Organic Mag

Nods heads to Hip Hop, turns a blind eye to rape culture

The Vessel

Placards in rap lyrics, artwork on graffiti walls, soldiers in rap battles, fashion runways in music videos, trendsetting and a lavish life are part of the legacy the hip-hop culture across the world has earned and maintained. At the forefront of the culture, music and creativity seem to precede any wrongdoing committed by its pioneers.

More often than not transgressors in the culture will be absolved from their wrongdoing in the name of good music or a great show. Kanye West said it best in his chart-topping song ‘Touch the Sky’ with the line “I’m trying to right my wrongs but the same wrongs help me write these songs.” It seems that such wrongs are not only audible in the music but in the Hip hop culture in general. The culture has a very dark and often ignored element that exhibits misogynistic, homophobic and rape culture perpetuating tendencies. The South African Hip Hop culture has grown to inherit this legacy and the perpetuation of rape culture has been no exception.

Condoning rape culture these days means (but not limited to) switching on the TV and seeing a man convicted of sexual assault (indecency) dazzling us with his cool cat dance moves. It also means going on twitter and seeing a super mega rapper trivialize sexual assault as a lesser offense to commit against a victim than rape. This suggests that the victim ought to be grateful it wasn’t raped right?

These are the indicators that show how the SA hip Hop industry fails to hold relevant parties accountable; it takes twitter threads, long facebook statuses, and articles to move transgressors to take accountability. All this while the bystanders sit in their corners raising their arms claiming “everyone makes mistakes let’s not blow things out of proportion.” The lackluster approach to condemning their colleges normalizes the act within the culture making it a “these things happen” situation. Surely this cannot be right.
Rape culture is not only exclusive to rape related cases, but it encompasses a culture that has trivialized and normalized not only rape but also sexual harassment and/or violent sexual crimes. This includes making socially acceptable the sexual objectification of women, slut shaming, victim blaming and/or blaming the victim for the offenders’ behavior.

Traces of rape culture linger in the SA Hip hop culture directly or indirectly. In an ordinary rap battle, it is not surprising to hear rappers using women as a pawn to defeat their opponent. In most cases than not, the adjectives associated with such women leave a lot to be desired in a rap battle.

A continuing and growing trend within the culture is the sense of ownership over women and a sense of entitlement to women’s bodies. There are certain “read between the lines” rules that suggest if you offer a woman something, she is then indebted to you and payment is usually expected. It is also not new for artists to take women home after performances or find women in their hotel rooms to do with the women what they please.
According to the culture, the agreement is seemingly clear, the mere fact that you have consent to leave with or be in their hotel rooms can sometimes be construed as you consenting to any sexual relations that may potentially take place. One can only imagine how many cases of women have been in this predicament and later choice to re-evaluate their decision, however not afforded the right to do so because of the circumstances of their current situation. The commodification, objectification and pawning of women in the Hip Hop culture being socially acceptable is a perpetuation of rape culture in our society.

South Africa as a whole has a repulsive response to issues of rape, sexual assault, and abuse. Making it not surprising that SA hip hop culture has become a fermenting ground for rape culture. The lack of public scrutiny towards wrongdoers suggests that being a talented and great artist absolves you from the consequences of your actions and being held accountable for such actions.
If we are still seeing event posters with the faces of sexual offenders, hearing their music played on radio and TV and watching them being called heroes who receive awards then we definitely have a long way to go in dismantling rape culture in SA Hip Hop culture. It is a necessary and urgent task that will require both the producers and consumers of the Hip Hop culture’s willpower and involvement to achieve this objective.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author)

1 comment

  • A very insightful article, touching on a highly neglected topic, that of rape culture. You touch on many sub-issues, skilfully at that, and what stands out to me is the brief discussion on what I call the ‘presumption of consent’ because of a completely irrelevant agreement. You describe it very clear with your various examples.
    Merely agreeing to free tickets, for instance, does not equate or is not consequential to being taken advantage of, unless that was part of the original agreement. The issue, in my view is that, these men (who partake in the rape culture), and because of being main and thus presumably manly, think that they are entitled to dictating what should happen in matters concerning women, especially those who are in vulnerable positions.
    And for me, this mentality is not birthed by the fame and influence associated with it, but it stems back to the hierarchy in society, the disregard that certain cultures have towards the value and the voices of women. But perhaps that’s a discussion for another day, but I do think that it’s worth noting that none of these factors are independent, they are all interlinked and thus should be given equal recognition in being dealt with. Thanks for a great article.

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