Maybe We Need An Overhaul

5 Sep

I just read Nora Ephron’s book “I Remember Nothing” in which she tells a story about one of her first jobs as a writer, or more exactly as a “researcher” aka fact checker at Newsweek.  In the story a name was spelled wrong and there was a tizzle in the ‘research room’ about which researcher had made the error and would be fired.

What she points out that she understood in hindsight is that the writers were all male.  The male writer had written the name wrong and the all-female pool of ‘researcher’ underlings would be blamed.

Ephron points out that at the time she didn’t see the institutional sexism for what it was.

This reminded me of a great article about the talented Nicki Minaj.

Brags and disses are inherent to the culture of hip-hop—part of defining one’s self is by showing how flamboyantly you can cut down someone else—and Nicki Minaj as a spitter is not exempt from this tradition. But the feminist inside me wishes this was not the case, beginning with her feud with Lil Kim during the release of Pink Friday, after Kim accused her of stealing her style. (Prior, Minaj properly genuflected at the throne of Kim.) A few unfortunate barbs back, and the first single from Minaj’s second album, Roman Reloaded, is “Stupid Hoe,” a Kim dis that is sonically adventurous, lyrically amazing (“You can suck my diznik, if you take this jizz-is,You don’t like them disses, give my ass some kisses”), and then verbatim calls her adversaries “Nappy headed hoes.”…

Meanwhile, fans of women rappers watch with dismay as the new crop repeats the male-centric cycle of dis-retort-repeat, rather than supporting one another. As Azealia Banks gets increasingly famous, her Southern counterpart, Tampa Bay’s Dominique Young Unique, is throwing barbs her way, releasing diss tracks and having Twitter fights with the fellow 20-year-old. At this point, the good old-fashioned rap beef feels regressive, especially when we’re finally getting over the drought of women receiving attention. With Minaj’s lead, it would be kinda nice if, just once, all these awesome women would get together and do a “Ladies First 2012.” Because we have a much bigger, much more deadly adversary to combat: patriarchy.

I know basically nothing about rap music or the surrounding culture but I do know that if it’s about proving yourself by dissing others and Minaj as a woman is being pitted against other women, then the Newsweek offices of the 1960’s aren’t that different from wherever Minaj is hanging out.  No matter what it might look like on the outside.

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