As you may or may not know, Actress Ashley Judd recently released a memoir titled “All That is Bitter and Sweet” and in it she discusses her work with YouthAIDS. She states:

“YouthAIDS created hip public service announcements for TV and radio using popular local and international celebrities and athletes and was participating in the MTV World AIDS Day ‘Staying Alive’ concerts.
Along with other performers, YouthAIDS was supported by rap and hip-hop artists like Snoop Dogg and P. Diddy to spread the message … um, who? Those names were a red flag.
As far as I’m concerned, most rap and hip-hop music — with its rape culture and insanely abusive lyrics and depictions of girls and women as ‘ho’s’ — is the contemporary soundtrack of misogyny.”

Ok. There are a few things that I feel I need to address towards Ms. Judd.

1. Yes, SOME rap music has heavy misogynistic themes. (Notice I didn’t say Hip-Hop music. I’ll get to that later.) However, I feel as if she is making a generalization based on what she see’s on MTV and BET. Now I admit that those of us in the Hip-Hop culture have work to do when it comes to how women are represented within rap music, but my question to her is has she even bothered to listen to anyone besides Snoop Dogg and Diddy? If her comment had have been directly towards them, I could understand, but to label a whole culture a “rape culture” is offensive and damn right ridiculous. Has she heard of The Roots? Talib Kweli? Immortal Technique? The ReMinders? Jean Grae? Amanda Diva? Mos Def? Lauryn Hill? Does her fellow Hollywood counterpart Queen Latifah, a female rapper by the way, know that she’s making such an awful, repulsive claim about a culture that she’s a member of?

2. RAP is the music. HIP HOP is the culture. Rap is one of four elements of Hip-Hop, the other three being Break Dancing, Dj-ing and Graffiti. Over the nearly 30 year lifespan of Hip Hop, the culture has become a force to be reckoned with. What was initially brushed off as just a fad has become an international culture. It has given voice to the voiceless. Hip Hop gave and stills gives young people a chance to express themselves when no one else would and still won’t listen. In present times, we find the culture being commercially exploited and used to make those who have NO KNOWLEDGE of the culture rich while those of us who love the culture struggle to keep its authenticity alive.
Despite the present negative image of women in “commercial” rap music, there have been female rappers who demanded respect and used their lyrics to uplift women as well as males who show love and respect for women.

SEE: Queen Latifah “Unity”
SEE: Lauryn Hill “Doo Wop”
SEE: Amanda Diva “Supawoman”
SEE: Blackstar “Brown Skin Lady”
SEE: M1 ft. Q-Tip and Cassandra Wilson “Love You Can’t Borrow”

3. What is a “rape culture”? That is a very serious and grave term to put on Hip Hop, let alone any culture. In 2008, victims age 12 or older experienced a total of 203,830 rapes or sexual assaults. Eighty-one percent of rape or sexual assault victims in 2008 were female[1]. You CAN NOT assign such a gruesome term such as “rape culture” to rap alone. US society, thanks in part to media and the community of Hollywood which Ms. Judd is a member, also portrays women in an offensive manner. Ms. Judd herself is a victim of rape, as she graphically describes in her book so I can understand how hearing certain lyrics may bother her, but that doesn’t mean that rap music can or should be labeled as having a “rape culture”. The term “rape culture” should not even exist. A culture is a way of life. How you speak, how you dress, the types of food you eat, how you interact with people personally and socially. Culture is also how you express yourself. So for something to be a “rape culture” would mean that the very being or creation of the culture is derived from the atrocious act of rape. Rap may unfortunately perpetuate negative images of women, but it is not creating a culture based on rape.

4. Speaking of the negative image of women, Rap is not the first and will not the last art form that capitalizes off the blatant disrespect of women.

SEE: Rod Stewart “Stay With Me”
SEE: The Cramps “All Women Are Bad”

How many movies does Hollywood put out that paints derogatory images of women and girls? If I recall in 1999, “American Beauty” was released to much critical acclaim and ending up winning 5 –count them – 5 academy awards. However, this movie was centered around a MIDDLE AGE MAN LUSTING AFTER HIS TEENAGE DAUGHTER’S FRIEND. Now critics may have seen this as a glimpse into the life of American Suburbanits, but to me that sounds like a glimpse into a possible case of STATUTORY RAPE. Yet I didn’t hear any outrage from many people. I didn’t hear Ms Judd calling Hollywood a Statutory Rape Culture.

So what is the point of this rant? You can’t assign a gruesome term such as “rape culture” to a specific musically culture without studying the culture itself and the society that produced it. Maybe Ms. Judd needs to take a Hip Hop tour next time she’s in NY, or maybe she’s too busy listening to country-western — with its incest culture, talking about cheating on someone’s wife/husband with the field hand.

Didn’t like that last accusation huh? Yeah, didn’t think so.

[1] The National Center for Victims of Crime