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Sexual Politics of Hip Hop Reexamined as Lessons in Sexual Selection

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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I received the great honor of being invited to speak at the Dr. Laura C. Harris Symposium at Denison University. It’s a small (compared to OK State) Liberal Arts College in Granville, Ohio – outside of Columbus. The Symposium is sponsored by the Women’s Studies Department, and has been inviting interesting speakers across the academic disciplines to talk or perform or present creative ideas about women and girls and society.  (My head is still spinning from the invite and curious about how I got on their radar.)

This 2012-2013 theme is “Sex, Science and Society”

The series will examine the role of women and of gender in science.   Over the course of the year, we will look at how women are represented in science and at how gendered assumptions affect scientific discourse, practice, and theorizing. What are the challenges faced by women as practitioners of science? To what extent is underrepresentation still an issue? How do the criteria and conditions of success for women in the sciences compare to those in other academic disciplines? How does science study and represent women? How do what scientists tell us about women’s bodies and about sex and gender difference affect our lives? How is scientific practice and knowledge structured through intersections of gender, race and sexuality? Finally, in what ways is such research often shaped by masculinist biases in both theory and methodology? Does research from feminist perspectives differ, and if so, how?

I was tempted to address all of these questions, but realized I couldn’t do.  I decided to play on my strengths and passions: Feminist Activism, Science Outreach, Teaching, and Hip Hop. The talk I am giving is titled:

“The Birds, the Bees and the Beats: Sexual Politics of Hip Hop Reexamined as Lessons in Sexual Selection”

Once considered an ephemeral music genre for urban audiences only, hip hop has defied all early expectations. Now mainstream, hip hop provides a social and cultural frame for examining human behavior. In both music videos and song lyrics, many hip hop songs paint vivid images of women in sexual contexts. Using these songs and videos as cultural references, I present lessons in sexual selection, introducing key concepts such as mate choice, sexual conflict, and mating strategies. Specifically, I deconstruct four main feminine archetypes in hip hop: Main chicks, Side Chicks, Bad Bitches (Dimes), and Ugly Hoes (Girls) and challenge young people to become more cognizant of the ever-pervasive narrative of women as sexual objects.

True to my Hip Hop Education Pedagogy interests, I will be remixing Malte Andersson and Bobbi Low‘s traditional lessons in Sexual Selection, then adding some feminist commentary about the hypersexualization of women in popular hip hop. In fact, here is my playlist for my talk:

“Whatever You Like” by  T.I.

“That Thing” by Lauren Hill

“I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need To Get By” by Method Man with Mary J Blige

“Can’t Let You Go” by Fabolous with Mike Shorey & Lil’ Mo

“I Can Love You” by Mary J Blige with Lil Kim

“Still Not a Player” by Big Pun with Joe

“Birthday Song” by 2 Chainz with Kanye West

“Gold Digger” by Kanye West with Jamie Foxx

“Chickenhead” by Project Pat with La’ Chat, DJ Paul & Juicy J

“I Got That Fire” by Juvenile  with Mannie Fresh

“Chop My Money” by P-Square with Akon, May D

I suppose the talk is public. I’m not exactly sure, but here is the announcement on the University’s Media Relations page. To answer a question many asked: No, the talk will not be streamed. The University is recording it and keeping a copy of the video in their Library Archives. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter, I’ll be posting updates during my campus visit. @DNLee5

DNLee About the Author: DNLee is a biologist and she studies animal behavior, mammalogy, and ecology . She uses social media, informal experiential science experiences, and draws from hip hop culture to share science with general audiences, particularly under-served groups. Follow on Twitter @DNLee5.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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