The essay that I’ve decided to focus on is my final essay for a gender studies seminar that I took during the spring semester of freshman year. I used three different female R&B/Hip hop artists as examples of the sexism and abuse that women endured in the music industry during the 80s and 90s.
I remember enjoying the writing process, but being a little stressed about trying not to sound super angry. This piece of writing required a lot of planning. I had to research the female artists and also try to squeeze my point into the introduction. Plus, I had to make sure that the women’s stories remained examples to further prove my point. I didn’t want it to end up seeming like I was just doing some mini research on these three women and not making a bigger general statement about the treatment of female artists in R&B/Hip hop.
I had a specific mindset on strong opinion pieces when I wrote this essay. I felt that they could have a little more slack and I could let my own voice and personality shine through. In a way, I actually wanted these essays to be a sort of diary, where I could speak the ideas I kept hidden in my mind. I liked including my personal experiences in these writing pieces, but I was often restricted to third person. To get around this restriction, I tried to give a general example of something that I had actually gone through, but I’d disguise it. Say I wanted to share an experience where I was catcalled, I would take myself out of it by saying, “Women often get catcalled on the streets of New York”. In this way, what I was saying was still true, it just wasn’t about me anymore, which left me feeling a bit empty at times. That emptiness was because, without my personal experiences, it felt like my writing didn’t have as much merit. If I’m writing about feminism and it doesn’t seem like I’m a feminist or I’ve gone through any of the mess that women endure, my writing just seems like an academic journal. It seems like I’m holding feminism an arm’s length away, with no glasses on, and trying to look closely at the fine print but I just can’t make it out. In a sense, I’ve failed.
At this point in time, I still have this mindset but I realized that I’m so in love with the short story/poem writing I occasionally do that I might project the way I write those onto the way I write essays for school. I’ve realized that I may have too much of an emotional attachment to writing. I wanted to love the pieces I write, and when I did love them and ending up receiving negative feedback, I’d be crushed. However, I’m in the process of learning to separate emotions with writing, at least for academic pieces.
The point I made in the essay was that, in the 80s and 90s, it seemed like if a woman wanted to be a music artist, she had to be attached to a famous male artist, get beaten by her man, or become a slave to her critics and fans, conforming to whatever they wanted her to be. I also made the point that things have gotten better at this present time. I still believe this point, especially after having actually researched so many female artists and their stories. It’s as if the veil was taken off of my eyes.
What was it like to be a female R&B/hip hop artist in the 80s and 90s, behind all of the glamour and music videos? Are men often held accountable for the things they did in the past when it comes to the light? What was the public opinion on how romantic relationships between a man and woman should be? I feel that I discussed or touched on these questions in my essay. I tried not to delve too deeply into the last two questions just because I feel like they’re such big questions, that I could probably use them as prompts for different essays. These questions were answered in my essay because I used the stories of these three women as examples. I didn’t have to work too hard to convince the audience of the answers because they were plain facts in these women’s lives.
I felt like I also could have answered the question, ‘How does becoming famous at such a young age also play into how you are treated by people in the industry?’ One of the female artists that I mentioned had her claim to fame at around 14 years old so it was probably easier for people to take advantage of her and not feel bad about it. What could she do about it? This question also brings up the idea of relevancy. If you become famous at a young age, will you become washed up? Lil’ Kim wasn’t a minor when she became famous but it seems like she took some drastic measures like skin whitening and plastic surgery in order to stay relevant in the eyes of her critics. I touched on these questions a bit during the essay but I definitely could have used that to further analyze how younger women are also targeted in the industry. At the time, I was so focused on my main point that I wasn’t thinking about all the side branch topics I could go off of.