Drake honey, your misogyny is showing.

Girls are not machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.

-Sylvia Plath.

This quote easily explains why the concept of the friend zone is so problematic.

I came across this quote on Pinterest and immediately thought of Drake. Yes, Drake the rapper that has cut out a niche for himself by presenting as vulnerable and nice in a genre so laden with brazen misogyny. But Drake, just like every other heterosexual nice guy, has perfected the art of passable misogyny; the art of performative decency to women over a substantive period of time, interspaced by pitiful entitlement to sex from these women and eventually shock and hurt when confronted with the realization that sex with women is neither a reward nor right for supposed decency.

In Marvin’s Room, Drake sings,

Bitches on my old phone,

I should call one and go home

 Drake here clearly feels entitled to having sex with these women because he sings later on,

I got some women that’s living off me

Paid for their flights and hotels I’m ashamed.

So because he sponsors these women, Drake clearly thinks he deserves to use them for sex when he is feeling lonely.

 This isn’t shocking at all. We do live in a society that frames heterosexual sex, and marriages, as inherently transactional; women offer sex to men who in turn provide them with the much needed social capital required to navigate and (barely) survive our patriarchal and capitalist structures. The friend zone argument is merely a mutation of this maddening reality.

This normalization however doesn’t make it any less sickening. And perhaps it is because of how sickening our reality is, that I decided to stop listening to hip-hop all together. Obviously, I do not believe that hip-hop is the only sexist genre of music. Misogyny is found in all musical genres. Our society hates women so obviously, that hatred is reflected in music. To frame hip-hop, a genre dominated by black men, as the only sexist genre would not only be ignorant, it would also be thoroughly anti-black. That said, I stopped listening to hip-hop as a means of exerting some form of control. When you enter a matatu (public transportation) in Kenya, there is a very good chance it’s playing very loud hip-hop. I figured if I was going to be called a bitch and a hoe every time I needed to get somewhere, I didn’t need to have it in my ear.

Initially, I had intended it to only be a hiatus because I was aware of how powerful and good hip-hop is. I was determined to look for that kind of hip-hop. I wanted to listen to and support women rappers. And then Drake’s Hotline Bling happened and I was done. That song destroyed the goodwill I still had left for hip-hop in me. Because on the surface it’s a sad, albeit catchy, song about heartbreak, but then you think about it and it’s the kind of subtle misogyny that makes you want to crawl up in a fetal position and weep for days.

So in Hotline Bling, Drake is hurt and disappointed because this girl he used to know, according to him, isn’t a good girl anymore. But really what Drake’s whining is doing is shame this girl for not playing respectability politics. Drake sings,

Used to always stay at home, be a good girl

You was in the zone

You should just be yourself

Right now you’re someone else

 By doing this, Drake plays right into society’s need to polarize girls; you’re either a good girl or a bad girl and as such you should stick to your lane. This is done in order to control women because we know that if you have a reputation for being a bad girl, you’re deemed as undeserving of respect, safety and justice because after all, you were inviting of rape, not fit for marriage, among other things. Again, it lays foundation for victim blaming and generally erases the humanity of women that refuse to be caged by patriarchal notions on morality and sexual purity.  This is rather obvious when Drake sings,

These days all I do is,

Wonder if you’re bendin’ over backwards for someone else

Wonder if you’re rollin’ over backwoods for someone else

Doing thigs I taught you getting nasty for someone else

You don’t need no one else.

 Moreover, Drake here tries to isolate her which makes it a lot easier to emotionally manipulate her. And this isn’t the only instance, Drake also sings, you make me feel like I did you wrong’ because she’s not sitting around waiting for him to come back from whatever city he’s in. That is why I found him declaring his love for Rihanna when she won the Grammy’s so painful to watch. Besides taking away from her moment, he denied Rihanna agency over her emotions and response; she either swallows this manipulative show of love or she’s branded a bitch. And I think that was his end game when he chose his brand. He keeps presenting himself as this nice guy thereby making it seem like the women that don’t buy into that, by not dating or sleeping with him or breaking up with him are the problem.

Drake also feels very entitled to women’s emotional labour and time. It’s all packaged as, “I’m hurt. Please be nice to me and take care of me.” In Marvin’s Room, he sings,

Talk to me please don’t have much to believe in

I need you right now

Are you down to listen to me?

 We could try and write this off as needing emotional support which we all do from time to time. Except in an earlier verse he sang,

Flights in the morning

What you doing that’s so important?

 And then later on,

I need someone to put this weight on.

The problem with this, more than being off-putting and entitled, is that Drake leverages the knowledge that society cares more about men’s feelings than the lives of women. Time and time again, men have avoided responsibility for the ways in which they harm women simply by presenting as broken beings. Women are expected to put up with men, often times at the expense of our safety and well-being, just to help these men grow. And that is why we have the term ride or die.  You may have noticed that men are not expected to ride or die. Women have been relegated to collateral damage in the journey of men’s growth. Abusing and hurting women is simply a stage in the development of men.  Even more annoying is that women are hurting too. It could be argued that collectively, women are hurting more than men do. Only women are expected to be graceful, and even more importantly, silent about our pain. Men however, are allowed to terrorize women.

Essentially, Drake’s vulnerability in an industry that seemingly expects toxic expressions of masculinity is very effective in deflecting from his misogyny. It’s almost difficult to call him out for it without being labeled an angry feminist overreacting to everything.  And maybe it is because of this that I found the song Nice for What rather suspicious.

I was impressed by this music video. The lyrics, not so much. I will say, I found Drake’s assertion that women don’t have to be nice to men rather profound (for lack of a better word.) Because as women, we have to be nice to men even when they harass us. We are constantly aware that standing up for ourselves comes at a risk of violence and so we smile uncomfortably and try not say anything that could be abrasive to the male ego. This performance of niceness isn’t solely in the face of overt misogyny, sometimes we have to do it even with proclaimed male feminist allies. Every single day, male feminist allies threaten to withdraw their support because feminists won’t play nice. We’re incessantly reminded that they have the power to harm us some more because we screamed too loud when they hurt us the first time.

Back to the music video. It is notable that this video was clearly not made for the male gaze. I think this is because it was directed by a woman. We see Yara Shahidi just doing her thing in a Harvard sweatshirt and Issa Rae just kicking ass generally. And as good as refreshing as this is, it still does make you wonder, is Drake actually progressing or just doing this because male feminists are edgy now and respecting women is trendy. Is Drake simply rebranding because his misogyny is showing; because there is more money to be made and influence to be had in performing wokeness?

***

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