You Asked It

Just Wondering

Wherein we try to untangle some of your most perplexing quandaries. (Ours: how did French Montana come up in TWO consecutive answers this month?)

Is it bad to act differently around a boy you like to impress him? Or is that being fake? When do you cross the line? —Charlotte, Portland, OR

Hey there, Charlotte! So, did you like the part of Things Fall Apart that we read for English today? I thought it was so aweso—oh, you hated it? Y-yeah, me too! Actually I barely even read or buttever. *twirls hair, nervously hides lovingly worn library card*

Hi for real this time, my dear Charlotte, and let me tell you the very obvious moral to the above scenario: if by acting “differently” around a boy, you mean dumbing yourself down or pretending to hate the things you like, then yes, that is being fake. It’s also disrespecting and devaluing yourself, plus also, let’s say that in some alternate universe this tactic isn’t totally obvious (which it always is), and it works on a guy—what are you and this lunkhead ever gonna talk about? Things are going to get real boring, real quick. I’m not saying you ALWAYS have to be talking about your passion for Sailor Moon or E=MC-squaring your smarts in dudes’ faces all the time in order to be genuine—just don’t purposely hide these things.

But maybe you’re talking about the other side of this kind of behavior, where you pretend to like or know about things that you really have no interest in, just to impress some superfox with ~interesting interests~. This tactic, like the last one, is totally transparent, believe me, but there’s a good alternative that will allow you to talk to him about the books and music and TV shows and other junk that he likes without faking a thing. Why not just be honest and say, “No, I haven’t heard the new French Montana yet, but I want to! What are your favorite parts?” HEY PRESTO: you’re having a genuine conversation about something you don’t know about, without having to lie! And now he’ll feel comfortable admitting that he’s never watched Doctor Who, and you can invite him over to get caught up. Awesome, right? —Amy Rose

How do you deal with enjoying/loving things that happen to be at least a little bit misogynistic? I’ve been getting really into rap music—it has great energy and makes me happy, and also has deep moments that let me brood and think about the meaning of life. But, as you already know, a lot of rap music is really problematic—it can be sexist and homophobic, and a lot of it endorses violence and crime. How do I reconcile my genuine love for this art form with my feminism and my general everybody-loves-everybody vibe? —K.T., Cape Town, South Africa

Oh, K.T. This is one of the fundamental and defining questions of my entire life. It sucks when you’re on the dance floor, having a good time shaking it to some crazy beat like “Pop That,” and then all of a sudden Lil Wayne comes on and tells you to suck his wiener for pieces from his corny-ass T-shirt line and you’re like…NAH. And your whole dance-floor flow is interrupted by a lyric that isn’t even clever. But! That song is fun to jump around to. What the hell is going on?!

One of the things about misogyny in (American) hip-hop is that like all art, it’s a microcosm of the misogyny that goes on in society. And it’s not just confined to rap music: you can easily find misogynistic undertones (and overtones!) in rock, pop, country, dance, R&B. Even Taylor Swift has some lyrics that I find to be a product of the larger culture of misogyny. (“She’s better known for things she does on the mattress”? Come on, dude!) The fact is, no art form exists that is completely devoid of problematic elements, and there never will be, unless and until we are living in a perfectly harmonious utopia where everyone is treated equally and everyone has access to the same basic necessities and we all high-five one another while walking down the street. So yeah, not to be a downer but: never. So if you refuse to consume any art or culture that isn’t 100 percent perfectly in line with your morals and your politics, you will not get to watch, read, listen to, or dance to anything ever again. Given those choices, I’ll shake my head at Lil Wayne and continue dancing.

However! I’m not saying we have to just accept things the way they are. You will never be able to unhear some of the vilest stuff, and what’s worse is that most of the misogyny in rap songs is directed at women of color, who are already disproportionately oppressed (not just in America). Loving rap music as you do, and I do, doesn’t mean making excuses for misogynistic lyrics or torturing logic and common sense to argue that they’re actually lampooning or subverting misogyny somehow. If you love something, you want it to be better, right? Hold your favorite artists accountable for what they say on their records.

Meanwhile, you don’t have to feel guilty or “wrong” for loving rap music. Just because you enjoy a song that is gross towards women doesn’t make you a bad feminist, or self-hating. You’re just part of a long continuum of complicated art appreciation that feminists (including the entire movement of hip-hop feminism) have been dealing with ever since Roxanne Shanté recorded a diss track in response to UTFO’s misogynist song “Roxanne, Roxanne” in 1984, at the age of 14. Women before us were thinking about this stuff, and those after us will continue to do the tough work and the confrontational twerk. I recommend reading the original bible of hip-hop feminism, When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost by Joan Morgan. She wrote it in the 1990s, when she was in her 20s and grappling with these exact same questions, and it’s a really good entry point for sorting out your feelings. (Also, Joan Morgan is the best.) And beyond that there’s a whole world of strong women rappers with feminist attitudes (and lyrics to match) that can help balance out the ick of having just listened to a bunch of strip-club anthems. (I for one will never feel as good listening to the grody yet clever lines of, say, Dipset as I do listening to “You Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo.”) A good resource is the Female Rappers Tumblr, which not only posts current people like Azealia Banks, Angel Haze, and Dominique Young Unique, but also goes deep into the archives of Trina, Lil’ Kim, Eve, and them. Good luck K.T., and stay strong! And remember, a good response to the question “What you twerkin’ with?” is “My fist.” Pop that. —Julianne

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36 Comments

  • DreamBoat December 11th, 2012 11:18 PM

    AWWW ROOKIE, YOU ARE ALWAYS THE BEST!!
    May I suggest a little SALT with your PEPA for the female rappers? Salt ‘n’ Pepa are perfect, and “None of Your Business” is like, an amazing anti-slut shaming song! Plus their stuff is SUPER fun to dance to, and it’s pretty much the most rad thing ever!!
    I also grapple with a lot of problems with my music, because I listen to a lot of oldies-type music, some/a lot of which has misogynistic undertones. I’ll be listening to my JAM and then suddenly, I’m like “WAIT THAT IS SO WRONG! HOW COULD I LISTEN TO THIS!?” So, that was some great advice from you lovelies <3

    P.S. I have sooooo many issues with Taylor. "I'll tell all of my friends you're gay"? NOT COOL!

    http://psychedelicdaisy.blogspot.com

  • jenaimarley December 11th, 2012 11:33 PM

    Thanks Rookie!
    Also just wanted to mention: mc yogi is a really dance-able and fresh (also kind of coolly spiritual) rapper!

  • ViolentDreams December 11th, 2012 11:49 PM

    WOW that whole article on college was so spot on. Rookie you read my mind!, reading that article, i was staring at my internal conflict. Thanxxx Danielle for giving such a real perspective

  • estelle December 12th, 2012 12:04 AM

    Dear K.T.-
    about that rap. listen to Macklemore. He is a god. And his producer, Ryan Lewis, is so hot and yummy. He has songs about gay rights (Same Love), thrift shopping (Thrift Shop), consumerism(Wing$), and the beats are siiiick. Plus he has hilarious songs that just make you want to laugh and hug and dance, like American, Penis Song, Castle, And We Danced, Irish Celebration, Can’t Hold Us, White Walls and Victory Lap. Another good rap song is by a guy called Dee-1, he has this song called “You Stupid Fool” about all those rappers who make up stuff that never happened. But its always ok to relax and listen to whatever you want, and you dont have to agree with the message. BUT MACKLEMORE & RYAN LEWIS ARE SERIOUSLY THE BEST I WENT TO 2 OF THEIR CONCERTS IN THE PAST 3 MONTHS. love them. hope this helps to you or anyone reading this.

    • kirsten December 12th, 2012 1:19 AM

      Macklemore is the BEST. Another great song is “Otherside,” which is about drug abuse and how rap influences teens.

      Also, the music video to “And We Danced” is hilarious.

      As a Seattle native (holla!), Macklemore is close to my heart <3

      • tcmaree December 12th, 2012 4:54 AM

        MACKLEMORE + RYAN LEWIS 4LYF.

    • farawayfaerie December 12th, 2012 9:39 AM

      hey! i really like your comment and I’m definitely going to check out Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis, ’cause they sound awesome and it feels so good to listen to ‘decent’ music. but it’s also kind of about getting to love rappers even though they’re sexist and/or homophobic, and then trying to ignore that side of them and just go along with it. I mean, i don’t want to not be able to like their music anymore…but I also think it’s important to see others who do good, so I’m really excited to do more research on it.

      • back2thepast December 12th, 2012 12:20 PM

        DUDE Macklemore is my LIFE gaaaahh he is so amazing. And his music videos are spectacular-go watch Otherside Remix Ft. Fences music video it’s really beautiful.I love him because he adresses serious issues but he’s also hilarious. I’m super obsessed with the Thrift Shop Video and the song American-piss yourself humor, he is just so damn good.

  • Christi December 12th, 2012 12:17 AM

    Rap is incredible, but when you listen to FEMALES who can spit BETTER than guys, it makes it a whole lot better!!! Azealia Banks is my favorite right now, though

  • Teez December 12th, 2012 12:45 AM

    really good video of bell hooks on rap: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xtoanes_L_g&feature=player_embedded

  • adelia f December 12th, 2012 1:22 AM

    Emily, check out schools like Hampshire College and Evergreen. They basically let you design your own course of study and there’s a huge emphasis on the arts. They really require you to be self-motivated (you’re basically setting the standards for yourself along with the professors you ask to be on your committee), which is hard for some people but sounds perfect for you.

  • georgie fruit December 12th, 2012 2:00 AM

    also if you’re into feminism and hip hop culture read the Crunk Feminist Collective blog! it’s under construction right now but they are on tumblr: http://crunkfeministcollective.tumblr.com/ and they are AMAZING.

    also Katastrophe is a Bay Area rapper and spoken word poet who is also FtM trans, and raps about a lot of his experiences living in all kinds of marginal spaces.

  • GorillazFangirl December 12th, 2012 2:24 AM

    Woo hoo! Yoh, another capetonian rookie reader, this is so exciting!

  • orientaltiger December 12th, 2012 2:26 AM

    I am surprised that I’m not crazy. That might sound a little irrelevant and silly but I mean that in relation to the comment about T-Swizzle’s lyrics. I tried to listen to her RED album, and while I liked some of the catchiness (is that a word?) about it, I couldn’t stand a few lyrics at least, because I felt like they were either throwing shade at girls (like hidden slut shaming) or just plain irksome for some reason I can’t pinpoint or remember. I used to question why I was picking out these things / making these up but perhaps I’m not. Funny how I’ve been following Rookie since the start, but it took a Taylor Swift moment for me to register and create a comment. :3

  • MichelleCarneece December 12th, 2012 2:51 AM

    Danielle, your response is incredibly encouraging, because I’m in EXACTLY the same position as Emily (although I’m a sophomore). My true passions are art and writing, and although I’m actually enrolled in a creative writing program at uni, I feel as if I’m not learning as much as I do whenever I’m on my own and involved in my own research. I adore learning, but classroom environments suffocate me (spoiled by unschooling? Probably.) Of course, whenever I’ve mentioned this to anyone, they’ve made me feel petty for “being immature” and “making up problems about school”, so the guilt factor ramps up. I don’t want to disappoint anyone, but I feel as if I’m disappointing myself the longer I stay in school and drift farther away from a drive to do anything at all.

  • zombiesockmonkey December 12th, 2012 3:54 AM

    I’ve always seen college as a means of pursuing my dreams, by providing me with the financial and basically life stability to do so.

    that being said I can still relate to the frustration of going through the college grind instead of doing what you love

  • La La Land December 12th, 2012 4:48 AM

    Looooove Danielle’s answer!!!
    I’m so so glad you pointed out one can always return to college later! So often people think that if they drop out of school that will be their fate forever. But it’s so much better to go back to studying when you actually want to do it, so that you will enjoy your time and actually appreciate all the amazing resources that your university can offer!
    I didn’t drop out, but directly didn’t go to university after high school, cuz it had been so hard for me that i just knew i couldn’t go on studying back then (even though i really love knowledge, and books, and learning). Just a few years later (after working and having amazing adventures around the world) i found the most amazing university, which I am attending now! If i hadn’t given myself the time i needed i would have never: 1- known about this university, 2-been accepted (my school grades alone weren’t all that special), 3- appreciated being a student so much, 4-had the background of life experience that is allowing to understand so much better a lot of what im studying!
    And really, it was all worth it even just to have access to the amazing library of my university ;)

  • rose-nymph December 12th, 2012 6:40 AM

    Thank you so much Sady, I am pretty much going through the same thing and this has helped immensely. I feel like I’m forever in debt to Rookie and all of the great contributors xx

  • filmfatale December 12th, 2012 7:24 AM

    You know who’s a good female MC? Ana Tijoux. I actually want to get better at Spanish so I can figure out what she’s saying.

    Here’s her video for “Shock”, a song she wrote with Naomi Klein:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=177-s44MSVQ

  • Isil December 12th, 2012 10:45 AM

    You people are beautiful for helping people like this. I’ve never been into a depression problem, or something about my school (i have bad grades, but i like my school) but I’ve always afraid of it and I am not good at all about giving suggestions about serious stuff if someone asks me about it. Thank you all for helping people.

    http://isilnoir.wordpress.com

  • spudzine December 12th, 2012 11:54 AM

    I really liked how different this article was from all of the other “Just Wonderings” Probably because of its serious undertones, and because I feel like I can relate to a couple-if not all-of the questions above. I feel like whether you go to college or not, it all burns down to how driven you are at wanting whatever it is that you want.

    http://spudzine.tumblr.com/

  • Miss Erin December 12th, 2012 5:05 PM

    Danielle, as someone who has already decided not to go to college (for now, anyway), I still found your answer REALLY inspiring and encouraging, and want to say thank you for it!

  • Cerise December 12th, 2012 6:40 PM

    Advice that includes a reference to Doctor Who? Thank you Amy Rose!

    Seriously, though, I definitely agree. Don’t pretend to like/dislike things you really don’t/do like. If you hate Monty Python–which would make me sad :’(–then don’t say you *love* it, because then the person in question may buy you Monty Python and the Holy Grail for Christmas and ask to watch it with you.

    Also, it’s totally fine (and fun, even) to not know anything about your crush/significant other’s favorite things. We don’t have to share every interest we have. There was this one guy I really liked who was obsessed with martial arts–something I didn’t really know a whole lot about–but he was cool with that, and we actually had some interesting conversations about what he was learning, which was fun (plus his love for it was adorable).

    Plus, if you both are open and honest about what you like, you may discover something awesome together that you can share. (Like Doctor Who!)

  • FlowerPower December 12th, 2012 6:44 PM

    I can totally relate to that “talking to a boy” example. We just finished reading “The House on Mango Street” and I about the only person (besides the teacher) who enjoyed it. Always makes for an awkward conversation.
    ~Caroline~

  • sophiethewitch December 12th, 2012 7:00 PM

    I’m pretty sure that one of the two people who landed the rover on Mars is a dropout.

  • Martinapovolo December 12th, 2012 7:32 PM

    y’all should get christopher owens to do that ask a grown man thingy!!!

  • lizzyheinie December 12th, 2012 7:51 PM

    Female rappers tumblr link is broken :( Amazing suggestions from all the rookies though!

  • wiltedrues December 12th, 2012 9:48 PM

    K.T. and anyone else who’s interested,
    I recommend listening to Brother Ali! He’s an underground rapper from Minneapolis and is very genuine and has a powerful story and lyrics. He especially focuses on the problems in America like racism and sexism, so I think you’ll find meaning in his work. I’ve met him multiple times and he’s a really great guy with great beats.
    Good luck!

  • insteadofanelephant December 12th, 2012 9:54 PM

    really good advice! i love getting new music and movie ideas from cute boys or girls. people are always willing to show you something they love and will want you to get involved too so you can love it TOGETHER! even if you don’t end up loving each other.

    XX
    blog: instead of an elephant
    Creative Director: Thread Magazine

  • Aurora December 12th, 2012 9:59 PM

    Julia, I am going through a startlingly similar problem, but the guy is not my boyfriend. He cuts himself a lot, and he has been hospitalized three times. He texts me all the time asking for advice, and it’s hard. I can’t fathom how it would feel to be in a romantic relationship with someone who is so depressed. I hope everything works out okay with your boyfriend, and I think I speak for everyone on this site when I say we love you :)

  • insteadofanelephant December 12th, 2012 10:00 PM

    emily from chicago: I don’t think you should drop out just yet! college isn’t for everyone but I hated HATED my entire freshman year but now this school is one of the most memorable, dearly to-be missed things about my life. I didn’t think I was learning anything new, but then I took some more classes and I learned not just new info, but new ways to THINK. I’ve heard of a lot of people transferring, who have become quite happier after they did, so that is always an option too. In my opinion, there is always time for that work hard/travel break after school or during the breaks you’ll have in the summer or holidays. There are also SO many study abroad options that I think you should consider! Don’t cross staying where you are off the list just yet.

    blog: instead of an elephant
    Creative Director: Thread Magazine

  • MaggietheCat December 13th, 2012 12:31 AM

    Although I’m happy with the life I have now, I really wish I hadn’t dropped out of college.

    I went to beauty school after working retail for a while, and I loved it so much. I’m an apprentice in a salon now. I plan to go back to school after becoming a stylist.

    I just wish I had sucked it up and finished school, but I couldn’t pass anything that wasn’t English or art.

    It will take a lot longer and be A LOT more expensive next time around, though.

    Lets just say that I now understand what my dad meant when he said that then was the best time to do it.

  • sneakybacon December 13th, 2012 7:47 AM

    hey K.T, maybe coming from south africa you’ve heard of Die Antwoord? theyre kinda a love it or hate band (i love it) but they deal with a lot of issues that rappers don’t always, the homogenisation of modern music the lines between black and white and out of the two members (most awesome husband n wife team eva!) the girl is so incredible, definitely worth a look

  • hollyholly December 13th, 2012 8:04 PM

    I LOOOVE Rookie and this article and hate to nitpick, but it would be super-cool if you linked to books on, say, an indie bookseller’s website (like Powell’s) instead of Amazon.com! (Here’s When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: http://www.powells.com/biblio/2-9780684868615-1) :)

  • justsomeone December 14th, 2012 11:54 PM

    Rookie, you rock. I sometimes wonder if other people see the world as sickening and wrong, or if I am too sensitive? To me, the world seems wrong, so wrong that the written word will never do it justice, just as it seems there is none of that in this world. Maybe other people ignore it, in the knowledge that there is nothing we will do to rectify this…this pile of blood, guts and pain, sweetened only by those we love and the notion of life itself. God…where is the answer? Buried beneath the remains of the dead and all of those who have died without justice? Or is it just nowhere to be found? I then turn to Rookie and read all the stories and comments of the brave and beautiful readers out there and I can hope again. Thankyou Rookie. In a world where all hope appears lost sometimes, you provide answers, hope and light.