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Megan Thee Stallion Why women in rap still get a raw deal

From misogynoir to pitting women against one another, why is rap still reluctant to embrace its female stars?

Shortly after its release, Megan Thee Stallion’s debut album Good News reached the esteemed number one spot on the Billboard R&B and Hip-Hop Chart. But a monumental milestone like this isn’t rare for female rappers. ‘Say So’ by Doja Cat has been streamed over 600 million times. ‘I Like It’ by Cardi B charted for a total of 61 weeks. And Nicki Minaj has over 100 chart entries. We know rap’s new female generation has released genuinely innovative music, so why are they still so overlooked?

Megan is a poignant example as to why this is. In 2019, ‘Hot Girl Summer’ received 17.8 million streams within its first week of release. In the aftermath, the hype around Megan surged as she collaborated with both Beyoncé and Cardi B. News Break were correct when they said, “Megan Thee Stallion is the moment.”

Frustratingly, with success came a sea of criticism. The anti-Megan parade has simmered down to misogynoir, women taking up male-dominated space, and rap’s sexist history. Megan may be the moment, but she’s also a symbol of rap’s chronic anti-woman agenda.

Misogynoir is instrumental. The term, coined by Black feminist Moya Bailey, refers to the misogyny directed at Black women where race also plays a role. The Blackburn Centre found Black women are stereotyped as either ‘sassy’, ‘angry’, or ‘scary’. These clichés pervade rap. But pigeonholing a whole demographic of musicians into one of three categories leaves little room for artistic growth. In an industry which requires women to repeatedly reinvent themselves to maintain relevancy, this is problematic. While Drake isn’t Kendrick, and Megan is unique to Cardi, the differences between female musicians are disproportionately overlooked. Both Megan and Cardi have been typecast as the ‘angry Black woman’, which has led to oversaturated comparisons between them.

Alongside misogynoir is the fear of women reclaiming male-dominated spaces. But this phenomenon isn’t exclusive to rap; women experience street harassment because the outdoors is ‘for men’. The aim is to make women feel so unsafe that they are forced back into the home. This also serves as an analogy for rap. The genre is the outdoors. It’s undeniably hyper-male; just one artist in the top 10 bestselling rappers ever is female. Women are undermined so they can’t claim rap as their own. The misogynistic solution to this is constant comparison between female artists. When Megan is called the next Nicki she isn’t being complimented on her similar scope for success – she’s being told she’s there to replace her predecessor. In rap music there’s only enough room for one woman at a time. Every other woman is simply pushed out.

Historically, the genre has been linked to outright misogyny. The majority of female rappers are Black, though it’s this group who have been viewed through a hypersexualised lens. This dates back to the slave trade, where the sexual abuse of Black women formed the promiscuous presumptions about them which society still holds today. This continued with early 20th century advertising, which depicted Black women with comically large boobs and butts. This sexual image is ingrained. Hence, women are referred to as “hoes”, “sluts”, and of course “bitches”, in male-written rap tracks.

History partly explains why female rappers reclaiming their sexuality is condemned. Megan and Cardi’s joint effort, ‘WAP’, did just that, and it broke records. Yet male public figures still overlooked their success (Russel Brand notably compared the music video to pornography). When women are in control of their sexual image, the impact of men referring to them as derogatory terms is lessened. Again, the industry’s only solution is to shut women out. If they aren’t given a platform to reclaim control, men are ultimately still in the driving seat.

Rap is a man’s world. Women like Megan and Doja may be the breakout artists of the past few years, however the space for women in mainstream rap is limited. Fans have time for these women, so it’s now up to the industry itself to modernise too.

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