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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
9/22/2004 5:46:02 AM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Various Artists.

A young woman with a sultry stare, a gyrating behind and skin-baring clothes sways to the music with a dozen other girls. They each rub up against a rapper as he swears at them in his lyrical rhymes.

The women appear nonchalant and unaffected by the rapper's words as they continue to perform as a backup to his act.

Repeated sexualized images like this one in rap videos and demeaning lyrics in rap music have some MSU women feeling frustrated and powerless in the face of a booming industry.

A real woman

The images - often of black women - have been consistent and constant in the hip-hop world, MSU Urban Dreams dancer and human biology junior Janica Davis said.

"Some of the time, there is real dancing, but it's just a snippet," she said. "They don't even want real dancers - they just want to see girls shake their butts."

Davis and other members of the dance group, who practice as many as two nights a week, said that such depictions have a negative impact on body image and pose a threat to self-esteem.

"None of the videos show a woman as being an educated individual holding her own," said Terika Westbrook, president of Urban Dreams and a foodservice management and human biology junior. "It never shows the side of being a real woman.

"Women are sex symbols who have to have bodily curves or a cute face."

Westbrook said women probably are objectified more than men because male images may not be as well received by male viewers as female images are received by female viewers.

"If a male turns on the TV and sees another man half-naked, he turns off the TV or starts changing channels," she said. "A woman can sit and watch (other women) and be OK. Our mindsets are different.

"A lot of women are more comfortable with their sexuality."

A look back

Rap hasn't always been a venue to degrade women, said Isaac Kalumbu, an MSU music professor who teaches classes on Motown music, black music in America and African pop music.

Kalumbu said rap's roots are based in something positive. It was meant to divert kids' attention from drugs and gang violence to something more meaningful, he said.

"Rap music is a product of the inner-city African American community in New York in the early 1970s," he said. "It began with social activists like Afrika Bambaataa, who formed the Zulu Nation in 1974 as a way of discouraging youths from violent competition. Bambaataa encouraged them to come together to compete in creative ways through various facets of hip-hop culture."

Kalumbu said these nonviolent forms of competition included emceeing, break dancing and graffiti. But in the past few decades, it has deviated from teaching youth to promoting glitz, glam and bling bling, he said.

"Later on, in the '80s and '90s and up until now, rap rapidly became a commercialized product rather than a cultural form," he said.

Kalumbu said rappers are now responding to consumer wants in America, which include negative lyrical references and crass depictions of women.

"It appears as though the sex thing is selling, so they are quite happy to be doing that at the expense of the dignity of women," he said.

Female competition

Interdisciplinary humanities junior Nadia Bazzi said the depictions unfortunately affect the way females act with each other.

"Rap is causing a lot of competition in women," she said. "Everybody wants to be the prettiest, everyone wants to be the sexiest, and everyone wants a guy to want them.

"It's like they create what's beautiful and we're supposed to react to it."

The created beauty sometimes presents a false sense of what's attractive racially, as well, she said.

Some women, such as psychology freshman Hanya Ombima, said they noticed a transition from showcasing darker-skinned girls to lighter-skinned girls in the recent years.

Ombima said she personally is offended by this trend.

"To me, it's very insulting

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