Say hello to Revolution, our first guest poster! She hails from Chicago; went on an American Southwest bike tour last winter; supports women in science, hip-hop, and other historically male arenas; retains an uncanny amount of science trivia; is all about sustainability and Green industry; loves gin and bon jovi; and, according to Which SATC Character Are You?, she’s Miranda. Read on!…
Not only did I discover my favorite magazine (Venuszine) but Makkada B. Selah’s article, “The Battle of the MCs,” in the Summer 2008 issue touched on a problem that has deeply affected my life since moving to Chicago 5 months ago.
When moving to a new city the first thing I do to seek out friends is join a bicycle club. It’s a fast way to meet my favorite people, the mostly awkward morons who bike with you to bars, pull ridiculous stunts, and love to party. Mostly. This last move, however, has given me a different perspective on friend finding and female camaraderie in particular. Not only am I surrounded by men at my job in the landscape industry, but in all interests I have pursued – bicycling, music/djing, breakdancing, and even gardening. At first being a new lady among the few helped me garner attention and fast friends, but after time I was dropped like quarters in a slot machine. One by one, all of my male friends lost interest and disappeared. I then made a command decision to seek out women in these groups and hopefully make more durable friendships.
The experience was like a voluntary hazing: Intense and masochistic. When I went out of my way to start coversations with women, many backed off. A majority of them came to events or parties with their boyfriends or were the sole female of the friend group. They ignored me, avoided answering my questions, or just threw me the stinkeye (I don’t care that nobody calls it that anymore). Granted my jokes weren’t the best and just because we’re women doesn’t mean we should necessarily get along, but Come ON! Women responded to my presence with apprehension, seemingly threatened rather than solaced that a new lady was in town.
Selah exposes this issue of female rivalry in hip-hop. She interviews a line of successful female rappers who talk about their experience in the male-dominated music industry and the trials of the hip-hop women before them. Many ‘femcees’ started their careers in male crews as the solo female and many ended up leaving. Oftentimes, the crew replaced them with another woman or did not provide equitable promotion of their talents. The current trend is that these women are going independent – launching solo albums with independent labels. A few are even forming all-female groups, such as 3sum with Remy Ma and Jacki-O. Despite these changes, female solidarity in hip-hop is far from reality. Did you notice that 3sum strangely only has 2 members? Remy Ma and Jacki-O went on a national tour auditioning for the femcee that could join the group. After finding Shawnna in Chicago, they began recording music, but Shawnna soon left. She explains on MySpace that she “didn’t want to ruin her relationship with Jacki and Remy. I don’t like to be in an enclosed environment with females.” Selah pinpoints my sentiments exactly, “You’d think she’s talking about wild animals or something.”
Selah hints that the major problem could be hip-hop’s target audience: men. Not that men are to blame, but marketing is. In general, men only listen to a few female artists and by marketing solely to them, competition is stiff. And sexual. In mainstream music magazines, videos, and radio stations, the women dressed in sex are pushed to the forefront. It is easy for women to fall in line with marketing expectations and battle their way to the few top spots as female MC. For example, Selah noticed that everyone she interviewed, and she emphasized everyone, dissed on Khia, who made it big in 2002 for “My Neck, My Back” and coined herself “Queen of the South.”‘
After reading this article I feel even more strongly about reaching out to other women in male-dominated activities and fields and supporting them to reach success. It will be a new kind of battle to wage. And, you know, if anyone in Chicago feels likewise, uh, give me a call sometime. We could, you know, hang out.