Hats off to Dr. Boyce Watkins for his commentary on Jay-Z banning b$tch from his linguistic repertoire. The decision came after the birth of Jay and Beyonce’s daughter Blue Ivy. The rapper has received well-deserved criticism regarding his decision and he should. However, virtually nothing was said a few years ago when Hov rapped “when the Jena 6 don’t exist…thats when I’ll stop sayin’ bitch…BITCH!!!” (from “Say Hello” on American Gangsta). Hov takes an aggressively masculine tone, separating gender from racial oppression. His view of race is decidedly masculine with little, if any, investment in black women. I don’t like that it took one of my favorite rappers this long to get his act together. Nor do I like that it took his daughter being born for him to make the decision. At the end of the day, though, I’m glad that Blue Ivy inspired Jay to change. For any parents reading this, I’m sure that the birth of your little one(s) made you think twice about your values too, right?
What concerns me more than Jay’s actions are the millions of fans that buy (or download) his music while blindly accepting the warped gender dynamics reinforced in his songs. These are the people who, on a daily basis, are presented with opportunities to shift the power dynamics that Daddy Hov fears his daughter will have to confront.
Facebookers (myself included) are “liking” Prof. Watkins’ post as if doing so delivers a death blow to gender oppression. Newsflash!!! It doesn’t. And that means we have work to do. Gender oppression extends far beyond saying b&%@! As I climb off my soapbox, please indulge me by educating yourself on gender oppression and gender equality. Here are a few websites and videos to get you started:
Then put this newly-acquired knowledge into practice! Look for groups/organizations in your area that fight gender oppression. If one doesn’t exist, start one. There are also online initiatives that you can get involved in. You can contribute to a blog and spread awareness online. You can create art that educates us on this issue. You can create an app that supports gender justice. The possibilities are endless!
It is easy to sit back and critique Jay-Z without being self-reflexive. However, we perpetuate and/or survive gender oppression every…single…day. Now is the time to change the game. What are you going to do?