by Erica Reinhardt

37 years old, mother of two sons and teacher of “computer stuff,” what are you imagining as I say these characteristics? Probably not the woman who stood in front of me and enlightened me on the true meaning of PMS, promoting my sisters. Amber organizes an all-female showcase every year in Pittsburgh to give female rap artists an opportunity to perform their music. She calls the showcase, “Promoting my Sisters.” Amber is a regular woman, but she has another side to her. The other side is Hollyhood, a woman who brings awareness to how gender plays a role in rap music.

Amber enlightened the audience about the history of Rap. She spoke about how Rap music was born in the Bronx in the 70s and was popularized by black and Latino youths. People of color wrote rap music and performed rap music and shared their feelings and experiences through rap music. It’s now 2017 and rap is a genre of music that is very predominant in popular culture. The main consumer of rap music is young white men. To them, rap music pumps them up, it brings them confidence through the beat and lyrics causing them to feel superior to girls. Here lays the problem. The majority of rap music negates feminist thought and empowerment in order to boost the male ego. Women are represented as sexual objects though lyrics and music videos that many rappers use. Hollyhood brought to our attention some major examples. To start, the lyrics by Dr. Dre, “Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks,” exemplify how women are represented as sexual objects. Kanye West creates the image of a woman being a gold digger in his song Gold Digger. Dr. Dre and Kanye West are just two examples of the many other rappers that produce music that objectifies and sexualizes woman in order to strengthen the male ego.

One song Hollyhood presented to the audience for critique is the song “Sisters and Bitches” by Jay-Z. Jay-Z shows how women can be placed into two categories by men who objectify women, a sister, the wife type or, a bitch, a sexual object. He spends the first half of the song discussing what a bitch is, a woman who is sexually active, goes out and drinks. He spends the second half of the song discussing sisters, women who sit at home, raise children, work hard in life and look out for their man. Hollyhood did a good job pointing out how there is no in between. A woman who genuinely enjoys going out and having a few drinks is automatically labeled as a bitch. Then you have a woman who enjoys staying in with her family and she is labeled a sister. There is nothing to say one lifestyle is better than the other, so what makes “Sisters and Bitches” a justifiable song?

Hollyhood rejected rap music that objectified women and shared with us some of her own music. Her music promotes women doing whatever they chose to do to make them happy. She played us her song, “I’m A Lady.” In the song she says, “Independent, so you fearing us.” There is emphasis put on women holding their own power, defining who they are without derogative words to make them feel poorly about themselves. The song also promotes women working hard and making their own money and not having to rely on a man.

Walking out of Hollyhood’s presentation left me with my eyes open. I’m not going to lie to anyone who reads my event post, I know almost all of the rap in “Gold Digger” by Kanye West. Hollyhood pointed out “Gold Digger” to the audience due to the characterization of women as a gold digger. At the same time I have never actually listened to the lyrics, nor have I thought about them. Just because I know these lyrics and raps doesn’t make me feel embarrassed, it doesn’t make me feel ashamed but rather it encourages me to demand a change. In the music industry, rap music that objectifies women sells, I can’t deny these statistics. What I can do, and what everyone can do, is promote female artists such as Hollyhood or Beyoncé who use their lyrics to encourage other women to do what makes them happy and makes them feel successful.