The Female Quota

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.


6 responses to “The Female Quota

  1. guest writers!
    well done and thank you for helping me think in different ways…
    i have heard:
    “i just don’t like being around girls”
    far too many times.
    how can i help this?

  2. rev– i feel like you’re spot on in this assessment. And i wonder if the lack of durable male/female relationships is a sexual thing. in my experience, if nothing sexual happens in a m/f thing, the guy generally moves on. personally, i’ve felt that in relationships with guys it’s rare that i find a male friend who treats me as an equal and not as a sex object; and that, at times, my “friendships” with guys just devolve into little more than flirtations. And there seems to ALWAYS be a neverending debate about “can women and men be just friends?” a spouse/partner gets jealous, or there seems to be an assumption that, inevitably, the relationship will “turn” sexual. WHAT’S UP WITH THAT??

    and david= explain that that is sexist, reductive, and, culturally, gets us nowhere.
    as a man, do you have any insight or thoughts about why you think that kind of attitude is prevalent- or what you think guys are really trying to say?

  3. sorry for the late response. been busy in nebraska visiting family, but hope we can continue this conversation.

    david, exactly. i hear that all the time and admit to saying similar things from time to time. i don’t know how to change that except by changing my own attitude, hoping that other women feel more comfortable speaking with me.

    and spitfire, i just don’t get that one either. because men are always around me, it makes perfect sense that i would become friends with at least some of them. it would be impossible that every relationship i had with a man would be sexual. several of the friendships i started out in chicago, though, became sexual many times without my even knowing it. just by showing interest in hanging out it would turn that way. it was very confusing. i think what may be going on is that my experience is the complete opposite of men i hang out with. they don’t befriend many women on a daily basis. they are constantly surrounded by other men. it is easy for them to hold assumptions about women without ever figuring it out. they are not morons, obviously, and i enjoy their company, but when i think that i am not much different than them except by our anatomy, they tend to think that deep down inside i am still very much the standard “woman” that they cannot fully relate to.

  4. buckingthewave

    and perhaps not the “standard ‘woman'” as you say, but this mythological version of woman that they expect lurks beneath the exterior of the real women that surround them.

  5. to be successful in the hip-hop world is to be male, or so it seems. if a female want success, she must balance the tightrope walk between male and female–don’t associate with other females (for fear of being girlie or obtaining feminine traits) and yet use your sexuality to lock in the male gaze. competition is fierce, and rather than embracing your fellow femcees, its better to tear them down to put yourself up for fear that the hip-hop community cannot embrace “too many” females.

  6. i’m glad we got the ‘gaze’ in there. i hadn’t seen that word around for a while.

    s- i mostly just get shit from people when i say things like ‘reductive’ or perhaps there is a better way to think about this. i’m being bossy at best and have been called ‘oppressive’ (on this point particularly). people don’t like to be challenged on what they say. especially when it is something as generalizing and off-hand as “i don’t like _____”. even though this seems to me to be most dangerous.

    s/rev- i also don’t get that. but i might think this: a lot of people don’t know how to have friends. they have 3-5 people that they spend time with. often (thanks to homophily) these groups become single gender/sex/minded and any interloping is dealt with by the very skewed normality of the group.

    maybe these sorts of things take the subtlety that can only be read on a case by case basis.
    maybe we can just decide to make things better…

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