NO MEANS NO

I WILL take a self-revealing risk: If you’d ever had a dude tell you “naw, just playin…” after promising to “beat up” your pussy, or the equivalent, I guarantee you wouldn’t find it defensible, with or without the “bitch.” Let me divulge a secret: sometime around junior high school, women learn that the “just joking” clause, when issued after a soliloquy of sexual threats, is a GASLIGHTING power move, meant to make us believe we are crazy for feeling uncomfortable or threatened or violated. It is meant to instill self-doubt and keep us quiet, meant to cut us off at the knees, so we not only shoulder the barrage of insults and sexual predation, but we believe there is something wrong with us for not liking it. That we are squares or that we “hate fun” or that we are Victorian freaks, when we object to some strange dude coming up behind us in a club so we cannot see him (see: the “proper” video) and saying he wants to beat the walls of a bitch til she scrawl.
And to remove this song from its context is to ignore and excuse the fact that the Ying Yang Twins are the men who, in 2003, wanted to “punch a bitch in the breast,” and in 2002 wanted to “kill a bitch.” So you’re right, I have no sympathy for lechers. And as for “date rape”: those are DJ Smurf’s self-revealing words, and only a person who didn’t believe they were at risk of date-rape would be so glib about it. Read the YYT profile in XXL. What’s worse, the Voice opinion is not totally original: no less than two other male critics have posed the “nah just joking” defense to me, which by the way is totally groundless hairsplitting: it’s based on one-half a lyric in the third line, the INTRO, of a three-minute long song–so if you really want to hairsplit, the “just joking” only qualifies the idea that dude may want to touch lady’s ass. But this is what we get in the closed system of men reviewing records made for men by men. (Thanks to Ms. L.S. for the perspective.) At its heart it feels like a desire not only to prove us wrong, but to shut us up, and to shut the mouths of anyone else who’s criticized the Twins (um, Florida Atlantic University, anyone?) or any aspect of the rape culture aspect of much of rap music. Because actually thinking about the ramifications of pop culture in the real world, and your level of complicity within it, is a fucking struggle: you are forced to self-examine, to examine your level of privilege, and to acknowledge that the world and life are broad, and that there are more important things than music criticism and being right or even positing a contrarian opinion in order to piss people off. But what no one ever says is that IT IS OK TO BE WRONG SOMETIMES, even if the ILM culture, NYC’s neverending phallocentric critical pissing contest, and yr Ivy League pass say it’s not.
And while your internerd-critic ‘puters were busy ‘putin’, the real feminist hip-hop work–flesh’n’blood women and men discussing how misogyny in pop culture directly impacts our lives (and vice versa), because as you put it it’s not just a fantasy– was going down at Spelman College, it was going down at Florida Atlantic, it was going down at the University of Chicago’s Feminism in Hip-Hop Conference–this week there is a women in hip-hop summit in Minneapolis called B-Girl Be; field trip, perhaps?
PS Did anyone besides me read Jon Caramanica’s profile of the Twins in XXL? Did you not think that was real talk? Do you think three dudes in the safe-space of a studio with a male journalist would be just jokin about that stuff?

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24 Responses to NO MEANS NO

  1. matt says:

    awesome, thought-provoking, GOOD stuff. thanks for posting.

  2. michael r. says:

    this is so, so good. seriously.

  3. jalylah says:

    well said.
    “Even Johnny Cochran, God bless him, couldn’t defend The Whisper Song” ~Chris Rock, 106 & Park, 5/26/05

  4. hason says:

    thanks for putting this up. thanks for being brave.
    I am always appalled when dudes pull the gaslighting “just kidding, can’t you take a joke?” move.

  5. Anthony says:

    response on my blog

  6. Julie says:

    I found you through Jessica Hopper, and now I love you– I must go and read more of your stuff!

  7. Hashim says:

    wow, you ust did it homegirl. I need to sit down and absorb what you said and examine myself before I even respond.

  8. David says:

    at the risk of sounding like i want to have it both ways: Good points.

  9. pdf says:

    My thoughts.

  10. pdf says:

    Whoops, guess the link thing didn’t work. My thoughts are here:
    http://runningthevoodoodown.blogspot.com/2005/05/not-my-business-really-but.html

  11. Andrea says:

    Thank you. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have analysis like yours to tell me that I’m not crazy and that I’m not the only one who sees that what is happening is wrong.

  12. Abby says:

    I put something together at http://livejournal.com/users/abby_mcdonald. Since you and Jess vocalised the immediate reaction so well, I concetrated more on the fact that so many responses accepted the mysogyny and continued ‘…but’.

  13. julianne says:

    YOU ARE ALL AWESOME! EMAIL ME!
    here is my editor’s note from that ilm thread about this thing:
    ivy league ref confounded ppl–not hating on anyone who went to college. thought it worked in set of spheres where “argument for the sake of being right” or hating on peoples’ mistakes 24-7, can seem like the going standard, but came out rather myopically and also, i have no idea, my post-high school education is pretty much limited to a semester of biology at ozarks technical community college. go springfield!
    none of this has anything at all to do with sasha frere-jones, diplo, dj shadow, riffcentral.blogspot.com, corn tortillas, “fucking crunk hat,” or PDFs.
    on second thought, maybe it has everything to do with “fucking crunk hat.”
    entire paragraph about self-examination and thinking about ramifications and being wrong was directed towards myself as much as anyone.

  14. Candicissima says:

    Did you already write a protest letter to XXL or are you planning on it? Because I think it’s really easy to write one to the Voice and criticize it as some oppressive tool of patriarchy, so I hope you’re spreading that fury around.

  15. amy linden says:

    that song is , was and will always be flat out disgusting, insulting a nd creepy- and i dont care how many dying to be down faux hip hop heads and male crits justify it.i am so fucking tired of having to grin and bear this crap- censor it? naww , not that but do we have to glorify this never ending bashing? note to yin or is that yang- aint nothing sexy about implying violence when youre trying to get laid.

  16. TM says:

    Musically speaking, that song sucks.
    -T

  17. Miranda Jane says:

    Peace. Thank you for speaking straight out about this shit. I have a personal problem with this song, because hearing it brings out my violent tendencies. I’ve had a number of “club conversations” (using a stage whisper (no pun intended) to be heard over the music) here in Minneapolis, particularly with Stage One and some of the other DJs; basically it boils down to this – if a man comes up to me in a nightclub, or an alley, or an office cubicle, and says to me “wait til you see my dick,” I consider that an assault. And I answer assault with battery, which can easily escalate to manslaughter.
    Opening up a dialogue about this is the only way to get back the momentum that this song seeks to slow down. The last time I went to the club, Stage told me that when he was digging for the evening HE LEFT THE RECORD AT HOME because of what I’d said to him about the lyrics/whispers. TAKE THAT, TVT.
    Thank you for demoting this record, and those of its ilk, and for promoting the feminist Hip Hop movement.

  18. dave says:

    Very well said. I think that often times people don’t pay any attention to what’s being said in music nowadays.

  19. sepi says:

    a delight to read. now let’s get this published in the Source.

  20. reacher says:

    look people this is ridiculous.
    it’s true that ‘Wait’ isn’t really a great song —- it’s sort of a lowest-common-denominator expression of the kind of aggressive dirty sex you find in a lot of southern hip hop —- and “lowest common denominator” is why it became a hit and subsequently a focal point for this debate —
    but there are ALL KINDS of fantastic songs with lyrics that are much worse. sex is not safe. love is a battlefield.
    the “just joking” thing doesn’t hold water cause nobody’s ever just joking —- jokes are oblique ways of getting at real things that are too intense or complex to approach directly —–
    but sex is pretty complex/intense and CLEARLY encroaches upon a zone where straightforward language is inadequate —– I mean you don’t want your lover to talk like your gynecologist/urologist, right? or vice-versa.
    So “beat that pussy up” is probably not as bad as it sounds —- but no doesn’t always mean no either!
    that line has always reminded me of creationism in its intransigence —- somebody stamping their feet and insisting upon an absurdity because they’re terrified to contemplate a world where it’s not true —
    no means no if you don’t change your mind and you can convince the person you’re saying no to to accept that answer. failing that, no means no if you can run faster, hit harder, have a gun, can find a cop that has one, etc.

  21. Donkey Kong says:

    This is one of those bitter women/ two steps from a Lesbian sites. Why not just start chanting, “I HATE MEN”, “I HATE MEN”!

  22. LM says:

    “no means no if you don’t change your mind and you can convince the person you’re saying no to to accept that answer.”
    haha, you’re joking about that, right? please?
    that said, i do have some problems with the nature of the backlash against the song. i have less of a problem with the backlash against the article; that seems pretty merited. i prefer this response to Jessica Hopper’s, for a number of reasons, the least of which includes no misspelling of the phrase “male (sic) priviledge,” at least upon first read.

  23. Lisa says:

    Did you all know the virtual playing of this song on the radio is AGAINST the LAW? The FCC states: It is illeagal to broadcast SEXUALLY EXPLICIT content from 6am -10pm daily… I’ve heard this song aired at 10am.
    PLEASE file an FCC complaint form everytime you hear this on the radio… our silence says we’re OK with this type of SH*% when we do not go through the proper channels to complain. Don’t call the station… hit the FCC up. I have an electronic form on my site… check it out.
    http://www.IndustryEars.com

  24. Randy says:

    I understand the deplorable nature of the song, however its popularity amongst women was not mentioned, just men. Well I must say in my 30+ years of living I must say I have found more than a few women request to have their “body” beat up. As a young man raised by his mother shielded from the “Real” Black America, I had not a clue a woman would would want a man to pound her p*&^^, but that is the case in a lot of places, including all major Black Universities. So with all the condemnation the song deserves it would not be acceptable if there were not a waiting audience. Black women should check their behavior, but a man said it.

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