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Progressive Classics: On Yeezus and Black Feminism

Kanye hates to be seen smiling almost as much as he hates speaking to women like human beings in song.
Kanye hates to be seen smiling almost as much as he hates speaking to women like human beings in song.

“Chasing love all the bittersweet hours lost/ Eating Asian pussy, all I need was sweet and sour sauce.”

As if Asian women didn’t already face enough fetishization and stereotyping in media, six tracks in Kanye compares this sexual act to eating take-out food – a line that is as racist as it is misogynistic. As witty as he thinks he’s being on “I’m In It,” this line only furthers the degradation of Asian women into very specific sexual “boxes” our society has created. It is hurtful and reductive.

“Uh, Black girl sippin’ white wine/ Put my fist in her like a civil rights sign.”

The first (and only) time Mr. West mentions a “Black girl” in this album is to make a cheap sexual innuendo. As if we haven’t already been devalued in the media and society, you want to use this line Ye? This is a common problem with Kanye’s brand of Black “consciousness”; on the same album where he rails against the prison industrial complex and racism in “New Slaves,” he also seems unable to avoid unproductively throwing a Black woman under the bus in “I’m In It.” Not to mention the complete disregard for the potent symbolism of the Black Power fist.

“Last night my bitches came in twos/ And they both suck like they came to lose.”

At this point it seems almost moot to complain about the use of the word “bitch” in hip-hop but we’re going to do it anyway because these bitches come in twos! As opposed to coming in threes, fours or solo, in “Send it Up,” King Louie, one of the young Chicago rappers West has taken a shine to, went to the bitch store and asked for a set. These aren’t women, but sexual objects that only exist to please the same man who has spent nine songs explaining how performing oral sex on him is something “losers” and “followers” do. Kanye West displays all the appropriate signs of hating women and his rapping only contributes to the problematic treatment of women as beautiful creatures that are used for sex. Similarly, in a society that treats women as second-class citizens who are underrepresented in our institutions, underpaid, and undervalued, these lyrics are especially offensive.

I am often conflicted about my love of hip-hop and my feminism. While I’ve been known to excuse things or ignore offensive lyrics in the past, the older I get, the more I realize that if no one speaks out about these things then we will never live in a better, healthier society where women and girls are no longer demeaned, degraded and dismissed.

by Shannon J. Shird, M.A. International Affairs

 

2 thoughts on “Progressive Classics: On Yeezus and Black Feminism

  1. Very powerful post. I’ve also grappled with Kanye’s lyrics from a political standpoint. His broad reach and potential to impact impressionable youths is wasted on power-drunk lyrics and an insatiable need for shock-and-awe. Kanye embodies the bleak future of political and/or social movements through music. This post is well researched, poignant, and personal.

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