misunderstood, and at worst, framed as problematic. According to Brown, the tonality of Black girls is the core of their expressivity, but often receives admonishment because of its juxtaposition to ‘acceptable performances of girlhood'” (Lindsey 61). Some hip-hop education organizations, such as Saving Our Lives Hear Our Truths (SOLHOT), demand “that grown-ups not tell Black girls to quiet downâ€¦to experience Black girls’ unique voices and articulations” (Lindsey 62). Giving space for these girls to think critically about the messages around them and to develop their own voice and sound will enable them to influence the world and music around them in ways they could not before.
Hip-hop feminism has its roots in the hip-hop movement of the late 20th century and Black feminism(s). “In 1999, when cultural critic and journalist Joan Morgan coined the term ‘hip-hop feminist’, she did not imagine how instrumental her framing of her standpoint as someone simultaneously rooted in both hip-hop and Black feminism(s) would be for the emergence of the scholarly subfield, women in hip-hop” (Lindsey 55). Lindsey uses hip-hop feminism to analyze women and girls’ contributions to the hip-hop genre, to challenge the centering of the African American male perspective in hip-hop, and to suggest possible ways to change the misogyny and sexism in the genre. Hip-hop feminism was created when women of the hip-hop generation felt Black feminism(s) did not apply to their lives because it did not view them as both empowering and problematic. This context created what Morgan called a “functional” feminism that focused on the unique lives and experiences of the women of the hip-hop generation.
Unfortunately, I could not discuss every topic Lindsey addressed in this response. I chose to focus on Lindsey’s descriptions of “musical Blackness” and hip-hop education because those ideas have the most relevance to my current time and location. As a science educator, I am passionate about minority representation in and access to the sciences. I want the content I teach to be accessible to anyone who walks into my classroom but that is only possible if I ensure my classroom environment is safe for everyone. There are several aspects of hip-hop education that I could bring into my classroom, such as “experience Black girls’ unique voices and articulations” (Lindsey 62) as it applies to scientific discovery and inquiry, that would make the space more welcoming to students. By applying hip-hop feminist pedagogy to my classroom, I could help students see themselves as scientists.
Lindsey uses hip-hop feminism to challenge the idea that the subject of hip hop is the African American male and to inform educational techniques to empower girls of color. While the theory itself does not have much relevance to my life, its application in the classroom could help me introduce the world of science to students in a way that is enjoyable. Hip-hop feminism may be generationally specific with a focus on critical race theory but it is applicable to many situations as Lindsey showed by applying it to both the hip-hop community, the classroom, and violence against transgender and queer individuals.
Lindsey, Treva. Blog post. A Diva Feminist. Blogger.com, 30 Apr. 2009. Web. 4 Mar. 2017. <http://thedivafeminist.blogspot.com/>.
Lindsey, Treva. “Let Me Blow Your Mind: Hip Hop Feminist Futures in Theory and Praxis.” Urban Education. 50.1 (2015): 52-77. Web.
Love, Bettina. Hip hop’s lil’ sistas speak: Negotiating hip hop identities and politics
in the New South. Peter Lang. 2012.
“Treva Lindsey.” Womens Gender and Sexuality Studies. N.p., 5 Feb. 2015. Web. 4 Mar. 2017. <https://wgss.osu.edu/people/lindsey.268>