Keep Your Head Up

When inspiration strikes, it is rarely a wise choice to question its origins.  The motivation for this post arrived at the gym, while I was lifting and listening to rap on Pandora.  2Pac’s “Keep Ya Head Up”* played, and these lyrics jumped out at me:

“And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can’t make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you’re fed up ladies, but you gotta keep your head up..”

*Let me just go on the defense: Yes, I am fully aware of the complicated history of hip-hop culture and the objectification of women.  That’s not what this post is about.  I felt empowered by the lyrics and wanted to used them today.  If you would like to break down hip-hop culture, watch Byron Hurt’s Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes.

I have been keyed up ever since this election cycle started.  From the beginning, I argued that Trump would win the nomination.  The country’s atmosphere has felt toxic for quite some time.  Institutionalized racism, misogyny and corruption has reached a boiling point.  It is my contention that the events that are unfolding are in direct response to the leadership of a black man and the potential nomination of a woman.  And if we listen to “Keep Ya Head Up” within the context of our current culture, being a black woman is a double strike.  Between 1993 and now (23 years!), the same concerns are still relevant.

Generally speaking, I am really scared about the direction our country is heading.  Specifically, I am really fucking concerned for women.  All women.  All day.  Everyday.

In his essay “Men, Masculinity, and the Rape Culture”, Michael Kimmel writes:

“What is it about groups that seem to bring out the worst in men?  I think is is because the animating condition for most American men is a deeply rooted fear of other men – a fear that other men will see us as weak, feminine, not manly.  The fear of humiliation, of losing in the competitive ranking among men, of being dominated by other men – these are the fears that keep men in line and that reinforce traditional notions of masculinity as a false sense of safety.”

Let me not mince words:  Donald J. Trump’s trumped up masculinity reinforces misogynistic attitudes and threatens the progress of feminists (both men and women) who have been working to unravel the dangerous construct of masculinity which Kimmel has written about extensively.  Trump uses rhetoric, fear mongering, and a pack mentality to keep men (and by extension, any of his supporters) in line.

The video leaked this week illuminates the pack mentality which Kimmel describes.  Bush and Trump’s banter demonstrate a type of masculinity where powerful, rich men are free to take their spoils (women), and arguably, less powerful men, either non-celebrities or non-conformists, are the pussies without pussy.

We have tons of footage depicting Trump’s attitudes towards women.  What concerns me most is how other men are responding.  I need not look very far to find examples:

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Never mind the harassment over the past eight months that I have rocked Hillary’s logo as my Facebook profile pic, but I see these comments EVERYWHERE on social media.  Women that support Hillary are labeled stupid, “slovenly”, and their femininity is questioned, while their male counterparts are mocked as weak, feminized men.

Can we look past the rhetoric, gimmicks, and buffoonery of Donald Trump?  Can we look within ourselves and truly evaluate our own attitudes toward sexuality, gender, and the patriarchy?  Kimmel writes toward the end of his essay these words:

“Part of transforming a rape culture means transforming masculinity, encouraging and enabling men to make other choices about that we do with our bodies, insisting that men utilize their own agency to make different sorts of choices.  To ignore men, to believe that women alone will transform a rape culture, freezes men in a posture of defensiveness, defiance, and immobility.”

A vote for Donald Trump is a vote for the status quo – a place where men must conform to stereotypical masculine norms and women are objects to grab and eyeball.  During this contentious time, do we have the strength to keep our heads up and speak out?  If not with our words, with our vote.  It is one of the most powerful tools we have right now.

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