This post may be a little outdated now, but I've heard responses (unprompted, I may add) from many progressive/feminist friends about the comments made by Ludacris at Monday's concert. I asked Nazneen (JE '06) to guest-blog for us about the issues... welcome, Naz, and thank you.
After a few lackluster years of forgettable Spring Fling performances, the Yale College Council finally succeeded in getting Yalies to cough up even more money for a new Student Activities Fee in hopes of getting real headliners to come to campus. Securing both Ben Folds and Ludacris for the event was a commendable accomplishment for the YCC, but the latter’s performance left something to be desired—namely, respect for women.
Standing in a sea of students at Spring Fling on Tuesday, we were one mass of “Yale.” Ludacris gave a shout out to us as students, specifically as Yalies, but by the third song, there was a change in our solidarity. Ludacris cleared his throat, and singled out the women in the crowd, "Excuse me for my language, ladies, because some find it explicit, you know...," before asking us, “but how many women here have their pussies clean? come on girls...” Visibly irritated, I looked around at the jocular response from the crowd, and only one of my girl friends standing nearby returned my “what the @#$?!” expression. One song later, the latent misogynistic aggression returned in the form of the question, posed again only to the “ladies,” “Ok, how many of you ladies are just waiting till the end of the night to get fucked hard and good? Fucked hard and good.” To this, his spinner responded over the microphone, “Well, how many of you think you’re making love for a little bit, before you really get fucked!?”
Some will say, “Well, if you didn’t like it, you should have left,” and, I did. The point, however, is not if I had the right to leave, or if Ludacris had the right to say what he will on stage. I would never question his first amendment right to inquire about the cleanliness of my genitalia, but to ignore his comments without reflection would be a missed opportunity to question our complicity in commercialized misogyny.
As 18-22 year old Yalies, we are taught the skills we need to critique society, but we still want to be “normal” kids who can operate in the “real” world. Misogyny is not just a part of rap music, but part of society more broadly, so some may say that I should just grow a thick skin and realize that this is part of what sells in popular culture. We may even assume that Ludacris himself opposes misogyny, and only capitalizes on it to make money and garner fame. Thus, we’d have a situation where Yalies and Ludacris understand that disrespecting women may be part of stage persona, but not reality.
The fact of the matter is that the dichotomy between woman as nurturer vs. woman as whore exists at all levels in our society. For me to step back and say, hey, he’s talking about the ‘other’ women, so this doesn’t affect me, the Ivy League graduate about to enter law school, is exactly the kind of first-world feminism that has provoked criticism of the movement, as well as created a fractionalized notion of sisterhood. Even if Ludacris thinks differently, what about the countless American teens and adolescents who do find themselves in relationships based on male domination and the idea of “separate spheres” in terms of sexual standards for men and women? Laughing at the fact that women might think they are equally consenting participants in sex (“think you’re making love”), but really they are in fact “getting fucked” by someone else, shows that Ludacris is not attempting in any way to be ironic or subvert the status quo by exposing sexism—he’s just perpetuating it.
It’s such a small act to point out misogyny at a rap concert, and perhaps futile as well, given the pervasive effects of such comments. But, at least to those who think feminism is outdated—think again.
If others have anything to add about other aspects of the performance (there was apparently objectionable racial commentary as well), please continue to discuss in the comments section.