Posted Aug 14th, 2015 (9:29 am) by Lucy Xiong
Image by Universal Pictures

Depicting NWA as social heros speaks to our culture’s willingness to overlook violence towards women in the interest of iconizing men.

I’m not trying to knock NWA’s influence on West Coast hip-hop and music in general. Nor am I saying Dr. Dre isn’t a hitmaking wizard. Also, yes, yes and yes to Fuck The Police. Props to NWA for helping young men feel understood throughout the decades...thumbs up to all that. But continuing to celebrate and make excuses for artists who built much of their platform by disrespecting women lyrically and in real life is an issue we need to address.

Are we really going to just forget the infamous casting sheet for the film from last summer? Stratifying women based on naturalness of hair, skin color and weight for the purpose of entertainment is explicitly racist and dehumanizing. We ultimately accepted it because we accept that Hollywood is deeply racist and misogynistic.

We let moments like when Dre repeatedly kicked a woman in the ribs and smashed her face into a brick wall fade out of our consciousness because we understand the pressure black men face and accept that violence towards women is just a part of our perception of the gangsta rap world. It seems, based on this logic, that as long as the world gets the entertainment it wants, the reduction of women to sex objects and punching bags is totally acceptable. In other words — it is okay to harm women for the sake of entertainment.

While everyone is going on about how much NWA did for hip hop or black communities — let’s be real for a minute. Gangsta rap blew up because it caricaturized a lifestyle rooted in poverty and institutionalized racism, all the while replicating the violence that caused those conditions in its discussion and treatment of women. The following lyrics from “Boyz-N-The-Hood” exemplifies this behavior perfectly:

“Dumb ho said something that made me mad
She said somethin' that I couldn't believe
So I grabbed the stupid bitch by her nappy ass weave
She started talkin' shit, wouldn't you know?
Reached back like a pimp and slapped the ho”'

Now, people are going to make the argument that “this behavior is just a reflection of the violence of their conditions” to try to rationalize their violence against women. This is a phenomenon is a reflection of society's unwillingness to confront the nuances of misogyny. Women of color are continually relegated to bearing not only the violence of the ruling class, but also the internalized violence of oppressed men. They are simultaneously expected to uphold the family, provide care for literally everyone, and remain silent. All the while, WOC are at the forefront of fighting for the liberation of the same men who abuse them then being sidelined and erased from the work.

This is just to say I don’t care how many times you rightfully say “Fuck The Police” or describe life in the hood with rhetorical excellence — it simply cannot be okay to even slightly excuse the acts of total dehumanizing violence inflicted upon WOC by MOC because of the violence of their conditions. Too long has that resulted in a erasure and pardon of cruel misogyny. Is domestic violence psychologically understandable in marginalized communities— yes. Is genocide or racist terrorism psychologically understandable? Yes. Does that mean that we should try to remember the good and overlook the bad? Should black and brown women be expected to understand that getting beaten, raped, and/or murdered is ultimately an understandable result of the pressures faced by the men of their communities? The way black men should understand getting shot because the cop was scared and poorly trained? Of course not.

As Son of Baldwin said, “All that awful shit they said about black women in their music, they actually did those things to living, breathing black women. Misoynoir wasn't just some lyrical fodder; it was their lifestyle.” So unless this film is actually going to depict something outside of the status quo — which is black men being depicted as thugs and dangerous while black women are depicted as willing subjects of violence, no I’m not that excited. It sounds like it’s a Hollywood blockbuster because it replicates the things that Hollywood loves — misogyny, worship of material things, and violence. But let's hope I'm wrong.

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