Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Look under the Skin of an "Independent Woman"

Before I analyze Roxanne Shante's song "Independent Woman", I would like to address a few things mentioned in class. We listened to both "Hold Ya Head Up" and "For Women" and a few of us (including myself) came to the realization that these songs are not very empowering because of their content: they describe pain and suffering more than they give empowering messages. Christopher said something to address this as well: is it enough to alert to the fact that social ills exist? That's what Tupac and Kweli seemed to be doing in their songs.

After this discussion, I decided to go back and analyze the rest of the songs we had been given for homework that evening (maybe these provide some greater sense of empowerment for some reason). "Independent Woman" is a song from 1990 that was written by a woman, for women. I think this is the first overwhelmingly significant difference between this song and the two we listened to in class. Tupac and Talib create songs meant to empower women; however, how can one truly know how to empower a group if they themselves are not part of the repressed? To me, this is problem for both songs that we listened to. Shante associates herself with the repressed saying "We've come a long way" and offers help to her fellow women assertively. Because of raps image as being a fairly misogynistic genre of music, it is hard to trust the "empowering" lyrics of a male rapper. Perhaps what I think is too bold of an opinion: Chris Pearson of "Hip-Hop Players" writes:

"To claim that rap music and Hip Hop culture are purely and simply misogynistic is to view rap and the Hip Hop realm uncritically from the perspective of an outsider. In sum, Hip Hop, including rap music, is a complex and contradictory arena in which regressive and oppressive elements sometimes complicate and at times even undermine what fundamentally remains an oppositional and potentially liberatory project. …"

Reading his take on to what extent we can generalize misogyny in rap was insightful and is definitely important to what I am arguing. But without referencing hip-hop's past or hip-hop's image as "somewhat" misogynistic, do any of you also find what I have said true? Is an empowering message more empowering if it is said from the words of the repressed, not of a witness (Tupac, Kweli, etc)? 

Another element that I feel makes her lyrics empowering lies in verse 2. She is blaming these women for their suffering, saying that they are naive and should have expected it. She writes, "You put your faith in the guys with the hazel eyes/ you thought you would get a prize, all you got was lies". This is a crucial component of the song: I feel that empowering lyrics provide a lot more than sympathy. She is telling these repressed women that they put themselves in this hole and it is there job to find that inner strength.

Do you agree with my stance on what is "empowering" hip-hop? It is definitely up for debate. 

Here is Roxanne Shante's "Independent Woman"

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