A Hot Girl Summer: The State of Feminism in Hip-Hop
By Victoria Jonas
The phrase “hot girl summer,” popularized by Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion is defined as a movement to be unapologetically yourself, do what you want, and not care what others think. A mindset that definitely helped her and other female artists rise to popularity. This summer, Megan used her lyrical pen to encourage women to embrace their bodies, sexuality and individuality. She also spoke on going green and doing well in school.
Before Megan Thee Stallion, other female rappers like Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, Nicki Minaj and many more have used their music and platforms to empower women on a series of issues. The act of women using hip-hop to highlight sexism, racism, and other social concerns is labeled as hip-hop feminism. Joan Morgan, a cultural critic, first coined the term ‘hip-hop feminist’ in her book, “When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down."
Feminism in hip-hop is the avenue for Black women where two pathways intertwine. The traditional feminism of the Women’s Liberation Movement catered to mostly white women and women’s rights. And hip-hop is mainly focused on Black men. However, the concerns and identity of Black women cannot be categorized into one group.
Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the word intersectionality, which means “Black women who are marginalized by both anti-racists and feminists movements.” Hip-hop feminism was a necessary motion for Black women.
“As women of the hip-hop generation, we need a feminist consciousness that allows us to examine how representations and images can be simultaneously empowering and problematic,” Shani Jamila, a Human Rights activist said in her book, “Can I Get a Witness.”
Hip-hop is a male-dominated industry known for misogyny, homophobic tendencies, objectifying and disrespecting Black women. Female rappers are often overlooked, and they have to work harder to earn less than their male counterparts. There is also the mindset that “sexy rappers” are the most marketable type of female rapper. Let’s be honest, sex sells. But, it’s not the only style of rap that brings money into the genre. Women have been using their voices in rap to reject and reform any narrow mindsets they face successfully.
For instance, Queen Latifah won a Grammy for her song “U.N.I.T.Y.” in 1995. Then, Lauryn Hill won five Grammys for the “Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” album in1998. Both women revolutionized their own idea of hip-hop feminism.
Lil’ Kim and Nicki Minaj both dominated rap for years. They changed how fashion and sexuality are viewed and accepted in hip-hop culture. Respectively, they influenced a new generation of female rappers.
Women in rap aren’t waiting for permission. They are embracing their bodies and styles. Female rappers are using their unique identities and voices to create their own lane, which has redefined hip-hop. From Lizzo to CupcakKe, Rico Nasty to Tierra Whack, Noname to Kamaiyah, women are unquestionably bringing new perspectives to the genre.
“Truth can’t be found in the voice of any one rapper but in the juxtaposition of many,” Morgan wrote in her book.
The state of feminism in hip-hop is clear. Women have the freedom to be who they want when they want. Come as you are and say whatever you feel, be a “hot girl.”
“I can’t wake up one day and not be black. I can’t wake up one day and not be a woman. I can’t wake up one day and not be fat,” Lizzo said in a Teen Vogue interview. “I always had those three things against me in this world, and because I fight for myself, I have to fight for everyone.”
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