Profiles

Misogyny: Do women get a bad rap in hip-hop?

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KALYN HEFFERNAN

Kalyn Heffernan, MC for the group Wheelchair Sports Camp, says she has not experienced misogyny on a personal level. Still, as a woman who is immersed in the genre as a consumer and a participant, she sees it running rampant on the regular. Not only is Kalyn a woman who raps in a male-dominated scene, but she is also a lesbian. She challenges the system on many levels of sexuality through her rhymes and controversial stance. Recognizing that the songs with the best hooks and lyrics are often those that objectify women the most, Heffernan says the answer is more women raising their voices, and their message, on the microphone.

Westword: What do you think about misogyny in hip-hop?

Kalyn Heffernan: I haven't personally experienced the sexism in hip-hop, but It didn't take hip-hop very long to get misogynistic. It really became prevalent in the early '90s, when I started out. NWA and Eazy-E, all that stuff we like to listen to, it's hard to turn the other cheek when they're knocking women.

It's something that women have been aware of for a while. I also feel like female rappers have to come out and have sex appeal. Sex sells, and unfortunately, that's how a lot of female rappers have made it. Not skill and lyricism; they just market their bodies so that they can adapt to a genre that's built this way.

Is it the responsibility of the woman to maintain the boundaries? Where does the responsibility fall, especially in the day of Nicki Minaj?

I don't think Nicki Minaj would be where she was if she didn't use sex appeal. However, there are females like Queen Latifah, who was one of the few who made a stance against disrespecting women, and she has made a huge career. Her big money isn't because of her talking about injustices with women. She was able to start that avenue at the beginning and get her start. Unfortunately, it is the system's problem for not allowing positive women to get the same height like big-time rappers who are talking shit about women. Overall, the system is to blame, but if more women were to come out and go against the grain, I think that it would force that change.

As a lesbian, how does that further impact your dealings with the hip-hop scene?

Definitely, it's harder to be a homo in hip-hop because it's so homophobic. Gay men are more discriminated against, and that's where the root comes from in hip-hop. From all my personal experience, lesbians are cool, because straight guys like lesbians, because they want to get in on the action. I think lesbians in hip-hop are on that whole "sex sells" thing. I flick my tongue like a dyke -- Dr. Dre said it.

So what's the answer? Is there a solution?

My solution is more women coming out, more women doing their thing without having to sell themselves. Spitting harder. Most women are smarter than men anyway, so if they really took that knowledge to the beat, it would make the industry change, but I think that a lot of women are afraid because of how mainstream hip-hop is and how it's become. All the do's and don'ts in hip-hop that are harder to overlook, but if they did, I think some shit could change.

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Ru Johnson
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