The following is one of three reports written for publication in the feminist newsjournal off our backs, the other two being The New Antipornography Slideshow and Pornography, Prostitution & Sex Trafficking: How Do You Tell the Difference?
Pornography and Pop Culture: Reframing Theory, Rethinking Activism was a conference held at Wheelock College in Boston in March 2007 to reinvigorate the feminist antipornography movement and introduce modern methods of organizing resistance to an increasingly pornified culture.
Beyond Beats and Rhymes: A Hip-Hop Head Weighs in on Manhood in Hip-Hop Culture
Byron Hurt reported by S.M. Berg
With a conference title like "Pornography and Pop Culture: Reframing
Theory, Rethinking Activism," one could assume some heavy-hitting
feminist philosophizing about pornography was about to go down in
Boston, and one would be right. But kicking off the weekend's
educational seminars and slideshows was a decidedly nonacademic movie
that didn't mention feminism or even pornography, instead it dealt with issues
of race and masculinity in hip-hop. The movie Beyond Beats and Rhymes
featured quarterback/antisexism activist Byron Hurt taking a close look
at hip hop's soaring popularity in light of its increasingly sexist and
homophobic content, intersecting qualities that coincide too neatly
with pornography's recent pop culture ascent.
Hurt interviewed prominent hip hop artists like Chuck D, Jadakiss and
Russell Simmons to ask them how they feel about what today's lyrics
tell us about black men, black women and the new hip-hop generation.
Between interviews and music video clips were alarming statistics such
as that 61 percent of rape victims are under 18 and 49 percent of
gunshot victims are black men. Obvious comparisons between hip-hop
videos and pornography quickly showed themselves to be only the first
of several deeper levels of analysis Hurt made. When questioning why 70
percent of mainstream hip hop is consumed by white men, Hurt didn't shy
away from connecting the music's virulent misogyny to what white male
consumers want to see. If black women are overwhelmingly portrayed as
bitches and ho's while black men are portrayed as gangstas and pimps,
it's mostly because that's how white male consumers driving the market
want to see black people portrayed.
His point was not to avoid black men's responsibility for their
complicity in objectifying women, but to recognize the radical idea
that oppressions and oppressed people are more similar to each other
than they are to the white men at the top benefiting from racist and
sexist stereotypes. The public face of hip hop is that of black men
while the bulk of hip hop's profits go to wealthy white men, and the
public face of pornography is white women while yet more wealthy white
men run off with millions in exploited profit. Exploitation means to
benefit at another's expense, and it would be hard to view corporate
media's appropriation of black culture and all colors of women's bodies
as anything but a one-sided win for capitalists.
Byron Hurt is a former Northeastern University football star and a long-time gender violence prevention educator. He is also the director and producer of the documentary film Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes and produced the award-winning documentary I Am A Man: Black Masculinity in America.
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