14 April 2007

What is the Plural of "Ho"?

There sure is a lot of interesting speech going around of late. Imus gets fired, twice, for calling the Rutgers women’s basketball team things he clearly should not call them. That he has, or had, an audience only highlights the low which passes as entertainment. I’ve never listened to the Imus show, so I have no idea if the rhetorical bar there was set above or below that of, say, Howard Stern in the “shock-jock” category.

What matters more is not what happened in the isolated case of Imus and his mouth, but rather what this illustrates about the wider use of language in the US by different groups. Imus was nailed to the wall for what he said, and I suppose I should quote here for later juxtaposition: “nappy-headed hos.” (I’m not sure if an apostrophe belongs in the proper spelling of the plural form of “ho” – call me ignorant.)

Two basic facts leap out as to why Imus was fired over this comment: he’s white and he’s a man.

Unfortunately for women, and black women most, rap music has been replete with hos, bitches, and violence against them since its early days. Millions, perhaps billions, of dollars have been made from the rap music industry. It’s been going on for years, and yet no one seems to mind this now-ingrained derogatory attitude towards women which rap has created. It’s such a staple of rap that it must be accepted, on artistic grounds, no less. To quote Snoop Dogg, rap musicians “have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them (expletive) say we in the same league as [Imus].” Thus it is perfectly proper for a rapper to use whatever language he likes concerning women. You see, it’s in their souls.

If that doesn’t really bother people, there is little argument to have here. Imus is one man with one viewpoint, easily dealt with by changing the station – if he had not been fired. Rap music is a “culture”, or perhaps more appropriately, a part of a culture which has grown within the US for the past two decades. Through the fixing of hip-hop culture into America, degenerative attitudes concerning not only women, but also the proper roles of men and the need to respect authority have found a permanent place from which to grow.

Hopefully there will be growing noise about this. I do not believe that rap should be banned, or that lyrics (or speech) should be censored. Let those of lesser values speak their minds, but those of even moderately higher values should refuse their message. Money is the motivator here, and if it walks away from rap music, the tune will change. Indeed, Imus was fired not immediately after his gaff, but after his two biggest commercial sponsors dropped the show.

1 comment:

kmb said...

I think there are plenty of people who have been and will continue to make noise about the disgusting nature of rap music and indeed the culture you've discussed which not only denegrates women, but men as well. I'm not particularly a fan of rap music for many reasons, not the least of which are the lyrics. But that might be old age and feminist studies rearing their heads. I mean, there was a time when I shouted happily along with "I did it with a whiffle ball bat," not thinking twice about the sexually violent connotations of what I was saying.

Imus' comments were ridiculous, and his pathetic apologies after the fact did little except make himself look even more idiotic. But I really believe you got it right by saying that it's a money thing: it always is, isn't it? There are people who say truly insulting and offensive things every day, right out there in the public square in front of god and everyone, but after a moment of shocked hand-to-mouth they flow right back out of the public consciousness. Take Pat Robertson for example. Take those fuck-ups from the Jonesboro Baptist Church, blaming the war in Iraq on gay people. I mean, for crying out loud. But there's no money involved there, so no one gives a shit.

I'm having a very fine cup of coffee and enjoying reading your blog this morning. Thanks for the distraction from pressing legal matters (I'm a poor representation of the legal profession, haha.)