The IssuesOverviewMasculinityMisogyny & HomophobiaMedia Literacy


WARNING! This video contains sexual imagery and strong language.Scantily dressed black woman dance as a man swipes one of the women’s rear ends with a credit card
"One of the disappointing things about 'Tip Drill', and that whole genre of music videos is that they have taken a view of women of color that’s not radically different from the views of 19th century white slave holders." (3:55)

Watch Video


WARNING! This video contains sexual imagery and strong language.

A shirtless, muscular black man stands in front of a waterfall with his hands in front of him
"You know, when L.L. Cool Jay's got his shirt off and he's lickin' his lips, it's not just women lookin' at that. It’s guys, too." (2:25)

Watch Video



  A shirtless black man dancing with black women dressed in bikinis - Misogyny & Homophobia
Warning! The following pages contain sexual imagery and strong language. This page contains sexual images and explicit
language in order to illustrate the issues of sexism, violence and homophobia in hip-hop.

Images of women as sex objects. Derogatory comments about gays. These stereotypes are pervasive throughout American culture and not limited to hip-hop. What do they have to do with masculinity—and each other?

Misogyny and Women of Color
Objectified female bodies are everywhere: in advertising images, on magazine covers, and television and movie screens. Presenting a one-dimensional portrayal of male heterosexuality, using the female body as an advertising vehicle limits the ways in which men and women can interact. As Byron Hurt says in HIP-HOP: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, “Some people say that it’s just boys being boys, but I think it has a lot to do with boys figuring out early that girls are there for us to sexually objectify or to be our sexual playthings.”

A black woman with her legs splayed and dollar bills scattered across her crotch

This scene from the Nelly video “Tip Drill” illustrates that according to some hip-hop artists, women can be bought and sold

While media images might be written off as “only pictures” or “fantasy representation,” they remain a very real part of American culture, with real-life implications for viewers and consumers. Writer and actor Sarah Jones explains, “The image of scantily-clad women is supposed to affirm some image of masculinity, the man as a mack.... But in actuality, what they show themselves to be is incredibly insecure. And the idea is, these men are so important and so powerful, and these women conversely are so dime a dozen… that they don't matter, they're just eye candy, they're worthless.”

For women of color, misogyny and (mis)representation is two-fold, playing on stereotypes of both gender and race. Scholar Jelani Cobb blames sexist music videos for taking “a view of women of color that’s not radically different from the views of 19th-century white slaveholders.” Communities of color must also begin to value fighting misogyny and violence against women as a crucial issue and one that is inseparable from racism and other power imbalances. As writer and teacher Michael Dyson says, “If we have a glorified sense of our own victimization as black and brown men, what we must not miss and what we often do is to understand that black and brown women themselves are so victimized, not only by a white patriarchy, but by black male supremacy and by the violence of masculinity that's directed toward them.”

Homophobia and Hip-Hop
Perhaps the greatest insult that one man could give to another in American culture is to degrade his manhood and, as Michael Dyson says, “to assume that he's less than a man and to assign him the very derogatory terms that one usually associates with women.” From California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger dissing his opponents as “economic girlie men” to rappers insulting each other as “bitch niggas,” this double-edged insult not only disrespects women, but also supports a stereotypical view of masculinity.

Homophobia is often based on a sense of insecurity about one’s own masculinity—an insecurity heightened by the limited ways in which men and boys can express themselves through traditional notions of masculinity. . Jelani Cobb explains, “It’s calling your manhood into question… it’s calling your sexuality into question … it’s saying that if you are not this you must therefore be gay, you must be a gay, you must be a faggot, you know, you must be a bitch nigga.”

A black man dressed as a woman wearing a brown and gold doorag and applying lipstick

Homoeroticism is prevalent but not often acknowledged in hip-hop culture

Yet homophobia, homoeroticism and hypermasculinity often go hand in hand. In hip-hop, for instance, images of thugged out, hypermasculine men of color—posing shirtless, greased up, muscular—decorate magazine and album covers. While these images might not have been created as explicitly homoerotic, hypermasculinity in hip-hop, sports and fraternity cultures serve to bond men together, often at the expense of women, gays and men who do not meet strict gender-based roles and expectations.


Learn why media literacy is important when listening to hip-hop »
Take a look at hip-hop lyrics and tell us what you think »

Learn More Get Involved Talkback