You probably just read the title of my post and wondered “hmmmm?” Well, I’m glad it caught your attention. My question is simple: “Is Hip Hop a subtle form of slavery?” I pose this question because I had a discussion with a friend of mine which sparked up some interesting points about hip hop, one of which is the idea of objectification. Before I delve into this subject matter, I will like to provide a definition for objectification. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, objectification is defined as the “seeing and/or treating of a person, usually a woman, as an object.” Some features have been identified that are involved in this idea of objectification, some of which include:
1. Violability: the treatment of a person as lacking in boundary – integrity
2. Denial of autonomy: the treatment of a person as lacking in autonomy and self-determination.
3. Instrumentality: the treatment of a person as a tool for the objectifier’s purposes.
4. Ownership: the treatment of a person as something that is owned by another (can be bought or sold).
5. Denial of subjectivity: the treatment of a person as something whose experiences and feelings (if any) need not to be taken into account
6. Reduction to body: the treatment of a person as identified with their body, or body parts.
7. Reduction to appearance: the treatment of a person primarily in terms of how they look, or how they appear to the senses;
Earlier in the semester, while discussing the institution of slavery we came across the term objectification, which described how slaves were more or less treated as objects. Even more specific, slave women were objectified by their masters and were used to gratify their master’s desires. The discussion I had with my friend brought up the question of objectification as portrayed in hip hop videos. In most hip-hop videos today, we see half naked women or women dressed in ways that accentuate their curvatures. In these videos, we also see the women being used by men in various ways as objects of pleasure. They are often reduced to their bodies and treated as though they are owned by the men in these videos. Some mainstream entertainers try to justify this by saying “sex sells.” But honestly, we will all agree that the image portrayed in the media is clearly that of the objectification of women, even if this was not intended. Is this any different from the objectification of female slaves during the slave era? Does the idea of “for entertainment purposes,” as claimed in the documentary we watched, make Hip-Hop any less a form of slavery?