Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Aziz Ansari, Andrew Kreisberg, and numerous other heavyweights in their profession have all had their careers tarnished or ended by the #MeToo movement and other women coming forward with their accusations of sexual misconduct. But noticeably absent in the #MeToo discussion are women from the hip-hop industry. There have been women speaking up about the mistreatment that goes on in Hollywood, journalism, the video game world, and seemingly every other major American industry — but not the rap world. None of the women that accused rap icon Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct were actually from the hip-hop industry. Amanda Seales recalled that Russell once made a sexually suggestive comment to her, but today she’s known more as an actress and media personality than for her previous hip-hop exploits.
The only woman in hip-hop who voluntarily spoke up on Russell was Foxy Brown, who pledged “staunch support” and blamed “salaciousness and scandal” for his exposure — instead of his own conduct. Foxy’s comments aren’t at all surprising.
Racial implications have worked to veritably exonerate Bill Cosby, R. Kelly, and countless other well-known men in the court of public opinion. Whenever news arises of Cosby’s misconduct, Black men specifically take to Twitter to defend him as if it’s a rite of Black manhood. They bring up the rumor that Cosby was set to buy NBC and his reputation “had” to be tarnished by orchestrated rape accusations. They mention that male entertainers could have any woman they want — without realizing that thought process can influence stalking and sexual misconduct. They try ad hominem deflection by mentioning white celebrities who haven’t had to go to court like Cosby. They echo comedian Eddie Griffin’s perspective that “Black male stars don’t leave this industry clean.”
That paranoia is rooted in the reality that we live in a country where Black entertainers receive the short end of the stick, but to paraphrase author Philip Dick, paranoia only links up with reality “now and then,” not by default. What good does it do anyone to primarily harp on racism in a dirty industry rather than the dirty industry itself?
In defending Nelly against his 2017 rape accusations, Akon surmised that, “half the time, (women) will set up a charge just for us to settle out” — which was a crude guesstimate based on what I’m sure is years of hard research. While it’s true that there are women out there who have falsely accused men of rape or target well-known people for money, the documented instances pale in comparison to the numbers of rape convictions. Only 2-8% of rape cases are falsely reported, but an estimated 15.8 – 35% of rape cases go unreported each year. Probably because 994 out of 1000 perpetrators walk free, as RAINN.org reports.
The trivialization of rape accusations as a mere weapon in an agenda to defame Black men is endemic of what sustains patriarchy and keeps men who rape free from accountability. It’s part of what keeps women from coming forward with their stories. But it’s not the only reason.
Cardi B recently told Cosmopolitan about the peril that she went through when she was working as a print model. “When I was trying to be a vixen, people were like, ‘You want to be on the cover of this magazine?’ Then they pull their dicks out,” she recalled. “I bet if one of these women stands up and talks about it, people are going to say, ‘So what? You’re a ho. It don’t matter.”
Sadly, she’s right. It’s pretty much impossible for a woman to avoid victim-blaming or being shamed when coming out with rape accusations against a famous person, specifically a powerful male. When one of Nelly’s accusers decided to drop charges, her lawyer noted, “we do not live in a society where a 21-year-old college student can feel safe enough to pursue criminal charges against a celebrity for an alleged rape.”
When another woman came out to accuse Miami rapper Pouya of rape last year, she twice mentioned in her confession that she likely wouldn’t be believed. Instead of getting trauma off her chest, she had to be on defense. It’s a sad predicament that women can’t process their distress without also preparing to fend off the inevitable onslaught of people aiming to tug away at her story instead of consoling her.
That’s exactly what happened to Malika Anderson, who accused hip-hop stylist and model Ian Connor of rape. She alleges that Connor penetrated her without her consent — but was shamed by many for allowing him to perform oral sex on her beforehand. Seemingly any flaw in a story will render an assault not worth believing by a misogyny-infected society that was already reticent to believe in the first place. Even if a traumatic story sounds credible, a woman may just get insulted because she’s not “rape-able,” like Damon Wayans said about some of Cosby’s accusers.
The bulk of Hollywood’s sexual misconduct accusations came from women aspirants. Whether they were aspiring actresses like the woman who accused Brett Ratner of rape, or the aspiring comedians who accused Louis CK of inappropriate behavior, it appears that there is a pervasive pattern of men taking advantage of their stature to get sexual favors in exchange for opportunity.
It would be beyond naive to think the same isn’t going on in hip-hop. Just last year Rick Ross said that he wouldn’t want to sign a woman artist because he’s afraid he’d “want to f*ck her.” He didn’t think that up out of thin air. It wouldn’t be surprising if sexual misconduct is a common occurrence at any of the “vixen”-filled video shoots, concerts, strip clubs, or studio sessions where attractive women and powerful men converge in the hip-hop industry. It’d be more surprising though, if those women come forward and exposed prominent names. Not only would they have to deal with the usual doubts that every woman rape accuser receives, they’d also get accused of being pawns used to take down one of the relatively few prominent Black celebrities. Does any individual need that kind of corrosive spotlight on top of their existing trauma?
Especially when it doesn’t seem likely that they’d receive much defense. Cardi B was adamant in an Instagram post that her statements to Cosmopolitan had nothing to do with #MeToo, and that she feels a lot of feminists talk a good game but wouldn’t defend a stripper with the same vivacity as a lawyer. That mistrust speaks to flawed dynamics in the feminist movement, where so-called white feminists are accused of not coming to the aid of Black and Brown women with the same urgency as their own race.
The #MeToo movement was founded by Tarana Burke, a Black woman who ushered in the initiative in 2008 to look out (predominantly) for women of color in underprivileged communities. Those working-class stories have been relatively absent in the #MeToo headlines, as the movement has largely been co-opted by white women in Hollywood. Their brand of feminism historically has blind spots when it comes to advocacy for POC.
When 26 Nigerian girls were found drowned at sea last December, there was no cause celebre by mainstream feminism. When social media brought to light the hoards of young girls who had gone missing in DC, Lena Dunham and her peers had nothing to say. Ditto the stories of sexual slavery in Libya. It’s little surprise that Cardi B may feel like writer Gina Beavers, who wrote in an op-ed that “there is no place for black women to be who we are as a whole [in the #MeToo movement] because their #MeToo has no place for discussions of how race and gender intersect.”
It’s that intersectionality that causes Black women to face a disproportionate amount of sexual violence, according to the Institute For Women’s Policy Research.
With no allyship from the #MeToo the movement, it’s unlikely that women in hip-hop will ever have the moment of redemption that women in Hollywood and other industries have achieved. The dearth of women in positions of power within the music industry means there might not be a #TimesUp embrace either. From gender bias, to victim-blaming, to baseless conspiracy theories, the Black community places formidable barriers in the way of women attempting to go public with their traumas.
This is the same confluence of circumstances that allows record labels to market artists who have continuously been accused, charged and convicted of sexual misconduct.There doesn’t seem to be much advocacy or urgency by major segments of the music industry to refrain from mass-marketing artists like Tekashi 69, XXXTentacion, or Kodak Black until their numerous abuse charges are resolved. It isn’t too far from the scope of reality that’s because some of their high-powered superiors in the music industry are guilty of actions just as abhorrent, and also feel that the money that can be made off of them overcomes any festering outrage.
Until the Black community, specifically Black men, deem it necessary to reckon with the manner in which patriarchal constructs influence rape culture, it will be difficult for any women of color to seek justice against men who that violate them — much less ones with limitless resources and adoring fanbases.