Why (you think) Women Don't go to Rap Shows...And How You Can Change That
I’d like to get a few things out of the way first:
I do not speak for all women in hip hop just like no man speaks for all men in hip hop. In this piece I am addressing male hip hop fans, promoters and artists who are under the assumption that women do not or cannot have a place at rap shows.
In a recent article I read, the writer said that rap shows are “All Dudes.” This has not been my experience and I felt compelled to use this platform as a means continue a dialog on the subject. It is not my intention to shit on that writer. If anything I am grateful to him for starting this conversation.
I assume that for the most part, the men I am addressing in this piece have no malicious intent towards their sisters is rhyme. They simply have some behaviors and belief systems to unlearn when it comes to the issue. The piece reminded me once again that women as hip hop artists and fans are still largely erased, disrespected and under-represented. I have plenty of experience with all three so this is something that hits very close to home for me.
As a lifelong fan of hip-hop and a longtime performer and promoter within the genre, I’d argue that I've been to more rap shows than your average person, man, woman or otherwise. It’s true that as a woman I’m often the minority but I do exist and other women like me do as well. Making a blanket statement that it’s “all dudes” erases our very existence. I do agree that there is a severe lack of a female representation on stage and in the audiences at most shows and I have a few ideas as to why:
1. There’s no women on the bill
I have a few questions for you male hip hop artists artists and promoters:
When you put a bill together, do you intentionally make sure there’s at least one woman on it?
Do you ever look at an all-male lineup and are bothered by the lack of female representation? Do you even notice?
If the answer is NO to any of these questions, maybe it’s time time make some changes.
The genre is filled with women who can spit and they’re just as capable of rocking a crowd as any male mc. I bet your hometown has some female artists who would be happy to rock your shows. If you don’t know of any, go out there and find them, they exist.
Don't fall victim to the belief system that women are only put on all female lineups or events geared specifically toward them. Female promoters and artists put each other on and we usually put our male counterparts on as well. It's time for you to do the same for us. A bill doesn't have to be booked by women in order to feature them.
Trust me, if there's a women or two on stage, you can bet that there will be more women in the audience as well.
2. It’s not a comfortable environment for women
If I had a dollar for every ignorant or disrespectful thing a guy has said to me at a rap show I'd never have to work again. These interactions usually fall into one of two categories.
- I’m invisible
- I’m sexualized.
Invisibility: I threw hip hop shows in New York City for years. I’d usually spend the whole night stage managing, hosting the show and running back and forth between the sound person and whoever was working the door. Inevitably I’d still be asked by a guy if I'm one of the rapper’s girlfriends. There’s been occasions where a guy will straight up ask me what I’m doing there (at my own show!) The idea that I may be involved in the show, let alone running it never even occurs to him no matter how obvious it may be.
I've booked and managed dozens of hip hop tours, often where I’ve been the only woman. Part of the job is that when I arrive at the venue to get the show organized I have to find a point person to ask necessary questions such as where the merch table is, how many drink tickets we’ll get and how money will be handled. Occasionally the point person will be a guy who will not look at me when answering these questions. Instead he will look at and reply to whatever man is on the tour with me as if he were the one who had asked the question!
I’m sure most of these micro aggressions are unconscious but it never ceases to amaze me how foreign the idea of a woman being involved or in charge is to some of these guys.
Let’s make one thing crystal clear:
Women in hip-hop don't perform in or attend rap shows to meet guys. Believe it or not, I don't go through all this trouble to write and perform songs in front of an audience just so some random rapper can hit on me. The only kind of attention I'm seeking from guys at these shows is either props for my set, a merch sale or a mutual admiration for the music. I assume that most of my male counterparts are in search of these things at shows as well.
Unfortunately what often happens is that after I perform, some dude will inevitably tell me how sexy I looked onstage or try to find out if I’m there with my boyfriend (for the last time, the dj is not my boyfriend!). This brand of fuckboy never has anything to say about my actual skill or talent and would rather spend his money buying me shots than on any of my merch.
Would you want to go listen to your favorite artist and be hit on the whole time or perform and then be discredited for your talent? Probably not.
3. The music isn't interesting or nuanced
The hip hop market is flooded with songs that just aren’t nuanced or interesting to many of us. There’s talk about money, disrespect and objectification of women and a whole lot of rapping about rapping and being a rapper rapping. In addition to these subjects being unappealing to most female audiences, they’re also boring as hell. Try digging a little deeper and having some range in your content and you will attract a broader audience. I’ve been to quite a few large concerts in the past year and have noticed that male artists like Atmosphere, Chance the Rapper, Aesop Rock, and Kendrick Lamar have a strong female presence in their audience. These guys aren’t specifically targeting a female audience but more women go to their concerts because the music is compelling and the songs appeal to more than a small demographic of male rappers trying to impress each other. The musical content isn’t filled with messages of misogyny and machismo and is less likely to attract a male audience who spends the whole night hitting on women and making in them feel uncomfortable.
4. The music (and audience) is disrespectful toward women
The lack of respect for women in rap songs is a longer conversation and far more complex than I can get into here. I've had my inner conflicts between a fan of hip hop and a feminist at the same time as I know many other women have. But there there's a difference between hearing about bitches and hoes and sucking dick over and over in my headphones at my own discretion vs being surrounded by an entire crowd of (mostly males) singing along with these lyrics all at once within physical proximity to me. It's a triggering, uncomfortable and straight up unsafe feeling for many of us.
Would you want to go to a show full of people shouting derogatory comments about you and your demographic group? Probably not. Furthermore, the type of man who attends these concerts may be more likely to treat women disrespectfully after hearing them called bitches and hoes in a room full of like minded males all night. I’ll pass.
I hope this piece has given you a little insight on how it feels to be a woman at certain types of rap shows and why there are so few of us in attendance at them. There are many female fans of hip-hop out there but there could be a lot more. Make some changes to your lineups, behavior and belief systems and you’ll see what I mean. Hip hop shows aren’t meant to be “only dudes” and it’s time for all of us to change that.
Written by a woman who has been to A LOT of rap shows.
g.o.a.t Hip Hop