Students discuss the obstacles faced by women in hip-hop

By Christian McCarville

From legends like Missy Elliott and Lauryn Hill to modern-day stars like Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, women in hip-hop have played an important role in fighting for gender equality.

“Women in hip-hop have always mentioned and advocated for gender equality,” said junior accounting major Sleyker Tarifa. “In the early ’90s, Queen Latifah released a song titled U.N.I.T.Y where she spoke out against disrespect towards women in our society.”

Rider’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) has been orchestrating a series of events throughout March in celebration of Womxn’s History Month 2021. The spelling of “womxn’’ is a nod to include those of all gender identities who identify as a woman.

As part of Womxn’s History Month 2021, CDI held a virtual conference titled “Real Hot Girl Ish: A Discussion About Womxn in Hip-Hop Culture’’ on March 17 at 5 p.m. The event was designed to showcase the influence that women have had in the genre of rap and hip-hop and the obstacles that they have faced in a male-dominated environment.

“This event began with an overview of the amazing women pioneers in hip-hop music,” said Tarifa. “We discussed rappers like MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Lauren Hill, Missy Elliot and many more. Our focus in the first part of the discussion was the obstacles women faced simply because they were women.”

Junior computer science major Liz O’Hara commented on the major themes of the discussion.

“This event went to prove that even though womxn may be few in numbers in the industry, when standing strong and unified together they can make an impact and be legends in their own right,” said O’Hara. “Whether it be the hip-hop industry or even extended to other male- dominated spaces, these womxn inspire future generations and show that they are essential.”

The event also touched on how women are excluded from the conversation when debating the top 10 rappers of all time. This is frustrating for those that know of the significant contributions that women made to the genre.

“In one of our discussions, we mentioned how using the term ‘Female Rapper’ tends to put women in these boxes where they aren’t allowed to freely express themselves because society will look down on them,” said Tarifa. “At the end of the day they are rappers. We don’t call rappers like Jay-Z a ‘male rapper,’ we simply call him a rapper. Not only does this term exclude women from the conversation, but it’s not an inclusive term. There are multiple LGBTQIA+ rappers that might not identify with the term ‘Female Rapper.’”

The discussion shifted focus to hip-hop and the Latinx community, partnering with the Latin American Student Organization (LASO). They conversed about how women in hip-hop are too often used solely as “chorus girls.” This is highly degrading and limits the contribution of the women featured in the song. Colorism and its impact on women was another significant topic of discussion.

The song “WAP” by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion was another area of conversation. Released in 2020, this song was met with backlash and controversy.

There were some that found the song to be inappropriate and disturbing. Tarifa argues that this backlash is indicative of the double standards held towards women in hip-hop.

“Within the same topic of misogyny and double standards, we led a conversation on how society tends to police women who unapologetically own their bodies,” said Tarifa. “The same rappers that tend to release songs that are just as vulgar, do not receive the same criticism [as male rappers].”

Tarifa explained how this event fits into the context of the other Womxn’s History Month events being held this March.

“Overall many of our events discuss women’s history, achievements and experiences in their specific field,” said Tarifa. “We did the same with Real Hot Girl Ish in the context of Hip-Hop Culture. It is time that we start recognizing women in hip-hop music and giving them the credit they deserve. There are so many amazing women rappers that get overlooked simply because they are women.”

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