In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Mid-Terms, Schools, and Illnesses

It’s time for mid-terms, which means it is also time for the obligatory scholastic disillusionment post. Tonight I practice my ASL handshape story, a five minute story told through the use of body language and next to no actual signs, and study for the Shakespeare mid-term for which I am wholly unexcited. I can’t wait to have one full guilt-free week off.

I don’t care much at all anymore, and know I’m half-heartedly jumping through the required hoops. This does not a good student make.

After almost one full week with a fever Ethan went to the doctor and we found that he has, of all things, scarlet fever. It sounds so Old World Victorian (“My baby has the plague!”) but turns out to be a strain of strep throat with a body rash. All week long I asked Does your throat hurt? Nope. Do your ears hurt? Nope. Okay then. The fever must be the pink eye or Fifth Disease, certainly not the Black freakin’ Plague.

In other news I have begun to get phone calls for student teaching interviews.

Going to the high school and observing the classrooms has begun to move my internal view of myself from student to teacher. Today I passed out an initital survey to the students and found that everyone is both classes has a computer, only three don’t have internet access at home, and at least six have both a website and a blog. I hope to do my semester research on the connections, if any, between technological literacy and scholastic success, primarily based on case studies, interviews, and student work. The school I observe in is unusually outfitted with the latest ed tech and the teacher I observe with uses it to its maximum degree. This is quite rare in secondary Lit classrooms, so I want to explore what kinds of effects it has on the classroom environment as well.

One of my greatest difficulties this semester has been establishing a teacherly persona. I am in the schools for two class periods. The first is overall well-behaved and engaged in the lessons at hand, while the second period is essentially run by a group of rowdy boys who insist on having the last word and making the class into a comedy venue. Truthfully they’re quite funny. This is a problem. Once I start laughing I can’t stop.

Further, they are obsessed with my presence in the classroom where the first period observed doesn’t care one way or another. Every day I get a barrage of questions ranging from What did you do this weekend? to Where do you live?, What is your first name?, What’s your screen name? Can we chat? and I’ll bet you go to frat parties, don’t you? I switch between giving smartass answers and none at all.

When I finally picked a lesson plan to teach (after abandoning the idea of Sandra Cisneros, we settled on Eliot’s Prufrock, thanks for asking), the teacher informed me that she isn’t even going to ask me to teach the second period. She said she felt like it would be throwing meat to the wolves, and frankly, I feel like fresh meat. Relief.

Perhaps the most telling experience indicating my need to better develop a teacherly persona happened last Friday. After listening to a long conversation between students on the finer points of punk rock, including the aural importance of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, how the size of piercing gauges correspond to numbers, what constitutes a cool tattoo, and other fine examples of high school inexperience, I found myself tempted to join in on a more-punk-than-you game that I thought I had long abandoned. In the interest of prudence, I shouldn’t divulge the stories I wanted to tell, but I guarantee that anything I could put on a list like this would be scandalous enough to blacklist me from any future teaching job and require an instant revocation of my laminated feminist card.

The overwhelming urge to bring in my CD collection and school these kids in the fineries of pre-1990’s pop culture has yet to pass.

Nirvana. Jesus. When did the 90’s become old school?

[For more on my observational experiences at this school, you can see my class blog: Miss Education.]

Friday Random Ten – The “Who the Hell Started This Meme?” Edition

This edition is named in honor of The Republic of T, with author Terence being the originator of this meme. Hi Terence! Terence informs me that he did not start this meme. Who did?

Tired ol’ directions: Upload all your mp3s into your music player of choice, set to random, hit play. List the first ten songs. No cheating.

  1. Aretha Franklin – Do Right Woman, Do Right Man
  2. Millie Jackson – Lick It Before You Stick It
    (Jackson is featured on the Worst Cover Albums list repeatedly. This song is a suggestion for men in a heterosexually active relationship.)
  3. Red Elvises – Rocket Man
    (Saw them in a local venue last year, a Russian rockabilly band that did the soundtrack for “Six String Samurai.” Wow.)
  4. Cee-Lo Green – The Art of Noise
  5. Teddy Pendergrass – Me and Mrs. Jones
  6. Melt Banana – Surfin’ USA
    (Really bad cover.)
  7. 7L and Esoteric ft. Inspectah Deck – Speaking Real Words
  8. The Cramps – Surfin’ Bird
    (Another really bad cover.)
  9. Har Mar Superstar – Girl, Let Me Use Your Ride
  10. Pharcyde – Runnin’

Also, see this week’s downloads.

Listen In My Absence

I still have a pile of envelopes addressed and ready to send to a few Life Mix participants. Unfortunately the CD burner is busted and I’m afraid to part with my tower long enough to get it fixed. One of these days.

My mental playlist has been all over the place lately, in part because I upload my actual full playlist FRT style to Winamp and let it run. Whenever I want music, I usually burn myself a more cohesive CD, but since the burner is broken and I’m too weird to let someone actually repair it, I’m stuck with my aural weirdness.

Listen to what I’m listening to in my absence.

Donovan – Wear Your Love Like Heaven
The logical step after a long Too Short bender is obviously a Donovan bender. Duh.

Madvillain – Figaro (Stones Throw 101 Remix)
Move away from hip-pop and find yourself an innovative rapper like Madvillain. This short song is an example of the smart rap that should be on the radio.

Grizzly Bear – Fix It
I adore the opening to this song – the alternative approach to a traditional drumbeat, the recorder, and the spare, distant sound of the vocals. Lovely.

Gilbert O’Sullivan – Alone Again (Naturally)
Lordisa, this one is depressing. But poppy. An offshoot of the Donovan thing.

Sean Lennon – Into the Sun
This song makes me wish it were summertime. Luckily I have 50 degree February weather to console me.

Right click, Save as. And you Mac users do whatever it is that you do. And no, I’m not back from my break.

Friday Random Ten – Now Completely Devoid of Irony!

Roxanne abandoned ship after the big boys picked up this meme1 and notably, coveniently forgot to credit where they got it from. Very naughty.

And so, the FRT ship has been pirated!2

If it’s midnight somewhere, let the games begin: Fire up your IPOD, MP3 or other digital media player, set to random play, list the first ten songs.

• Melt Banana – Wedge 3
• David Bowie – Space Oddity 4
• Cecile – Hot Like We 5
• Wanda Jackson – Funnel of Love 6
• Elliott Smith – Ballad of Big Nothing 7
• Jurassic 5 – Sum of Us 8
• Richard Cheese – Enter Sandman 9
• The Isley Brothers – It’s Your Thing 10
• Wesley Willis – Rock n’ Roll McDonald’s 11
• 7 Seconds – 99 Red Balloons 12

1 Thus, the Friday Random Ten is no longer cool.
2 To prove how uncool we are, I just made a pirate reference. Pirates are so 2004.

A Quick Guide to Coolness, recommended for Egosystem Top 100 readers:
3 Prove how discriminating your taste is by being completely indiscriminatory!
4 Include some roots rock to show how much of a music lover you are!
5 Get international so your readers can see how inclusive you are. Excellent.
6 List something campy and obscure!
7 You’re sensitive. Let them know.
8 Let them know you like hip hop because you’re so urban and hip.
9 Be sure to display your sense of humor,
10 and how good you are with the ladies.
11 All the cool kids listen to Wesley Willis, so you do too!
12 And finally, a cover song, because you can never go wrong with punk bands covering new wave.


Coverville might be my heaven. I’m listening to Aretha Franklin’s cover of “Eleanor Rigby” until my ears implode, and thus, it’s good to know that Coverville has me, um, covered with Joe Jackson’s version of the song once I’m done with Aretha.

Blame it on the lack of sleep.

via JC

Friday Random Ten – The “Holiday in Cambodia” Edition

This is the last week Roxanne will host the Friday Random Ten. From now on, my pretties, you can find it here.

Do it like you know you should: Fire up your IPOD, MP3 or other digital media player, set to random play, list the first ten songs.

1. Bratmobile – Make Me Miss America
2. Slick Rick – Teenage Love
3. Reverend Horton Heat – It Hurts Your Daddy Bad
4. Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower
5. Nina Simone – Central Park Blues
6. The Kinks – Til the End of the Day
7. Johnny Cash – Sixteen Tons
8. Motorhead – Ace of Spades
9. L7 – Slide
10. B-52s – Roam

And now it’s your turn, on your own blog, at Roxanne’s, or in the comments below.

Explicito Lingo: Downloads

This week’s downloads are some of my favorite rap songs, the guilty pleasures that I address in the post below on gender and hip hop. I won’t even defend their quality, as I know that my taste in hip hop is questionable.

Adina Howard – Freak Like Me
Remember her? She was one of the booty girls in the mid-nineties, pictured on the front of her albums bent over the hood of a car. Howard styled herself as a thug on the hunt for a thug, and contrary to the typical dichotomy of “dogs and bitches,” Howard addresses herself as a “dog” in this song, an interesting choice of language.

Trina ft. Trick Daddy- I Don’t Need You
Trina is, as usual, over-the-top nasty in this song. However there is one vaguely refreshing thing in this song, Trina’s nastiness is far more insulting than Trick Daddy’s rhymes, and after years of hearing insults of women’s sexual abilities lampooned in song after song, an aggressive answer dozens-style feels good. A comparable song is Too Short and Rappin’ 4-Tay’s “Don’t Fight the Feeling,” in which a woman shoots the both of them down in the most insulting of ways.

One thing I find incredibly interesting about the men who put out the nearly unforgivable misogynist songs is that they can then turn around and have their persona smashed to pieces by a woman in the next song. It’s too bad no one took up Ursula Rucker for a male/female rap battle on equal footing.

Akinyele ft. Crystal Johnson – Put It In My Mouth
I suppose you could call this a backward ode to oral sex, as it directly addresses both arts of cunnilingus and fellatio in the grossest of ways. Someone actually spent money for the studio, artists, and producers on this song. Johnson has a clear, lovely voice, and the tongue-in-cheek approach they take to this song is revealed when they can’t keep it together any longer and break into laughter at the end of the song.

Bone Thugs N Harmony ft. Notorious B.I.G. – Notorious Thugs
This is an example of one of the most irritating examples of female invisibility in music. I often find that if a mainstream rap song is not misogynist in nature, it is because women don’t exist at all in the world the song illustrates, or that women are tertiary objects meant to boost the image of the singer, similar to bling and rims. The only real references to femininity in this song is when Biggie says that his fame has allowed him to “fuck a few female stars or two,” and gives the thuggish version of the fish-in-the-sea thing: “All them hoes, I gotsta like one.” The way he says it almost sounds optimistic.

504 Boys ft. Mercedes – I Can Tell You Wanna Fuck
This slow jam could potentially be considered a love song of sorts, or perhaps the “realest” of hook-up songs, one in which it is understood that there will be sex with no strings attached. Mercedes, the female singer, exists purely as an answer to the male voice, affirming and encouraging the male singer’s fantasies.

N2Deep – Back to the Hotel
I told you I have no shame; this is where I prove it. This Latino group broke in the early nineties with this one-hit wonder. Apparently they remained underground producing CDs for a loyal fan base, but I can’t really understand why. This song is my ultimate in guilty pleasures. It is indefensible.

These songs in particular appeal to me either for the nostalgia or the beats, and all of them require a certain suspension of political and social knowledge in order to enjoy them for the short time they play (sort of like listening to AC/DC, Rick James, or Gary Glitter).

If you download or already know these songs I’m curious to know how you feel about them, not musically but lyrically. Other examples are welcome.

Rap Music: More On “Take Back the Music”

I have been thinking about the “Take Back the Music” project by Essence magazine ever since I read about it on Ms. Musings.

The first rap song I ever heard was 2 Live Crew’s “Me Too Horny,” soon followed by “Banned in the USA.” I vaguely remember hearing about the “Cop Killer” uproar and calling the local radio station to request it for a Friday night playlist. The DJ laughed at me – I just wanted to hear it and find what all the fuss was about. These were the days before easily accessible mp3s.

I was far too young to be listening to these kinds of messages, but I do remember relishing them for the taboo. Even MTV had yet to embrace rap and hip hop culture except for a nightly hour-long show.

Not having a political imagination, I saw these musical examples as the ultimate in verboten culture. They were bad not only because the adults around me didn’t understand the message, but because most adults I knew could not understand the messengers either. Journalists like Kevin Powell had not come forth to lend legitimacy and a critical lens to the often contradictory messages, and to point out as well that hip hop does not have the corner on misogyny, faux masculinity, prejudice, and homophobia monopolized.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with my mother, a special ed teacher bothered by a young boy who repeatedly said his dad was a pimp. She was concerned about his home life until I explained to her that to call someone “pimp” is slang for the ancient “cool,” perhaps “the ultimate in self-advertisement.” In other words, as distant and strange as this seemed to my mother (and at closer linguistic thought, to myself), the boy really respected his father.

I have always been fond of the artful “fuck off,” and in general, hip hop has always been more efficient at this attitudinal genre than most rock music. In addition, the raw feelings and emotions in much of hip hop are just as powerful as most rock music, if not more so because these come from a more politicized experience. Hip hop came from a consciousness birthed in the ’50s through the ’70s that finally came to a real fruition in the 1980s, a consciousness more realized than that of the average white boy rock star that preceeded the hip hop era. While the roots of major rock artists can be tied to poverty across time, race, and geography, the elements of race consciousness and radicalism were nearly nonexistent in the rock ballad era and atmosphere that was occurring simultaneously to the birth of rap music.

Whether or not today’s hip hop is in a state of arrested development, or primarily controlled by the greedy forces of capitalist hands, is something for the experts to argue, but not I.

Dr. B writes on her love affair with rap music:

I have to admit (not that everyone who knows me doesn’t already know) that rap music is my guilty pleasure. Ok, not even guilty. I love rap music.

Yeah, I figured that out when I went to her office hours one day and found her bumping Ludacris through her kickass computer speakers. She only looked slightly guilty as she turned down the volume.

I was around at the very beginning (ummm…yeah I was a baby) and I have been fascinated by the way that rap and hip hop culture have grown by leaps and bounds. So much so that folk like Eminem wanna claim it for themselves.

Rap music, in my opinion, has always been the music of the revolution. It started out talking about nasty food and bad living conditions in an amusing way and it has progressed to talking about the same conditions in a more violent way. What does that say about rap music? Hmmmmmm…perhaps that what has changed so radically is not the music itself, but the society that it tells of.

Rap music is rhetorical there’s no way around it. It’s telling of a time, a place, and a culture. It might not be your time, place, or culture but it’s somebody’s. Does this mean that I accept rap music and hip hop culture without critique? Ya’ll know better than that!

Rap music is violent and, yes, some of it even glorifies violence. Some rap music is misogynistic, homophobic, and prejudiced (I purposely don’t use racist, but that’s another post). But are these reasons to dismiss rap music and hip hop culture wholesale? Hell Naw!! These are reasons to analyze not only the music, but the culture and the situations that make this music possible hell, necessary.

I’m with Dr. B: I adore rap music. I came to hip hop late, preferring the grunge thing and the punk thing through my more formative years, but having friends who exposed me to a wide variation of hip hop, I finally relented. It was a painful transition, beginning primarily with political dancehall and moving into the rediscovery of the artists I listened to with my friends. Eventually I realized that although I may not agree with or appreciate some of the messages in rap music, the artists were speaking, if not their own, then someone’s truths.

I wrote about my own love affair and the sometimes hypocritical-seeming disconnect between rap music and my politics this summer [slightly edited]:
“‘I’m such a bad feminist,’ I told Bryan the other day as I extolled the finer points of the Ghetto Boyz, one of the dirtier groups in old school hip hip. And should I mention that I just got a bunch of Three Six Mafia? Yup. Bad feminist.

“…As Jason points out, many of the women who hear these songs think, ‘They aren’t talking about me. Holla!’ and drop it like it’s hot, loving the music even as it degrades them. And yes, you can sometimes include me in that group. Why do I excuse it?

“One commentor at Negro, Please says, “…it’s part of a deeper issue with gender in american society. there’s a hypermasculinity present in hip-hop, but it’s not out of sync with the male-as-brut role of american culture.'”

At the end of this post, Lynne Johnson brought up a thought that could be valuable to feminist views of rap music. She says, “i think i take for granted that i’m intelligent enough to be able to separate myself from the music, in a way that i critique and analyze it. there are merits in some misogynist music – believe it or not? why do some of these males think and feel the way they do? what do their lyrics say about their psyche?”

Lynne concludes, to paraphrase, that many of our publicly successful peers have yet to mature. It might have something to do with the mystique of money and power, or being spoiled and spoiling themselves. Some say that all people have a price, that culture and beauty and integrity can be bought. I don’t agree with this one bit, and wonder at times where the artists of integrity and beauty are in hip hop. It’s simple: they are invisible.

Last semester I helped a friend compile a Powerpoint presentation on women in hip hop. The very general categorization of female representation in rap music was broken down into three parts: objects upon whom male sexuality is imposed or acted; those who overtly pander to the male gaze; and those who reject the exploitative modes of sexuality.

The video hoochie rarely holds any agency unless it is to confirm or receive male sexuality and power (and is unfortunately the object present in many of my favored songs). To Ludacris, varying modes of female sexuality is attributed to 1.) naked and 2.) not naked: ” In my videos I try to be versatile: Sometimes I have women dancing, and then, for example, in my Stand Up video, there are no naked women. I don’t mean to depict women in a certain way. The ones who want to shake what their mama gave them are going to do that whether they’re in videos or not.” I personally would urge Ludacris to think about women a tad more deeply than this.

The second category of women we addressed have agency and voice, but act primarily through modes of promiscuous and “nasty” sexuality. This in itself is not inherently bad although it does perpetuate myths of female sexuality, and oftentimes, myths surrounding a supposedly inherent uncontrollable sexuality attributed to blackness. Though we included several examples of mainstream artists, others like Trina and Princess Superstar have remained on the sidelines, serving as comparisons to male counterparts comparably assigned to their rap personas. However, Trina and Princess Superstar have managed to recast female sexuality as just as aggressive and primal as male sexuality is often perceived. This is not a negligible contribution to pop culture. If you didn’t notice, the picture to the right is of a magazine cover featuring Princess Superstar with the caption: “I’m a feminist with my tits out.” That might be the subject of another post.

The last category of women we addressed in the project were those who have rejected the primary role of sex kitten or sex object and concentrate on the embodiment of feminine power and talent, and often hold men responsible for their depiction of women through their own lyrics, while holding onto a positive and powerful sensuality. It seems that most artists find these women admirable peers in hip hop, women like Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott, and Erykah Badu. These women seem to have fallen off the map in recent years, and other peers of theirs like Ursula Rucker and Sarah Jones get little to no visibility at all outside of diehard music junkies and feminist listeners. Then again, men who promote the respect of women in their lyrical content get little to no air time themselves. Artists like Blackalicious, De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest and others are virtually off of the mainstream map.

This causes me to question whether the problem of women’s visibility is isolated with women alone, but about the backlash against the refusal to play to stereotypical gender roles.

Women who have defied traditional pop cultural roles of sexuality in any genre have been ignored, or relegated to a flash-in-the-pan, Lilith Fair category by most critics. Conversely, men who have broken from the typical misogynistic stream generally do so for only a song or two (like Tupac Shakur and his “Dear Momma” and “Keep Your Head Up” – though I believe Shakur is too complicated a subject to pin down like this), and given a significant amount of credibility for temporarily honoring womanhood between calling them bitches, hoes, and tip drills.

While I would like to see a shift in the popular imagination of women in media culture, I don’t see it happening anytime soon. Hip hop is a microculture, as easily defendable as it is abhorrent to most listeners, and as Dr. B indicates, is indicative of a slice of the United States that is not only revolutionary, but should command our attention.

Upcoming: Choice dirty hip hop downloads for your perusal and discussion.

Friday Random Ten – The “How Many Friday Memes Can We Do?” Edition

As dictated by the dictator: Fire up your IPOD, MP3 or other digital media player, set to random play, list the first ten songs.

1.) Luniz – I Got Five On It
2.) Prince – Cinnamon Girl
3.) Jurassic 5 – Sum of Us
4.) Neko Case – Lady Pilot
5.) Pizzicato Five – Playboy Playgirl
6.) Man… Or Astroman? – Domain of the Human Race
7.) Khia – My Neck, My Back
8.) Rufus Wainwright – Evil Angel
9.) MC5 – Over and Over
10.) Nellie Lutcher – Lake Charles Boogie

Well, that one was weird.