Too Short and the Feminists

March 25, 2012
By

By Ron B. Neal

What happens when a feminist, a group of feminists or feminism as an ideology engages one of the most explicitly and unapologetically pornographic hip hop artists to ever touch a microphone? What does it mean to engage and dialogue with an unreconstructed masculine ideology of sex and sexuality? These questions were raised recently (at least for me) when hip hop veteran Too Short was called to task for instigating, through video, the hypersexual corruption of pre-teen and teenage boys. With the sanction and platform of hip hop magazine, XXL, Too Short offered explicit instructions to boys on how to sexually seduce and titillate girls. It was an Internet version of the art and ideology that he has mastered and preached over a music career that spans more than two decades. It was a hip hop version of a practice among men, across cultures, which pre-dates hip hop.

At the age of 45, Too Short is the Godfather of a genre and aesthetic within hip hop, which he pioneered as a teenager during the early 1980s in Oakland, California. Unlike other iconic hip hop artists within his age group such as Ice Cube, Jay-Z , the late Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G., Too Short is unknown to mainstream hip hop consumers. For most of his career, he has maintained underground status, thriving among subcultures of young black men all over America, especially the West Coast, the Mid-West, and the South. He is a pimped out sub-cultural god among a generation of hip hop men whose lives are galaxies removed from mainstream America–young men who are never engaged, in constructive ways, by the mainstream.  Although he doesn’t have the pop status of Jay- Z or Shawn “Diddy” Combs, the sex driven music and masculinity of Too Short has exerted a tremendous level of influence over the masculine imagination within hip hop.

Having recorded music with hip hop titans, including Jay-Z and Shawn “Diddy” Combs, Too Short has influenced every rapper who has majored in lyrical pimping or hip hop sexology on record.  The late Pimp C, E-40, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Trick Daddy, Eight Ball and MJG, Big Boi (of Outkast), Lil Jon and the vast majority of rappers Down South are disciples of his music. In fact, much of so-called southern rap, especially its association with churches of the flesh, better known as strips clubs, and regional hedonism, is a footnote to Shorty the Pimp (one of the many monikers he’s used over the years).  With music filled with sex talk and money making and a penchant for head nodding and eye raising social commentary over bass heavy hypnotic musical production (Too Short can get political and funky when he wants to) he has left a permanent mark on hip hop.  His influence has trickled down to young and emerging hip hop stars, many of whom are more than 20 years his junior.

Among these young stars is the tattoo riddled rapper, Wiz Khalifa, who has incorporated Too Short’s sexology and aesthetic into his increasingly popular hip hop persona. When many but not all hip hop fans and artists under the age of 25 had taken an attitude of indifference to hip hop’s 40 plus year history and its aging icons, Khalifa recorded a song and video with Too Short, “On My Level” for his most recent album, Rolling Papers (Khalifa has gone further in ingratiating himself in a lineage of pimping by recording an entire album, High School, with Too Short disciple Snoop Dogg). Young artists like Wiz Khalifa who embrace lyrical pimping and sell it to the mainstream ensure that hip hop sexology will thrive long after a hip hop veteran such as Too Short passes off the scene.

What does all this have to do with feminism? Over the last forty plus years, feminism has done an extraordinary job in engaging the feminine. Feminism has been quite successful in promoting visions, creating organizations, and instigating social policies dedicated primarily to the lives and experiences of women and girls. Much of this effort centers squarely on the socialization or gendered conditioning of girls and women. In the United States, girls and women have been targeted for progressive social engineering and the results have been relative and remarkable. Although a full blown pro-woman paradise has not been achieved in America, the progressive advances in female conditioning (the re-education of women) are undeniable.

Unfortunately, there has been no comparable effort, along radically progressive lines, dedicated to boys and men. There has been no movement, ideology, or politics, national in scope, which is dedicated to the progressive gender socialization of boys and men. For this reason, sexism and womanizing remain as problematic today as they were before the rise of modern feminism, particularly, second wave feminism.  Unfortunately, too many men have not been positively affected by the feminist push for just, ethical and humane gender relations. Fortunately, thanks to the positive impact of feminism on some men, a minority of men exist who are involved in anti-sexist work among boys and men. Most of these men identify as male feminists and pro-feminist men. Unfortunately, these brave souls have not had the numbers, organization, and influence of U.S. feminism. What is needed is a much broader coalition of women and men who will work together in an effort to alter the ways in which boys and men are conditioned.

The partnership that we need is one that recognizes the social construction of sexism and misogyny; that Too Short and every prospective Too Short in the U.S. and beyond is a product of culture not biology. It is important that we see Too Short, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Hugh Hefner, Larry Flynt, and every mannish male on the planet as cultural creations. And like most human creations, the culture of masculinity is not immune to change. When we truly understand that no boy or man is born a pimp, player or womanizer—–that a boy or a man can become a pimp, player or womanizer—–then we can effectively address the impact of masculinity on civilization, especially its effects on girls and women.  As long as there is no joint effort between women and men, especially one where women and men engage each other and engage masculine culture and conditioning in a lively and open manner,  the worlds of pimps, players, pornographers and womanizers will continue to persist unabated. To date, the standard feminist approach to these matters has not been effective. What we need is a different method of engagement.

________________________________________

Ron B. Neal holds a Ph.D. in Religion, Ethics, and Culture from Vanderbilt University. He is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His research and writing interests include: religion, gender, and culture, religion, ethics, and politics, modern and postmodern philosophy, Third World Studies, and popular culture.  He is the author of the forthcoming book, Democracy in 21st Century America: Notes on Race, Class, Religion, and Region (Mercer University Press). He is currently at work on an untitled book on religion, masculinity, and hip hop.

Tags: , ,

40 Responses to Too Short and the Feminists

  1. Rosa Clemente on March 25, 2012 at 5:38 am

    Black Feminism and Hip Hop feminism is very different from the White feminism that I believe you are speaking of.

    • badbaby on March 26, 2012 at 12:25 am

      why make a distinction between 'Black' and 'White' feminism? women are women, there are enough divisions in the world already without polarising feminism according to race. surely that can only lead to alienation

      • D B;ades on March 26, 2012 at 10:15 am

        Because the experiences are very different. Feminism starts with women's experience and there has been a heavy critique from African American women and many others, of white-feminists imposing their experiences on all women without consideration of this fact. Actually, it doesn't divide, it allows for a more authentic dialogue and facilitates clearer understanding among women. I agree with Rosa; I believe he is talking about white feminism.

    • Ron Neal on March 28, 2012 at 11:09 am

      Dear Rosa Clemente,

      Thank you for your reply. The distinctions that you are making in terms of Black Feminism, Hip Hop Feminism and White Feminism are very important to the partnership between women and men that I am advocating. Yes, there are streams of feminism that do not encourage partnerships between women and men. Such streams are not very helpful when the issue of boys and men are on the table. More than anything, I am concerned with moving beyond any barriers within and outside of feminism that work against the prospect of women and men working together. Yes, I am interested in those streams of feminism which are already invloved in this work.

      Thanks again,

      RN

    • Ron Neal on March 28, 2012 at 11:11 am

      See comments below….

  2. Rosa Clemente on March 25, 2012 at 5:38 am

    Black Feminism and Hip Hop feminism is very different from the White feminism that I believe you are speaking of.

    • badbaby on March 26, 2012 at 12:25 am

      why make a distinction between 'Black' and 'White' feminism? women are women, there are enough divisions in the world already without polarising feminism according to race. surely that can only lead to alienation

      • D B;ades on March 26, 2012 at 10:15 am

        Because the experiences are very different. Feminism starts with women's experience and there has been a heavy critique from African American women and many others, of white-feminists imposing their experiences on all women without consideration of this fact. Actually, it doesn't divide, it allows for a more authentic dialogue and facilitates clearer understanding among women. I agree with Rosa; I believe he is talking about white feminism.

    • Ron Neal on March 28, 2012 at 11:09 am

      Dear Rosa Clemente,

      Thank you for your reply. The distinctions that you are making in terms of Black Feminism, Hip Hop Feminism and White Feminism are very important to the partnership between women and men that I am advocating. Yes, there are streams of feminism that do not encourage partnerships between women and men. Such streams are not very helpful when the issue of boys and men are on the table. More than anything, I am concerned with moving beyond any barriers within and outside of feminism that work against the prospect of women and men working together. Yes, I am interested in those streams of feminism which are already invloved in this work.

      Thanks again,

      RN

    • Ron Neal on March 28, 2012 at 11:11 am

      See comments below….

  3. Rosa Clemente on March 25, 2012 at 5:38 am

    Black Feminism and Hip Hop feminism is very different from the White feminism that I believe you are speaking of.

    • badbaby on March 26, 2012 at 12:25 am

      why make a distinction between 'Black' and 'White' feminism? women are women, there are enough divisions in the world already without polarising feminism according to race. surely that can only lead to alienation

      • D B;ades on March 26, 2012 at 10:15 am

        Because the experiences are very different. Feminism starts with women's experience and there has been a heavy critique from African American women and many others, of white-feminists imposing their experiences on all women without consideration of this fact. Actually, it doesn't divide, it allows for a more authentic dialogue and facilitates clearer understanding among women. I agree with Rosa; I believe he is talking about white feminism.

    • Ron Neal on March 28, 2012 at 11:09 am

      Dear Rosa Clemente,

      Thank you for your reply. The distinctions that you are making in terms of Black Feminism, Hip Hop Feminism and White Feminism are very important to the partnership between women and men that I am advocating. Yes, there are streams of feminism that do not encourage partnerships between women and men. Such streams are not very helpful when the issue of boys and men are on the table. More than anything, I am concerned with moving beyond any barriers within and outside of feminism that work against the prospect of women and men working together. Yes, I am interested in those streams of feminism which are already invloved in this work.

      Thanks again,

      RN

    • Ron Neal on March 28, 2012 at 11:11 am

      See comments below….

  4. Rosa Clemente on March 25, 2012 at 5:38 am

    Black Feminism and Hip Hop feminism is very different from the White feminism that I believe you are speaking of.

    • badbaby on March 26, 2012 at 12:25 am

      why make a distinction between 'Black' and 'White' feminism? women are women, there are enough divisions in the world already without polarising feminism according to race. surely that can only lead to alienation

      • D B;ades on March 26, 2012 at 10:15 am

        Because the experiences are very different. Feminism starts with women's experience and there has been a heavy critique from African American women and many others, of white-feminists imposing their experiences on all women without consideration of this fact. Actually, it doesn't divide, it allows for a more authentic dialogue and facilitates clearer understanding among women. I agree with Rosa; I believe he is talking about white feminism.

    • Ron Neal on March 28, 2012 at 11:09 am

      Dear Rosa Clemente,

      Thank you for your reply. The distinctions that you are making in terms of Black Feminism, Hip Hop Feminism and White Feminism are very important to the partnership between women and men that I am advocating. Yes, there are streams of feminism that do not encourage partnerships between women and men. Such streams are not very helpful when the issue of boys and men are on the table. More than anything, I am concerned with moving beyond any barriers within and outside of feminism that work against the prospect of women and men working together. Yes, I am interested in those streams of feminism which are already invloved in this work.

      Thanks again,

      RN

    • Ron Neal on March 28, 2012 at 11:11 am

      See comments below….

  5. Momklok on March 26, 2012 at 11:26 am

    . . . "no boy or man is born a pimp, player or womanizer" If that wasn't such a tragic statement it would almost be funny. Most men are born womanizers, and it's nurture that steers them out of it. I think you know not of what you write.

    • Ron Neal on March 28, 2012 at 10:10 am

      Dear Momklok,

      Thank you for your response. I think that it is bit of a stretch to say that men are born womanizers. What you suggest is that there is some inconclusive biological basis for misogyny. If such is the case, then feminism has no future. From my perspective, the process of a boy or a man becoming a womanizer is no different from the process involved with a woman becoming a feminist. Both womanizing and feminist politics are choices that people make, choices that involve conditioning or in your words, nurture. Womanizing is not an outcome of biology. It the consequence of culture.

      Thanks again,

      RN

  6. Momklok on March 26, 2012 at 11:26 am

    . . . "no boy or man is born a pimp, player or womanizer" If that wasn't such a tragic statement it would almost be funny. Most men are born womanizers, and it's nurture that steers them out of it. I think you know not of what you write.

    • Ron Neal on March 28, 2012 at 10:10 am

      Dear Momklok,

      Thank you for your response. I think that it is bit of a stretch to say that men are born womanizers. What you suggest is that there is some inconclusive biological basis for misogyny. If such is the case, then feminism has no future. From my perspective, the process of a boy or a man becoming a womanizer is no different from the process involved with a woman becoming a feminist. Both womanizing and feminist politics are choices that people make, choices that involve conditioning or in your words, nurture. Womanizing is not an outcome of biology. It the consequence of culture.

      Thanks again,

      RN

  7. Momklok on March 26, 2012 at 11:26 am

    . . . "no boy or man is born a pimp, player or womanizer" If that wasn't such a tragic statement it would almost be funny. Most men are born womanizers, and it's nurture that steers them out of it. I think you know not of what you write.

    • Ron Neal on March 28, 2012 at 10:10 am

      Dear Momklok,

      Thank you for your response. I think that it is bit of a stretch to say that men are born womanizers. What you suggest is that there is some inconclusive biological basis for misogyny. If such is the case, then feminism has no future. From my perspective, the process of a boy or a man becoming a womanizer is no different from the process involved with a woman becoming a feminist. Both womanizing and feminist politics are choices that people make, choices that involve conditioning or in your words, nurture. Womanizing is not an outcome of biology. It the consequence of culture.

      Thanks again,

      RN

  8. Momklok on March 26, 2012 at 11:26 am

    . . . "no boy or man is born a pimp, player or womanizer" If that wasn't such a tragic statement it would almost be funny. Most men are born womanizers, and it's nurture that steers them out of it. I think you know not of what you write.

    • Ron Neal on March 28, 2012 at 10:10 am

      Dear Momklok,

      Thank you for your response. I think that it is bit of a stretch to say that men are born womanizers. What you suggest is that there is some inconclusive biological basis for misogyny. If such is the case, then feminism has no future. From my perspective, the process of a boy or a man becoming a womanizer is no different from the process involved with a woman becoming a feminist. Both womanizing and feminist politics are choices that people make, choices that involve conditioning or in your words, nurture. Womanizing is not an outcome of biology. It the consequence of culture.

      Thanks again,

      RN

  9. Adele Wilde-Blavatsk on March 27, 2012 at 5:12 am

    Great article and agree with most of it. However, the feminist movement HAS focused on the gender socialization of men and boys as well (the article appears to suggest it hasn't)…..I think the reason there has been no significant change in terms of sexism and misogyny, is because for the most part men have not been listening to women's voices. Therein lies the problem. There IS and has been a movement to re-educate men and boys, its called feminism. Is the problem here that this movement is not led by men?

    • Ron Neal on March 28, 2012 at 10:39 am

      Dear Adele Wilde-Blavatsky,

      Thank you for your response. You are correct, feminism has called attention to the socialization of boys and men. In fact, bell hooks has written extensively on masculine constructions. However, hook's work on masculinity is not representative of most streams of feminism, especially second wave feminism. From my perspective, the urgency and demand to re-educate women has always been the main priority of second wave feminism. As far as masculinity is concerned, much but not all feminist politics criticizes the sexism and misogyny in masculinity. From my perspective, the matter of how men are socialized is not the same as the critique of masculinity. I am pushing for an engagement of masculinity that is not limited to critique.

      Your assertion that men have not listened to women is precisely why I am calling for a joint effort between women and men. The single gender approach has too many drawbacks. Men will respond in more constructvive ways when they see women and men attack the same issues. Joint partnerships are a must.

      Thanks again,

      RN

  10. Adele Wilde-Blavatsk on March 27, 2012 at 5:12 am

    Great article and agree with most of it. However, the feminist movement HAS focused on the gender socialization of men and boys as well (the article appears to suggest it hasn't)…..I think the reason there has been no significant change in terms of sexism and misogyny, is because for the most part men have not been listening to women's voices. Therein lies the problem. There IS and has been a movement to re-educate men and boys, its called feminism. Is the problem here that this movement is not led by men?

    • Ron Neal on March 28, 2012 at 10:39 am

      Dear Adele Wilde-Blavatsky,

      Thank you for your response. You are correct, feminism has called attention to the socialization of boys and men. In fact, bell hooks has written extensively on masculine constructions. However, hook's work on masculinity is not representative of most streams of feminism, especially second wave feminism. From my perspective, the urgency and demand to re-educate women has always been the main priority of second wave feminism. As far as masculinity is concerned, much but not all feminist politics criticizes the sexism and misogyny in masculinity. From my perspective, the matter of how men are socialized is not the same as the critique of masculinity. I am pushing for an engagement of masculinity that is not limited to critique.

      Your assertion that men have not listened to women is precisely why I am calling for a joint effort between women and men. The single gender approach has too many drawbacks. Men will respond in more constructvive ways when they see women and men attack the same issues. Joint partnerships are a must.

      Thanks again,

      RN

  11. Adele Wilde-Blavatsk on March 27, 2012 at 5:12 am

    Great article and agree with most of it. However, the feminist movement HAS focused on the gender socialization of men and boys as well (the article appears to suggest it hasn't)…..I think the reason there has been no significant change in terms of sexism and misogyny, is because for the most part men have not been listening to women's voices. Therein lies the problem. There IS and has been a movement to re-educate men and boys, its called feminism. Is the problem here that this movement is not led by men?

    • Ron Neal on March 28, 2012 at 10:39 am

      Dear Adele Wilde-Blavatsky,

      Thank you for your response. You are correct, feminism has called attention to the socialization of boys and men. In fact, bell hooks has written extensively on masculine constructions. However, hook's work on masculinity is not representative of most streams of feminism, especially second wave feminism. From my perspective, the urgency and demand to re-educate women has always been the main priority of second wave feminism. As far as masculinity is concerned, much but not all feminist politics criticizes the sexism and misogyny in masculinity. From my perspective, the matter of how men are socialized is not the same as the critique of masculinity. I am pushing for an engagement of masculinity that is not limited to critique.

      Your assertion that men have not listened to women is precisely why I am calling for a joint effort between women and men. The single gender approach has too many drawbacks. Men will respond in more constructvive ways when they see women and men attack the same issues. Joint partnerships are a must.

      Thanks again,

      RN

  12. Adele Wilde-Blavatsk on March 27, 2012 at 5:12 am

    Great article and agree with most of it. However, the feminist movement HAS focused on the gender socialization of men and boys as well (the article appears to suggest it hasn't)…..I think the reason there has been no significant change in terms of sexism and misogyny, is because for the most part men have not been listening to women's voices. Therein lies the problem. There IS and has been a movement to re-educate men and boys, its called feminism. Is the problem here that this movement is not led by men?

    • Ron Neal on March 28, 2012 at 10:39 am

      Dear Adele Wilde-Blavatsky,

      Thank you for your response. You are correct, feminism has called attention to the socialization of boys and men. In fact, bell hooks has written extensively on masculine constructions. However, hook's work on masculinity is not representative of most streams of feminism, especially second wave feminism. From my perspective, the urgency and demand to re-educate women has always been the main priority of second wave feminism. As far as masculinity is concerned, much but not all feminist politics criticizes the sexism and misogyny in masculinity. From my perspective, the matter of how men are socialized is not the same as the critique of masculinity. I am pushing for an engagement of masculinity that is not limited to critique.

      Your assertion that men have not listened to women is precisely why I am calling for a joint effort between women and men. The single gender approach has too many drawbacks. Men will respond in more constructvive ways when they see women and men attack the same issues. Joint partnerships are a must.

      Thanks again,

      RN

  13. Lisa in Indy on April 4, 2012 at 3:08 am

    Dr. Neal,
    Interesting perspective, thank you. Here is something that dawned on me as I sat at a Pacers game and discussed with my husband: why are professional cheerleaders who are predominately white, considered "wholesome" when they basically wear the same things as hip hop video girls and basically have the same sexual moves. I think it is a double standard that needs to be explored. I am white and a female and I also see this at Colts games: white women with little clothing air humping and booty shaking and it is considered wholesome. I think this screams a cultural double standard.

  14. Lisa in Indy on April 4, 2012 at 3:08 am

    Dr. Neal,
    Interesting perspective, thank you. Here is something that dawned on me as I sat at a Pacers game and discussed with my husband: why are professional cheerleaders who are predominately white, considered "wholesome" when they basically wear the same things as hip hop video girls and basically have the same sexual moves. I think it is a double standard that needs to be explored. I am white and a female and I also see this at Colts games: white women with little clothing air humping and booty shaking and it is considered wholesome. I think this screams a cultural double standard.

  15. Lisa in Indy on April 4, 2012 at 3:08 am

    Dr. Neal,
    Interesting perspective, thank you. Here is something that dawned on me as I sat at a Pacers game and discussed with my husband: why are professional cheerleaders who are predominately white, considered "wholesome" when they basically wear the same things as hip hop video girls and basically have the same sexual moves. I think it is a double standard that needs to be explored. I am white and a female and I also see this at Colts games: white women with little clothing air humping and booty shaking and it is considered wholesome. I think this screams a cultural double standard.

  16. Lisa in Indy on April 4, 2012 at 3:08 am

    Dr. Neal,
    Interesting perspective, thank you. Here is something that dawned on me as I sat at a Pacers game and discussed with my husband: why are professional cheerleaders who are predominately white, considered "wholesome" when they basically wear the same things as hip hop video girls and basically have the same sexual moves. I think it is a double standard that needs to be explored. I am white and a female and I also see this at Colts games: white women with little clothing air humping and booty shaking and it is considered wholesome. I think this screams a cultural double standard.

Follow The Feminist Wire

Arts & Culture

  • 3 poems by Sarah Kortemeier SarahKortemeier-_Baby_Fever____Stone_with_Nineteen_Corners____The_-sarah_kortemeier_outdoor_color_by_jennifer_mcstotts

    The Mountain   The mountain is really a series of itself. Deeper pockets of sky color float in its canyons. In certain seasons, it’s difficult to tell rock face from snowfall. The ridge line looks much sharper than it must, in actuality, be. When you climb, the summit is sometimes [...]

  • 3 poems by Arielle Greenberg Wormwood portrait LA

    Who I’d Like to Meet   I am on tiptoe scanning our tallest bookshelves for something to pack to read on the plane.  I am scanful, tippy-toed: a girl without boots.  I am shorty.  I want to read something great, as in literary, and beautiful and daring, and something hobnailed [...]

  • From Corpses, Artworks and Dreams of by Raha Namy

    The novel Corpses, Arts and Dreams of is a triptych that hopes to tell the story/history of a people of a place and time, from three different angles, in three different styles. The first book deals with life in the city of Tehran. The second is on the people who [...]