Archive for August, 2012
Lupe Fiasco has just released the video for his new single ‘Bad Bitch’. In it, he attempts to tackle the depiction of women in hip hop culture.
To me, Lupe is in a league above most of his contemporaries in the mainstream rap scene. His music has a sophistication that most sorely lack and he has a lyrical flow that is close to unmatched. Great rapping is like poetry — the words have a meter and fit the rhythm of the song even when you are reading them from a page.
At his best, Lupe’s lyrics can contain biting, insightful commentary on the society in which we live. The issue of women in hip hop is not a new one for him to be approaching. Take, for example, one of my favourite songs of his — ‘Hurt Me Soul‘:
Now I ain’t tryna be the greatest
I used to hate hip-hop… yup, because the women degraded
But Too $hort made me laugh, like a hypocrite I played it
A hypocrite I stated, though I only recited half
Omittin the word “bitch,” cursin I wouldn’t say it
Me and dog couldn’t relate, til a bitch I dated
Forgive my favorite word for hers and hers alike
But I learnt it from a song I heard and sorta liked
And then there’s this absolutely brilliant little send-up of standard rap videos from ‘Daydream’ — possibly his most well-known single:
Now come on everybody, let’s make cocaine cool
We need a few more half naked women up in the pool
And hold this MAC-10 that’s all covered in jewels
And can you please put your titties closer to the 22s?
And where’s the champagne? We need champagne
Now look as hard as you can with this blunt in your hand
And now hold up your chain slow motion through the flames
Now cue the smoke machines and the simulated rain
The subject of the post itself can be seen here:
Meanwhile, the song has not been popular with everyone. In a review that is now the subject of a massive Twitter campaign against Spin magazine, reviewer Brandon Soderberg slammed Lupe for ‘mansplaining’:
The whole thing is an impressive exercise in mansplaining. Its hook goes, “Bitch bad, woman good, lady better,” which sounds sweet and all, but does any female want to be called “a lady”? And although the song is a bit more complex than described above — or really, muddled — it is the umpteenth example of so-called “conscious” hip-hop replacing one type of misogyny with another. While listening to Lupe’s well-intentioned grousing, I couldn’t help but think of Azealia Banks, whose pointed use of “cunt” on “212” blew minds and inspired enthusiasm, and whose clothing style might not meet Lupe’s approval. So much of the song’s characterization seems to hinge on the clothes the female character wears (and also how sweet or “nice” she is). …
So often, the appeal of this kind of commentary on hip-hop … feeds on outdated and simplified hip-hop stereotypes. The use of a 50 Cent stand-in for the video also plays into a decade-old understanding of hip-hop as the world of endless thugging and violence, which as I’ve said time and time again lately, just does not represent what rap music actually looks like and sounds like in 2012. …
The use of the word “bitch,” sensitively deconstructed by Jay-Z on “99 Problems,” and currently being twisted and challenged by Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj, and many more female MCs, proves that the discussion doesn’t need a backpack rap hustler selling cynicism. [my bold]
The first thing that popped into my head when I read that was, ‘are we talking about the same hip hop?’
So I looked up the current number one in the US. The most popular rap song there at the moment? ‘Whistle’ by Flo Rida.
The lyrics in that song?
Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
Let me know
Girl I’m gonna show you how to do it
And we start real slow
You just put your lips together
And you come real close
Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
Here we go
Whistle baby, whistle baby,
Whistle baby, whistle baby
And on the subject of depictions? Perhaps these bikini-clad women on jetskis are the new, modern, respected hip hop women that Soderberg was referring to? Or the one on the horse? I think Soderberg may have been a little too hasty in announcing the end of misogyny in rap music.
But then, Soderberg specifically mentioned a few of the female rappers who are causing rap stereotypes to come crashing down like European banks. He seems especially fond of this ‘Azealia Banks’ character. I guess that would be the same Azealia Banks who sang this:
These niggas ain’t fly, got wings like always
You’re finger-fuckin’ the pussy
Lickin’ it all day
Niggas on me cause my position is real sweet
Niggas on me cause all my fabrics cost change
I see what Soderberg was talking about. I guess women everywhere can take comfort in the fact that they have Ms Banks fighting for their cause.
Lupe’s new single may not be the most eloquent deconstruction of gender depictions in hip hop ever written and it may be a little didactic, however that does not mean that it deserves the kind of criticism that Soderberg threw at it.
In terms of mainstream stature, Lupe is almost in the top tier of commercial success and has been around for almost a decade — making him far more influential than any of the other rappers that Soderberg mentioned. Also, he makes some of the best rap music around — infinitely more listenable than Nicki Minaj’s bland, overproduced pop stylings or Azealia Banks’ monotone drawl laid over God-awful David Guetta-esque backing tracks.
‘Bad Bitch’ may be a little obvious in its message, surely Lupe can be forgiven. After all, he has been discussing this issue for his entire career, at times with sophisticated allusions to rap culture. He has released this song as the preview single from his not-yet-released album, illustrating how important he feels this discussion to be.
Soderberg’s reaction is simply patronising, elitist and counter-productive. He clearly would rather maintain his sense of superiority over the average rap fan than give credit to a mainstream rapper like Lupe for doing something positive and important.
Soderberg elevates people saying far worse things than Lupe to some kind of false pedestal in order to whitewash the issue of women in hip hop, as though it had not been a serious problem since 50 Cent’s debut album. He is pretending that the hip hop world is going through a period of deep introspection so that he can slam Lupe for being too late the party.
It’s really quite pathetic.
I had a thought today related to an argument that I have often seen against hysteria around Muslim immigrants. Here is Lainie Anderson giving an example:
Australia has a bogeyman. His face changes every few decades: once he was Russian, then he was Asian.
Right now he’s Muslim, probably a queue jumper with bags of cash to pay people smugglers, but definitely a new arrival.
The argument is that the previous waves of migrants (Irish, Italians, Jews, Asians) were all subjects of some kind of hysteria too and they turned out ok, so we should give the Muslims the benefit of the doubt because they will also turn out ok.
What if that is missing a part of the picture? It could be that these groups are now “ok” (read: assimilated into Australia) not in spite of this widespread fear and suspicion, but because of it.
What if the demands from the public to “prove” that they were “really Australian” compelled the community to accept Australian culture and expedited the assimilation process, so that they could put the fear to bed?
Is this whole process a method that our society has developed for self-correcting when a group arrives with clashing values?
I’m not convinced, but it seems like an interesting idea. I would welcome any thoughts one way or the other.
Note: I am aware of how offensive this may sound to some people, so I probably need to disclaim that it is just a thought exercise and does not reflect any opinion that I hold.
Do the names ‘Sofia Wilen’ and ‘Anna Ardin’ mean anything to you? No? Well then, keep reading.
Ever had that feeling where you’re watching someone on TV and every second brings you closer to throwing something at the screen? I came quite close to breaking my beautiful 47″ LCD last night watching the Julian Assange love-in on ABC 24’s The Drum TV.
The whole thing was abysmal, but I was particularly bothered by Assange biographer Andrew Fowler at 5:00,
Julian Assange is a journalist seeking political asylum from Australia, saying that Australia won’t protect him.
And at 5:20,
I think, you know, the issue of the third party, which is the issue of national security, would appear to be what we’re talking about. We’re not really talking about an extradition for sexual molestation.
He’s right, we are not talking about an extradition for sexual molestation. What we are in fact talking about is an extradition for sexual assault, which is a more serious crime than “molestation”.
But that’s not really what our friend Andrew meant, and we all know that. Yes he was trying to make “rape” sound more palatable by using softer language like “sexual molestation”, but what he was really saying was that there is a US conspiracy to extradite Assange once he reaches Sweden and the rape charges are all a fabrication.
Now where does that line of thought come from exactly? Well, you see, Fowler thinks that Assange is a pretty good guy. Assange seems to be a hero for a lot of people around the world who think that pissing off the US government is more important than the lives of US collaborators in Afghanistan or maintaining good diplomatic relations around the world. I personally don’t agree — I think dumping all of those cables was completely irresponsible and a real hero would have gone through them first and only published ones that were actually important — but Fowler is entitled to his opinion.
Here’s the thing though, there’s this old trope that nice, upstanding guys couldn’t possibly be rapists. When women who were clearly throwing themselves at Assange later accuse him of rape, that must be false — they were obviously asking for it.
It is telling that I get 340 words into this post before I mention the two women who are at the centre of this whole affair. Want to know something ridiculous? I had to look up the names Sofia Wilen and Anna Ardin — who, by the way, are the victims. All of this media coverage over the last two years and I did not even know their names off-hand. I do feel a little guilty about this (pun not intended), but then you probably had no idea who they were either.
See, this notoriously egotistical Assange character has managed to convince the world that it is all about him.
This is some huge conspiracy to persecute poor little Julian. It’s really the US, UK, Australian and Swedish governments all secretly coordinating to get him into an electric chair in CIA HQ. He‘s the victim.
It’s not like we’re talking about an extraordinary rendition to Guantanamo Bay here, he’s being extradited from the UK to Sweden. Both are European countries with very strong legal institutions and the rule of law. In fact, there is no logical argument that I can see for Sweden being easier to extradite him from, or why the US wouldn’t be trying to extradite him from the UK right now if that was the intention.
It especially bothers me that so many people seem to be attacking the Swedish legal system for being too easy on rape victims. Seriously. Now that’s the argument that the pro-Assange left is using — end Sweden’s draconian anti-rape policies!
Put simply, Julian Assange is doing everything that is humanly possible to avoid standing trial for rape in a liberal, democratic country. Of course he’s entitled to the presumption of innocence, but his victims are also entitled to justice. If the Swedish prosecutors believe that they can prove the charges, Assange must have his day in court and if he continues to avoid doing that, it only makes him seem more guilty.
In a way, it feels similar to the people who are willing to overlook the horrific culture of abusing women amongst Palestinians because it doesn’t fit their anti-Israel narrative. Because it’s Assange and they like Assange, he is being treated as an oppressed hero and not an accused rapist.
Here’s the reality: nothing you may like about Assange or Wikileaks means that he is not capable of committing sexual assault. Nothing about the behaviour of those women towards Assange means that they were Asking For It.
If you have any credibility, stop making excuses for Assange, it’s not about him. If Julian Assange had sex with Sofia Wilen and Anna Ardin and they did not consent, he is a criminal and should go to jail. The only way to resolve the situation is for him to stand trial in Sweden, which he must do by law. That is all there is to it.
It’s always great to see Australian domestic issues making headlines around the world. This morning, it is yesterday’s High Court decision on plain packaging of cigarettes that is doing the rounds.
The judgment upheld the benevolent decision by my Government to not allow me to look at all of those cigarette packages that were already hidden away in a cupboard behind the counter of any store.
Thank Government, I say. The temptation from that multicoloured packaging underneath the pictures of cancer and gangrene was so strong sometimes, it was all I could do to pull myself away. Now I guess I will be able to overcome the overwhelming desire of buying a little blue and white box with a huge picture of a diseased eye.
I particularly liked this report from the Jerusalem Post:
Several major tobacco companies challenged Australia’s legislation. But the industry’s attempt to derail this effective tobacco control measure failed.
Plain packaging is a highly effective way to counter industry’s ruthless marketing tactics, Chan said.
It is also fully in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which was ratified by 170 countries including Israel – but not the US, due to its strong tobacco lobby, and went into effect in 2005. “The Australian lawsuits filed by Big Tobacco look like the death throes of a desperate industry.
Sounds horrifying. Ruthless marketing tactics, Big Tobacco, strong tobacco lobby. Lucky Nicola Roxon and Tanya Plibersek are here to protect us from this evil!
… as they were very keen to point out.
“This is a victory for all those families who have lost someone to a tobacco-related illness,” Nicola Roxon, the attorney general, and Tanya Plibersek, the health minister, said in a joint statement. “No longer when a smoker pulls out a packet of cigarettes will that packet be a mobile billboard.”
Mobile billboard?? Quick! Ban them! We can’t have mobile billboards with cigarette company logos under all those pictures of gangrenous feet and rotten teeth!
Even better was Roxon in Question Time:
I do indeed have some good news for the House: today the highest court in the country has confirmed legislation that was passed by this parliament. That means that Australians will no longer be subjected to tobacco being sold in packaging which is attractive to young people and which entices them to take up what is a deadly and addictive habit. This decision is good news for every parent who worries about their child taking up this habit.
Attractive to young people? Government forbid! Thanks Nanny Nicola for protecting us from that. As a ‘young person’ myself, it’s nice to know that I am in good hands.
But it’s not just the ALP that is looking out for my best interests. See, a few weeks ago a young man was tragically killed in Sydney’s Kings Cross by a random attack. Fortunately, the perpetrator was found and imprisoned. It seems as though he was on some kind of a rampage at the time.
Luckily, the NSW Liberals know exactly how to respond to such random acts of violence: regulate!
The Premier, Barry O’Farrell, has announced the government will introduce a ban on shots, doubles, ready-to-drink beverages and glassware after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays for the area’s 58 venues.
No more than four drinks may be purchased at a time after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays under the changes and from 11pm two responsible service of alcohol ”marshalls” must patrol all venues and alcohol sales must cease one hour before closing.
Clearly there is a problem with alcohol-fuelled violence in Kings Cross after 11pm.
Yes, you could say “well the boy was killed just after 10pm”, or “there’s no evidence that the attacker had been drinking heavily”, or “this was a random attack and is not really evidence of an ingrained culture”. And you would technically be completely right on all counts:
The man accused of murdering Sydney teenager Thomas Kelly, 18, in Kings Cross this month went on a crime spree lasting more than an hour, punching four people in total, police said.
According to police documents, Kieran Loveridge, also 18, allegedly began his crime spree at 10.03pm on Saturday, July 7, assaulting an 18-year-old boy on the corner of Darlinghurst Road and Victoria Street.
But why let a little thing like the truth get in the way of some good regulation? Clearly if I am no longer allowed to keep ordering drinks at night before I wonder out onto poorly-policed streets with no way of getting home, I am much less likely to go around punching random people in the head!
It must be all that alcohol that’s the problem, not the fact that the 3am enforced closing time happens to coincide with cab changeover and comes two hours after all public transport has ended, which actually leaves no way of getting home for hundreds of people.
That couldn’t be it.
This is actually one of those rare occasions where I agree with NSW Labor.
The Opposition Leader, John Robertson, said the measures ”will not put a single extra police officer on the streets and they do nothing to address one of the biggest problems in Kings Cross – and that is getting revellers home on Friday and Saturday nights”.
I know, someone pinch me.
No one saw this coming, right?
Well, that may be a lie.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to bury the Levy Report, which recommends legalizing most unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank and making it easier for existing settlements to expand, a senior politician who spoke with the premier about the issue told Haaretz yesterday.
I guess this must be awkward for Liam, who said this:
MK is right: Israel won’t be imploding today. But if the reaction from government ministers is anything to go by there will be action, or at least Netanyahu’s hand may be forced further than he’d like, especially as peace talks might be starting to begin again.
This isn’t something the Right wants to go away. It vindicates what they’ve been saying all along (‘there is no occupation’) and what they’ve been doing all along (treating the West Bank as a de facto extension of Israel itself despite the very different legal status conferred on it).
I guess everything after “Mk is right” really was redundant.
Far be it from me to gloat.
No, not that veil.
I had an interesting conversation with a pro-BDS Israeli man (‘BDSM’) and an anti-Zionist Jewish woman (‘AZJW’) recently that made me think. To paraphrase, it went something like this:
MK: I get what you’re saying and I’m not denying that there are huge problems with Israeli policy in the West Bank, but why don’t you just target specific policies? Why can you only talk grandiose solutions, as though the only way to make the situation better would be for the Israeli government to fall and a whole new regime put in place? [Note: this would not make things better, but that wasn’t what I was arguing with them]
BDSM: Because it all comes from occupation! And the government is part of it!
MK: Ok, let’s take an example. Why don’t you advocate for Israeli soldiers to be responsible for preventing settler attacks on Palestinians? At the moment, they have to protect the settlers from Palestinians, but have no power to use any kind of force against the settlers. If they were able to arrest them and hold them accountable, the whole atmosphere would change in the West Bank. Settlers would stop feeling so entitled.
BDSM: It’s deliberate.
MK: Sure, but that doesn’t mean it can’t end.
BDSM: But that is just one part of the whole approach. Look at Susya, the settlers are making a big push to drive all the Palestinians out of area C so that they Israel can annex it.
MK: Yes, but if they couldn’t attack Palestinians without repercussions, it would make that much harder for them to do.
AZJW: But it’s part of the whole occupation system. It won’t just change.
MK: It can. There is one IDF officer somewhere who can sign an order and it will change overnight.
BDSM: But they won’t! The government supports the settlers.
MK: Not all of them do.
BDSM: What do you mean? It was Labor that started the settlements in 1967. Every party has supported them since then. During Oslo when the two state solution seemed so close, it was Rabin that was building more settlements and letting them carve-up the West Bank with settler-only roads.
MK: Yes, but it wasn’t his initiative, it was a deal that he made. Labor is not pro-settlement. Even Likud has a strong anti-settlement faction.
AZJW: Or is that just what you want to believe?
BDSM: What do you mean? The settlers and the government are one and the same!
It carried on like that for a while and I gave up eventually, but something did strike me about what they said.
From their perspective, they are completely right. The awful law-enforcement policies in the West Bank are part of The Occupation. Every Israeli government in history has supported The Occupation. There is no political party with any kind of record of ending The Occupation, so all Israeli governments would be bad and the only way to end The Occupation would be to overthrow the current regime.
The problem, as always, is a lack of nuance – but this nuance is particularly difficult to grasp. I can see why they are wrong because I have been immersed in the political/lawmaking system in Australia and all democratic systems work similarly on some basic level. They have been outside the system and so they cannot truly appreciate what is going on.
They see The Occupation and The Government. When governments do not end pro-settlement policies despite political leaders promising to do so, these two see that The Government is in bed with The Settlers.
I don’t. I see a holistic political system full of competing interests. The Knesset has 120 members, all from an unnecessary number of different parties, and within the major parties are factions.
An overview of the Knesset
The opposition: the traditional Israeli left represented by Meretz and Avoda (Labour); an Arab bloc made-up of socialists, secular nationalists and Islamists; the extreme religious-Zionist parties, which range from far-right to borderline Jewish Fascism; and of course the leading opposition party Kadima – the largest single party in the Knesset – which contains a faction of former Likudniks who were loyal to Ariel Sharon and a faction of more leftist politicians sourced from various other places.
The Government: Shas, the haredi party that mostly cares about holding onto the State Rabbinate, welfare for large families and keeping Haredim exempt from the military; Yisrael Beitenu, which has a large base of Russian immigrants, is fiercely secular and nationalist, has left-wing social policies, is very hawkish on foreign policy, and rife with anti-Arab racism; Habayit Hayehudi, the religious-Zionist, pro-settler party; Atzmeut, Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s offshoot of the Labour party; and, of course, Likud.
Likud is the party of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Revisionist Zionism. Jabotinsky was a strong, secular nationalist and a classical liberal. He believed in an Israel on both sides of the River Jordan and believed that the Jews had to fight for everything they get as the rest of the world hates Jews and would only ever try to hurt Israel. This message was being declared on the eve of the Holocaust – had he been listened to, history could have been very different.
Likud today has a pragmatic faction, led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, which stays true to Jabotinsky’s liberalism while keeping their thinking in the modern world. There is a less savoury faction, led by Deputy Speaker Danny Danon, which follows Jabotinsky’s militant ‘Whole Israel’ ideas while ignoring the humanitarian, anti-racist and democratic pillars of Jabotinsky’s beliefs. There is also a faction led by Moshe Feiglin, who is pro-civil liberties and does not believe peace to be a priority.
Why that little aside? Well, all of those factions have different agendas and interests that govern how Israeli policy is made. Netanyahu relies on pro-settlement factions for support in order to maintain government, so has every Israeli government for decades. In the scheme of things, Labour and Likud have always made a trade-off: they accept support from settlers, turn a blind eye to what they do in the West Bank, and concentrate on domestic and other issues.
The important thing to notice is that there is a majority in the Knesset who are against settlement, or at least indifferent. The problem is that they will not work together.
My pro-BDS interlocutors do not see this because they do not see through the veils of the parties and the government. They cannot break The Occupation down into a series of policies and policy vacuums that have evolved over time to create a certain dynamic in the West Bank.
The settlers are basically like spoilt children who become bullies. They have been allowed to do whatever they want in the West Bank without limits and have developed a sense of entitlement.
I believe that small changes could be very easy to make and could have huge consequences. One order from the Defence Ministry could introduce effective law enforcement and prevent daily harassment and abuse of Palestinians. Adopting some of the Levy Report’s recommendations could end the dubious zoning policies around Area C.
If these two things happened, the resentment from the Palestinian side would immensely reduce and the settlers would have limits to their actions. The entire mindset would begin to shift.
I think this brings incompetence to a new level.
Ugandan officials said that of four military helicopters that took off from Uganda for Somalia on Sunday, only one made it to a refueling stop in Kenya. Another plunged into the thickly forested slopes of Mount Kenya, about halfway between Uganda and Somalia, where the Kenyan authorities rescued seven Ugandan crew members. The two other copters might have also crashed somewhere in Kenya. On Monday evening, the authorities still did not know exactly what had happened.
Uganda’s military spokesman, Col. Felix Kulayigye, said, “We have unconfirmed information about the other two, that they did indeed have a hard landing along the highway to Garissa,” a town in northern Kenya.
There is no other way to interpret this.
Media release by NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson:
The month of July saw 2,256 more people become unemployed and NSW continues to suffer with 5,861 fewer jobs today than when Barry O’Farrell took office.
The release cites this data from the ABS. The ABS website says:
The number of people unemployed decreased by 2,500 people to 635,100 in July, the ABS reported.
I would like to highlight this response to a recent New York Times op-ed by former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg. The response is written by Gil Troy on Karnage not-so-favourite editor Peter Beinart’s Open Zion blog (aka the best thing Beinart has done since he decided to dive head-first into the crowded pool that is the Jewish world’s Israel debate).
Troy makes some important points about Burg’s arguments, which I will conveniently identify below – although, as always, you are encouraged to click through and read the full piece.
The first blind spot appears in Burg’s first paragraph, when he rants about a “misguided war with Iran” and calls Benjamin Netanyahu a “warmongering prime minister.” … So far, as far as we can tell from the media, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s reign has included unconventional alternatives such as cyberattacks, coalition sanctions, and assassinations, rather than bombing raids or battles—a salutary, more subtle approach.
This gets to me too. Bibi definitely talks a big game, but he has yet to launch any major military operations – let alone wars – in either of his terms as Prime Minister. By way of comparison, Olmert – the much-lauded peacenik – invaded both Lebanon and Gaza during his term last decade. Before him, Sharon launched Operation Defensive Shield. Judging Bibi on his actual record and not his rhetoric, he is the least war-mongering Prime Minister of the past decade.
The second blind spot ignores any signs of life, liberty, equality or fraternity in Israel’s polity in order to justify the article’s hysterical title: “Israel’s Fading Democracy.” … How come we only hear from Burg about the “exclusionary ideas” of unnamed “rude and arrogant power brokers” as opposed to noble tales about the princes of the Likud, Ministers Dan Meridor and Benny Begin, Knesset Speaker Rubi Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu himself, who, through their Beginite and Jabotinskyite liberalism have been fighting the anti-democratic and occasionally racist forces in their own party and coalition?
I was complaining about something similar in my Doug Cameron post last week. Bibi has spent the last four years blocking the vast majority of the antidemocratic reforms that Shas, Beitenu and the Danon faction of Likud have been trying to introduce. Instead of praising him for this, Burg et al seem to be doing whatever they can to make it not worth Bibi’s while to keep fighting – because win or lose, he gets condemned as though the reforms were his idea in the first place.
As a final thought, the Burg piece shows how the Israeli political debate seems to have descended into political point-scoring on every side. Ironically, this is not a sign that Israeli democracy is dying, but that it is just as vibrant as democracy in Australia or the US. (Yes, I said “vibrant”. That does not mean “good”.)
The problem is that partisan point-scoring makes more sense in a domestic context. Opened-up to the world, this does not do what Burg has developed these arguments to do (ie win votes for his party), it makes Israel look bad.
For an opposite perspective, see Liam.