"Girl, I Do This Often": The Ongoing Struggle of Loving Rap Music as a Feminist

I was fifteen years old when I first heard the musical R&B genius, The Weeknd. While listening to The Weeknd’s featured performance on Ty Dolla $ign’s then up-and-coming track “Or Nah,” my easily-influenced brain believed that I had discovered the alter-ego I was always meant to become.

For the past four and a half years, I completely fell in love with the way listening to The Weeknd, and artists like him, made me feel. Despite my lack of street cred as a suburban-raised white girl, I unapologetically listened to new releases by everyone from Kanye to Kendrick to Drake. The freedom I felt while listening to this music erased the previous idea I had of my image and replaced it with a cooler, tougher version of myself.

I love rap music. I love the communities these artists build. I follow them on Instagram; I buy their merch, and I send links of new tracks to my friends. This is why it is so hard to address the internal struggle that has been on my mind for so long: today’s rap music doesn’t help my cause as an empowered woman; in fact, it hinders it.

Misogyny in rap and hip-hop music has been present since its roots. This isn’t to say all rap music is sexist and and degrading to women — in fact, there are some artists that have been using rap in a positive and uplifting way — but the constant objectification and over-sexualization of women can’t be ignored.

The Weeknd began and continues his career with music centered around a disregard for women as equal human beings. In many of his songs and music videos, women aren’t seen as equal players but as scantily-clothed, separate entities that surround and exist for his needs. The song “Often” focuses on the way in which The Weeknd actively uses women for sex, some of the lyrics even stating, “If I had her, you can have her, it don’t matter.” In both the song and music video, women aren’t depicted as real people with their own perceptions and minds; rather they are objects that The Weeknd controls.

A lot of people with whom I have brought this topic up have argued that artists only put these ideas into their music and videos because “sex sells.” The problem with using this excuse is that we forget why the sexual objectification of women sells in the first place. If the people that follow this music, and in particular if easily influenced young people follow this music, the message being sent is that women’s main purpose is to merely add to the kind of lifestyle that these artists are selling.

As someone who believes men and women to be equal, I’ve recently begun to struggle with the idea that some of the music I listen to most is actually sending conflicting messages with what I really believe.  Is it fine to listen to this music and proclaim “issa vibe,” or is continuing to support music that may be negatively shaping our generation doing more harm than good?

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