A favorite of the youth, hip-hop is nevertheless a harmful musical gender because it promotes homophobia and sexism by means of the verses of songs, but also by means of the poses that singers take, their lifestyles, their attitudes, and their behavior. In music video and in other types of media, hip hop singers portray a hyper-masculine type of behavior which mirrors the society’s admiration for the ‘macho’ man, but also, they exaggerate the behavior of American men, and their attitude towards women and gay persons.
The angry black men who are generally featured in hip hop music videos have appropriated this hyper-masculine image as a way of giving a voice to an entire minority group who have suffered centuries of humility and now, want to gain respect by means of their physical attributes, and by surpassing the average American male in strength, sexuality, and violence, as a means to gain the respect of a patriarchal society. Therefore, the present paper argues, the hyper-masculinity found in hip-hop songs is to a great extent the result of the normative issues of sexism and homophobia in the American society, but also have to do with the centuries-long discrimination of the black man.
Homophobia may be defined as the rejection of homosexuals, whereas sexism is the discriminatory behavior towards women in the society or at home. Homophobia and sexism are interrelated issues in the American society, because they both have to do with the way that members of the society perceive gender roles. Thus, the widespread of homophobia and sexism constitute mainly the result of the strict enforcement of gender roles, and heterosexuality. The traditional American concern for the preservation of the family unit, with the male as the head of the family, and the primary breadwinner, and the female as caregiver, and housewife, have determined the dissemination of misogynist behavior in the society, and a disdain for non-conforming masculine images, which threaten the masculine social order.
This rejection of non-conforming models of masculinity and femininity has become even more aggressive in present-day America, because the heterosexual man feels that his place within the society, and as a head of the family, is threatened. On the one hand, women have begun to become more and more independent, assertive and carrier-oriented, and on the other hand, homosexuals have started to come out of the closet and affirm their sexual choice in public. Also, both heterosexual women and homosexuals of both sexes have started to demand equal rights, thereby further threatening the strict heterosexual order of the society. These issues, among others, such as the effeminate of the masculine body, have met a resisting force of the heterosexual male. Increasingly aggressive images of males, in films, in sports, and music, as well as the expectations of fathers that boys prove their masculinity since very young ages, are signs of the resistance of heterosexual male in front of this ‘assault’.
One of the forms of resistance is through music, and hip-hop has become one of the most iconic emblems of the hyper-masculine body. In hip hop, black males have found a way to supersede white males, by means of their physical strength, and by emphasizing their sexual potency and their violent nature. A result of centuries of being considered weaker and of being disrespected, the black male has found the means of showcasing his masculinity as superior to that of the white man. In a society which rejects homosexuals and assigns women only the roles of either mothers (conforming feminine bodies) or sexual objects( non-conforming sexual objects), the Black male has found a domain in which he supersedes the White male- if not economically, since race discrimination still prevails, at least by being a better, stronger, more aggressive male. Therefore, the hyper-masculinity of the black male, though influenced by the normative homophobia and sexism in the American society, is also a result of centuries of discrimination.
Singers such as 50 Cent, The Notorious B.I.G, Dr. Dre, or Bust Rhymes all pose as dangerous physical men, with great sexual potency, and lack of respect for women. In their songs, women are sexually objectified, and homosexuals are rejected, as a means of asserting a hyper-masculine behavior. They pose as the ultimate males in a society in which masculinity is glorified, an attempt to overcome their racial disadvantage and gain the respect of the entire America. Not only must black men maintain this image of physically superior and more aggressive males in order to preserve the respect of the White counterparts, but also, they have to maintain this image in order not to be accused of being gay, the ultimate insult for any man, and particularly, for black men. For this reason, hip –hop singers, as role models for the entire Black community and not only, must constantly adopt a hyper-masculine pose in order to maintain the respect, admiration and consequently, the devotion of their fans.
Therefore, hip-hop singers present an exaggerated image of the ideal physical, aggressive, sexually potent male, an ideal which was fed by the need of men to preserve their place in the patriarchal society, and continuously influence the younger generation to adopt the same style, and to accept the same gender stereotypes, thus perpetuating homophobia and sexism in the American society.