On Ashley Judd and the Politics of Citation

13 Apr

Ashley Judd holding a copy of her new book

A couple of folks were asking for a crunk response to Ashley Judd’s memoir passages and the resulting controversy. Judd is being called to task for singling out rap music as the “contemporary soundtrack of misogyny.” You can read her words here.

There are lots of responses that you can check out but I want to say something about the folks who defend Judd’s words with “Well, She has a point.”

Black women have been talking about (and back to) misogyny in hip-hop since it’s inception. Y’all remember Roxanne Shanté right?

It’s frustrating when all the work that black women have done to speak back to music that has particular, real world consequences in our lives is ommitted and unacknowledged. We’ve also done this talking back with an analysis of the systemic forces that make black men/rap music the scape goats for societal oppression of women. I know it’s a personal narrative, but can some hip-hop feminist foremothers get a shout out?

If we can all turn to the Ten Crunk Commandments for Re-Invigorating Hip Hop Feminist Studies, we’ll see that the first commandment reminds us to “know and cite” authors who have shaped the field of hip-hop feminism. This commandment doesn’t just apply to Judd but also to some of her defenders. If you are going to defend her position, can you cite the black women who have actually done work on the issue in scholarship, film, and action? The “she has a point” camp feels dismissive of decades of resistance and carefully crafted projects by hip-hop feminists and activists.

Rap music’s connection to rape culture and misogyny is real explicit. Its visible and repetitve invocations of gendered violence voiced by black and brown men make it an easy target. But by only focusing our attention there, we miss the larger picture of a white supremacist capitalist (hetero)patriarchal society that supports rap’s bad rap. It’s not a coincidence that we don’t know the names of the white men who sign the checks that rappers’ cash. Four major music labels account for almost 80% of the industry and not one CEO is a person of color (…and the white man get paid off of all of that).

The gendered violence that Judd experienced in her own life was not accompanied by thumping bass or autotune. To return to the commandments, if Judd had contextualized and situated her comments within her own lived reality, would rap music makes sense as the soundtrack to the misogyny she and the women closest to her have experienced or are experiencing?

CF Esha’s last three posts provide important context for how gendered violence is a social issue that goes so much deeper than music. She points to international military attacks by the U.S., national and state legislation, along with a moral cultural war that work in concert to oppress women, and women of color most specifically.

I am a big fan of holding rappers accountable for their misogyny. Trust. But I also want to push for white folks to hold each other accountable for the ways in which they perpetuate systems of oppression in culture writ large. I’m interested to read the whole book to see how she understands white culture’s impact on the way she experienced violence. She mentions the soundtrack but what about the movie itself?


Ashley Judd Apologizes

37 Responses to “On Ashley Judd and the Politics of Citation”

  1. crunktastic April 13, 2011 at 6:49 AM #

    I completely agree. I always find it interesting when white women are so quick to critique rap; when my students do it, I’m always amazed at how bewildered they look when I tell them to go look at rock music or country music. When they do, they come back looking sheepish. But more to the point, I think that we have to remember, too, that rap music is engaging in what you have rightly termed “misogynoir,” the hatred of Black women. So I find it interesting that white women often invoke women in the universal sense but never in the specific sense when they critique rap music. Which means that I find their concern to be less about me as a Black woman and more about those old narratives of Black men as villains and animals. If you really think about it, the worst kind of woman to be in Hip Hop culture is a Black woman, not just any woman in particular. But white women’s opportunism in this critique has a vested interest in missing that point.

  2. damidwif April 13, 2011 at 7:23 AM #

    In my youth, I, too, used to point the finger at rap and hiphop as the root of our troubles. Then I read some bell hooks, which told me that what is depicted in our music doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It also seems that the slave mimics the actions and desires of the master so long as he can get rewarded for doing so. Besides, there are non Black rappers and hip hop artists. Are they exempt? Surely I’m not saying anything original. Music is symptom. It is an expression that people of all economic classes can have access to as artists or consumers.

    I have worked predominantly with white women in the violence against women movement. And I can surely verify white man’s sheer hatred of any type of power concerning women: in the workplace, home, “justice” system, medical system…rap and hip hop ain’t got shit on real life. Please believe.

  3. so_treu April 13, 2011 at 7:27 AM #

    hear hear! for me, the continued erasure of black women from this narrative is more insidious that what she said. maybe just because white folks saying stuff like that, while infuriating, is not longer surprising. i save my side eye for the commentators who, in spite of article after breathless article about how social media connects us all and the internet being this thing that facilitates the acquisition of knowledge, STILL can’t seem to cite or engage with any of the folks blackamazon was naming, for instance. and i see links between this erasure on the part of black commentators, and the fact that nicki minaj is the *only* female rapper in the mainstream/on the radio, AND the fact that one of the most hyped groups in the game right now made a name for themselves by in part, talking about raping women (who are implied to be black). it’s like we can always be talked about, but not talked to.

    hope that makes sense.

  4. DefeatedandGifted April 13, 2011 at 7:32 AM #

    This is a brilliant response to Judd’s comments. Thank you.

  5. Tasasha April 13, 2011 at 7:32 AM #

    This is a very good response to Ashley Judd’s critique of rap music. The first thing I thought when I read her comments, was that American culture is a rape culture, and the rap industry is only one small part of that culture, that includes the music industry as a whole, the television and movie industry, journalism, the criminal justice system and the government. We are all complicit in perpetuating rape culture. One culture or industry shouldn’t be singled out.

  6. michelle April 13, 2011 at 9:04 AM #

    extremely insightful commentary, moya. on point, as always!

  7. Asha April 13, 2011 at 11:35 AM #

    Yes!!!: “She mentions the soundtrack but what about the movie itself?”

  8. Hump Jones April 13, 2011 at 11:45 AM #

    Best commentary I read on this by far. Closer was solid gold.

  9. Sofia April 13, 2011 at 6:18 PM #

    Amen, ache and alla that good stuff. Have y’all read her reflection since the pushback? In it she cites bell hooks as one of her teachers yet also says that she only meant “to talk about gender”(that’s her response to charges of racism in her wholesale attack on rap music and hip-hop.) I don’t know if she saw it, but I tweeted @ashleytjudd that she revisit hooks’ work since hooks never fails to address intersectionality in her work i.e. there’s no such thing as talking “just” about gender.

  10. Rob Fields April 13, 2011 at 10:01 PM #

    OK. I have to admit that I’m one of those people who wrote a “she has a point” pieces, and you’ve given me a moment’s pause. You make a very good point about the need to acknowledge the work that black women have been doing in this area. For me, it was less about defending Judd and more about what I saw was an almost knee-jerk circling of the wagons in defense of hip hop. It seemed like the point she was making was being dismissed and ridiculed like it was completely off base. Moreover, I didn’t see any voices speak up and say what many of us feel: That, yes, there is a lot of hip hop that is extremely problematic, and it’s only made worse because hip hop is now this global lingua franca of pop culture. Judd wasn’t right in her over-generalization, but neither were those who rushed to defend hip hop without much consideration for the larger point that was being made. I felt like those defenders of hip hop–because they seemed so vociferous–were silencing further nuanced critique. That’s what I responded to here:


    Anyway, thanks for raising this issue. I will spend sometime on the site and uncover some additional resources and writers

    • crunktastic April 13, 2011 at 10:38 PM #

      I would agree with you, Rob, that she has a point, but in making that point as CF Moya’s piece rightly points out, she misses the larger point. This crunkfeminist piece brought out some other issues for me as well. White women often harshly judge hip hop by decrying its stance towards women. But hip hop’s hatred of women is specifically about Black women. In many ways, the way the culture devalues Black women often contributes to a larger valuing of white women as more feminine, trustworthy and supportive of men. So part of the reason that Black feminists who’ve talked about the issue have to be brought into the conversation is because they’ve critiqued this universal undifferentiated notion of womanhood that white women invoke. Do white women really care about women or are they simply jumping on the bandwagon to lambast and pathologize Black men, as more criminal, sexist and misogynist than the white corporate fathers who gratuitously distribute the music? Black women shld certainly find it suspect when a white woman renders a critique of the culture that a.) pays no attention to the unique experiences of Black women and b.) pathologizes Black men. It seems to me that we can have a fullscale critique of all that is problematic in hip hop and yet remain mindful that Judd’s positionality as a white woman makes her critique problematic and privileged precisely because she avoids an obvious opportunity for an integrated racial analysis. I mean one is left to wonder how you can grow up in the violent, alcoholic culture of country music and skip over that to point fingers at hip hop.

      • Rob Fields April 14, 2011 at 7:19 AM #

        A couple of things: 1) I think you’re painting in broad strokes when you lump Judd into the category of white women who “lambast and pathologize Black men.” Judd is hardly talking about all black men, let alone all rappers. More likely the ones like Kanye, Weezy and Luda, to name a few. They are trafficking in pathology, no doubt. And 2)who cares about country music? What I mean is this: Country music in no way shapes global perceptions about black people in the way that hip hop does. Moreover, hip hop, at its worst, embeds foul images and attitudes towards women inside seductive beats that are shared all over the world. In that way, it’s completely understandable for her to call that out. As someone who pushes progressive black music culture as a valid means of black expression and self-actualization, it’s important, I think, to break that narrow frame that hip hop has, in many ways, erected around black life.

        That said, I hear you on the positionality piece of your argument, i.e., Judd’s white privilege. However, does that really make her point any less valid? Does it preclude her weighing in on the effects, as she sees them, of the more hateful and demeaning aspects that are prevalent in examples of hip hop that reach wide audiences? After all, the majority of hip hop purchases are made by whites.

        I don’t have an answer here. Thanks again for engaging.

      • crunktastic April 14, 2011 at 11:40 AM #

        I’m not lumping her into a category sans her own comments placing her in that category. Rather than making an ad hominem attack about her as a white woman who “pathologizes” I’m pointing to the fact that her comment, because of its failure to pursue racial nuance has the effect of pathologizing, which places her within a long tradition of white women who engage black men’s sexual politics on this level. I’m no apologist for hip hop’s misogyny, hence this blog, the scathing piece I wrote on Jay Electronica, etc. Like this piece, I concede that she has a point. I just think she has to be attendant to the other implications of that point in a broader cultural arena. Also, the reason country music matters in this instance is because this comment was made in Judd’s biography. Country music was her soundtrack. Not hip hop. So yes, she has the right to make the point and a valid point it is, but her own experiences point to other more salient points about white men’s sexual politics. The reason black men are such easy targets is because of the hypervisibility of race. If she’s going to be an ally in struggle, bringing a useful critique requires her to acknowledge these things as a white woman saying them in a way that you as a Black man or I as a Black woman don’t have to. Acknowledging positionality, especially regarding privilege, is the only way to avoid reifying privilege. And finally, I actually don’t agree that Hip Hop is a wholesale attack on all women. It engages in what my fellow CF Moya has rightly termed “misogynoir,” a particular hatred of Black women, and Brown women as well. Yes, we are all women, but Black feminist after Black feminist has pointed to the ways in which white women’s invocation of the category of universal womanhood actually often obscures experiences unique to Black women, while placing white women’s experiences at the center. Whether she intended them to or not, Judd’s comments illustrates the inherent truth of this argument.

      • Nuala April 16, 2011 at 1:12 PM #

        I appreciate the analysis in this blog and all of these comments. Black women have been pushing back against misogyny for long time and it can feel like a slap in the face when Judd’s words are treated as brand new.

        In addition, this post reminds us that we must consider the role of corporations when calling out misogyny in hop hop. As a black feminist who has grown up listening to hip hop, I have often felt compelled to respond to misogyny and homophobia in rap music and call out the artists, because that’s who i see and that’s who I hear.

        While there is certainly a place for that– (artists should be held accountable) it’s easy to forget the seemingly invisible corporate presence that fuels, distributes and even shapes these artists. As Moya points out the “Four major music labels account for almost 80% of the industry and not one CEO is a person of color.”

        I think its about time (again) that we bring some collective action TOWARDS “white corporate fathers who gratuitously distribute the music,” music that DOES reinforce rape culture and misogyny.

        This issue will always be bigger than hip hop, bigger than pop music and pop culture… but how can we use this opportunity to make a statement to corporations, since we have the evidence, the analysis, the spotlight and the momentum, right now.

        As Elizabeth Mendez Berry has said: “It’s sexual assault awareness month, and I’m wishing that just an ounce of the backlash vs. Ashley Judd could be directed at rape culture itself. Imagine that.”

        Can we imagine some collective action directed at the corporations for a change? Can we demand them to also be held accountable for the role that they play in promoting music and other forms of media messages that reinforce hatred of women, LGBT folks and rape culture?

        What might collective action look like?

    • tiffany April 14, 2011 at 11:54 AM #

      “made worse because hip hop is now this global lingua franca of pop culture.”

      yes, but here’s the thing: it is almost always recontextualized. rappers in saudi arabia are not (yet) rapping about sex and women. rappers in south africa run the gamut of topics. there are native american rappers rapping about reservation life.

      so are we talking about hip-hop? or about the sub-genre of mainstream american rappers? and if we’re talking about misogyny and hip-hop, how are we not talking about how it’s reflective of american culture and its narratives around race, gender and class? this is why i can’t blame hip-hop for misogyny. it’s too easy.

      • Rob Fields April 14, 2011 at 1:30 PM #

        Tiffany, I think we’ve got to have both conversations. To wait until we deal with the larger American culture issue is, I believe, to let certain elements in hip hop off the hook.

        Me, I’m American, black, and male,and I’ve worked hard NOT to be a misogynist, despite what the mainstream culture says. If I can do it, why are we afraid to ask certain elements in hip hop to do the same? I agree that hip hop didn’t start misogyny. I also remember the words of Mark Anthony Neal, who said that most of these brothas haven’t sat thru any feminist theory classes. At best, Mark’s statement gets us to a starting point of empathy with these brothas, but it doesn’t absolve us of the need to create a new environment in which it’s understood that this kind of thing isn’t okay.

        Who knows, maybe that’s too pie-in-the-sky?

  11. Danielle April 13, 2011 at 10:48 PM #

    I love this site! I get to get filled in on all the pop culture and current event things going on and get a wonderful, thoughtful critique of them all in one. I first heard about this Ashley Judd comment through other feminist blogs but I find this critique to be most helpful. I too have been complaining a lot about rap music lately. Not as the evils of society, but because artists I previously liked have become seemingly more commercial and misogynistic. All rappers are not misogynists but it is upsetting when you see (or perhaps in my case just notice it more) an increasing amount of hurtful talk about women from artists you liked. However, this response is a great way to reposition how all of this is happening within the white supremacist patriarchal capitalist system. While misogyny has long been an issue of discuss in hip hop and rap, it seems as capitalist and corporate powers as expanding the agendas behind these institutions will increase in appearance in all aspects, from politics, TV, movies, and yes, music.

    I had to laugh a bit at the part about rap not being the soundtrack to her experiences. Its not funny like that. Just one of those things that just make you laugh because of how real they are. I was a dancer (read: stripper) for almost 3 years and that was the most degrading, misogynistic experience in my life for the most part. And the soundtrack of that experience was a constant rotation of 80s, 90s, and early 2000s white rock. That white men could listen to and identify with as a soundtrack to fulfill their own fantasies. The owner was adamant about not allowing rap music because of the “kind of crowd” it drew. But without the rap music and that “kind of crowd” drugs were still sold and done, women were still objectified, raped, and abused. The few times hip hop was allowed was actually for white women, not any of the black or latina women I worked with. It just forced me to be reminded of my own experience with how much music can be tied to these kinds of beliefs but how you say, the music is only the background to the larger picture, the movie.

    • ashoncrawley April 15, 2011 at 5:19 AM #

      thanks for this.

  12. wordLife April 14, 2011 at 5:55 AM #

    So true! Given that it’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and also that she is well known as a human rights advocate, it’s understandable that Judd would want to build dialogue around the prevalence of sexual violence in American culture. I like how your post reminds us to treat the problem, not just the symptoms, & to not forget the feminists/advocates who have been “talking back” at misogyny for decades, trying to bring healing to our people through thoughtful analysis & relentless action.

  13. Al From Bay Shore April 14, 2011 at 3:23 PM #

    This article is a laugher. What is a Hip Hop feminist? They make mention of Roxanne Shante HOWEVER this is a bit disengenuous. The time in which Roxanne Shante happened upon the scene, was a time in which the mysogyny was nowhere near the level that it is today. In fact, in those times, that which made the playlists of the popularized Hip Hop programming was largely focused on the art of Hip Hop as well as having proficiency in the skills that were integral to the Hip Hop artistic subculture (breakdancing, turntablism, graffiti art, rapping, and later on beatboxing). My point is that once again, there is a cadre of folks out there who pimp the early days of Hip Hop as a means of glossing over the negative excesses that have taken over Hip Hop…. oops, I mean to say Rap because Hip Hop, the artistic subculture, no longer exists. In fact what it should be called is Rap fascism because it is the polar opposite of what Hip Hop was – a culture that celebrated artistic creativity. Common tried doing this when invoking the Hip Hop of the conscious period (1987 – 1997) in an attempt to, once again, obscure the anti-social and culturally dysfunctional perversions that Rap glorifies.

    And then the article resorts to a “white folk made us do it” rhetoric. First the article admits, reluctantly perhaps, “Rap music’s connection to rape culture and misogyny is real explicit…” but then follows up by arguing that “…we miss the larger picture of a white supremacist capitalist (hetero)patriarchal society that supports rap’s bad rap.” Huh? Yeah, those mean ‘ol evil white folk are imposing bad, misogynistic, violent rap on Black folks against our will. Nonsense. Gucci Mane, Flo-Rida, and Young Jeezy play a larger role in the market place than KRS One because the market demands it. And who is the market? I’ll reference Ice Cube by saying that its “Us”. More specifically, its our young people. Being even more specific, its young Black people, and their appetite for this mysoginistic and violence glorifying variety of Rap speaks volumes about the work and rehabilitation that is needed to reform our popular culture.

    Ashley Judd is saying what everyone else is saying and what she is saying is absolutely true.

    • crunktastic April 14, 2011 at 5:11 PM #

      Hip Hop feminists are the people who’ve been saying for nearly the last 20 years, the “absolutely true” things that Ashley Judd said. But they’ve been saying it in a way that holds black male rappers accountable for their piss-poor choices while also acknowledging the systemic influences that cause negative rap to get airplay while the positive stuff stays underground. And since you would like to know what a Hip Hop Feminist is, here’s a list of names so you can go find out. For starters –Joan Morgan; dream hampton; Gwendolyn Pough; Tricia Rose; Mark Anthony Neal; Byron Hurt; Kevin Powell.

  14. Al From Bay Shore April 14, 2011 at 7:57 PM #

    Oh, I get it. This must be the latest fad adopted by the contemporary Black intelligencia. It seems inevitable that the onset of a “Hip Hop” professor (Michael Eric Dyson) would also bring about “Hip Hop” feminists. Please don’t misread this for I would not equate you with Dr. Dyson, his intellectual dishonesty, as well as his penchant for masturbatory rhetoric. However, the problem is that your singling out of Ashley Judd seems to suggest that she has no place calling out the clear and apparent misogyny that has played a substantive role in Hip Hop’s death transformation into mere “Rap”. You did offer the connection between misogyny and rap, something that Ashley Judd also mentioned. So why is her critique something worthy of criticism yet your critique is not? I surmise that the key to this mystery lay in your commentary on “a larger picture” whereby “white capitalists”, a “white patriarchy”, as well as “white supremacy” are complicit in a large and unseen conspiracy that render the dysfunctional elements so present within the culture of rap fascism (read “not Hip Hop”). In other words, you may be hinting that Ashley Judd’s commentary needed the ever important “blame whitey corollary”. I’m all for understanding the role played by systemic trends insofar as their influences upon society but you cannot invoke capitalism as a player in this and then argue that forces beyond the culture of Black rap culture consumerism determine what is to be listened to. That makes no sense for capitalist endeavors are subject to market pressure and that are created by the demand of the consumer. The consumers demand this type of rap and so the capitalists, being greedy for money and wealth, respond appropriately. They responded to the demand for X-Clan, Stetsonic, Boogie Down Productions, Brand Nubian, Organized Konfusion, Poor Righteous Teachers, Ice Cube, and Public Enemy, to name a few from the conscious period of Hip Hop’s inevitable wane. My point is that the capitalists, of whom P-Diddy and Damon Dash are a part, responded to the desires of a consumer electorate that votes with money, debit cards, and Itune downloads. The problem does not lie with them but, as I said earlier, with “Us”.

    In a time in which broken homes in the Black community have perpetuated themselves to the point of nearly 75% of all Black children being born into single parent homes, it should come as no surprise that Hip Hop’s
    “Last Poets moment” was to be supplanted by Bone Thugz and Harmony. In “Black Steel In The Hour of Chaos” we broke out of a mental prison only to return back to Too Short. I like Ice Cube and will invoke “Death Certificate” as a fantastic thematic CD but the fact remains that that CD also included “Givin’ Up The Nappy Dugout”. There was too much inner conflict within our culture for there to be continued progress and that came from “Us”. The constructs of white supremacy, capitalist exploitation, and patriarchy do not cause 15 year old children to concieve children with no forethought of raising those children while, simultaneously, perpetuating the very cycle that brought them into existence.

    • crunktastic April 14, 2011 at 8:16 PM #

      Hip Hop had feminists long before Michael Eric Dyson got put on as the celebrity hip hop professor…so nah, it ain’t the “latest fad.”

      Because my politics are admittedly and unapologetically leftist, wading into all the rhetoric in your second paragraph about Black folks perpetuating cycles and such would clearly be an exercise in futility, because at the end of the day you and I are not gonna come to any common ground on it.

      RE: Ashley Judd, no one is trying to absolve hip hop of anything. I’ll simply quote another Crunk Feminist whose article I just read on Nate Dogg, which seemed to encapsulate my point–

      “I am a little troubled over how White mens investment in Black mens misogyny in rap music isn’t interrogated. And how that shit impacts me and the women who look like me.” — CF Renina Jarmon http://www.racialicious.com/2011/04/13/and-you-even-licked-my-balls-a-black-feminist-note-on-nate-dogg/

      Over here, we’ve all been branded as race traitors enough that no thinking person would think we weren’t trying to hold brothers accountable. It just needs to be pointed out that white men have the brand on misogyny…rap stars are simply never-ending promoters of that brand…and just like we know where misogyny originates in our communities, white women know where it comes from in theirs, and they need to say so.

  15. filmfemme April 14, 2011 at 8:49 PM #

    I know I’m gonna get hit hard (metaphorically, of course) for this, but I think this is a mountain being made out of a molehill. Ashley Judd is an actress, not an cultural theorist. As intelligent and thoughtful as Judd is, why are we expecting her to bring “racial nuance” to this argument? She was making a basic point about rap and misogyny and her point is correct. But to expect some type of Frantz Fanon/bell hooks level of analysis from her is expecting too much. Also, it was an EXCERPT. Maybe reading the entire book would bring more “nuance” to her statement. It feels like to me that the author is mad that she and other Black feminist writers are not getting their props while “white girl” Ashley Judd gets all this attention for saying something that sisters who write for this blog and elsewhere have been saying for two decades. And I don’t blame you for being mad about that; it’s fucked up that white privilege drowns out legitimate Black voices (as a Black female filmmaker I FEEL you on that). But own up to that, that’s all. Ashley Judd didn’t invent white privilege. In the end, Judd is trying to do GOOD with her work advocating for women and against sex crimes. And she apologized for not being as sensitive as she maybe could have been. Don’t shoot the messenger.

    P.S. I also concur with everything Rob Fields wrote.

    P.P.S. Would folks be as critical if the same non-cited, lacking nuance comments were made by a Black person?

    • crunktastic April 15, 2011 at 6:34 AM #

      No we wouldn’t be critical if a woman of color said it; white privilege is being critiqued here. No one said we disagreed with Ashley Judd. We simply said more nuance was required. Judd herself invoked bell hooks in her apology. So if she’s read bell, then she knew better.

      Let me also add in defense of the author, whom I know personally, obviously, that we don’t write this blog or make these interventions because we need to “get credit.” We’re not hating for the sake of credibility. As scholars and cultural theorists and intellectuals, we’re offering legitimate push back against Judd’s point, that while perhaps true certainly managed to not contextualize in a way that she is clearly capable of doing. (See link to her apology in the update.) In fact it’s a piss-poor argument in my estimation to accuse sisters with a legitimate race critique of being haters. But there we go defending white womanhood at all costs again, and seeing the sisters who are calling her out as the misguided ones with disingenuous motives.

      Two additional points — I love how brothers in this thread and elsewhere who consider themselves progressive are all over Judd’s point and are now content to tell sisters that we don’t get it. So on the issue of misogyny in hip hop music, progressive Black men get it and progressive white women get it, but the sisters who see something at play here, are mere haters? Love that. How original!
      Critique racism and we’re not feminist enough. Critique sexism and we’re not down for the cause enough. FML.

      And what kind of argument is it to suggest that we shouldn’t hold Judd accountable, because it is unfair expectation that she would have a racial analysis? When is that argument ever used to excuse someone missing the point? Part of the work between Black feminists and white feminists FOREVER has been asking white feminists who do legitimately “good work” for women and girls to get it right when they talk about racial issues. And that’s all we’re asking for here. If she’s gonna say something this incendiary, then she needs to get it right, all the way right. Not white girl right. Period.

      • Shelby April 15, 2011 at 10:21 AM #

        Yes! That’s how I felt reading this thread too. Like, y’all are STILL falling over yourselves to excuse and defend and apologize for a white woman! A white woman who happened to make a sloppy, uninformed, tired, old comment about rap and hip hop. And folks would rather trust THAT than sisters who’ve put in heart and work to make complex critique.

        We will really do anything to invalidate the lives of Black women, won’t we? Just like always.

      • filmfemme April 15, 2011 at 4:42 PM #

        @Crunktastic: I don’t expect you to agree with me on this, but don’t get it twisted that I’m somehow “defending white womanhood” by what I wrote. It’s not true and as a Black feminist myself I resent that implication. What I am defending is free speech (which I would defend for you as well). And I read her apology before posting here. I’m not in Judd’s head but it seems like she is sincerely stunned and sorry about the controversy in how her comments were interpreted (which BTW has completely deflected from WHY she made the point in the first place–calling out misogyny and violence against women). Could she and should she have been more intellectually astute in her criticism of hip hop? Absolutely. But do we make her walk the plank because she didn’t include FOOTNOTES in her memoir?! Reading bell hooks doesn’t mean she can BREAK SHIT DOWN like her (or Joan Morgan. Or Tricia Rose. etc.)! Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t expect her to (ditto for the vast majority of folks in the entertainment industry, regardless of color or gender). That doesn’t mean we throw her a parade. But I know that I have said/written things that were right in essence and meaning, but weren’t considered 100% politically/intellectually proper. Haven’t you?

      • crunktastic April 15, 2011 at 7:01 PM #

        I get it. You just think we’re being too hard on her, and that she should get a pass because she was well-intentioned and largely right. And where we disagree is that I don’t think that white people should ever get a pass for saying statements that are not racially accurate, particularly when those white folks claim to be allies in struggle, which Judd certainly does.

        So yes, I sincerely believe Judd meant well. Her intentions were good. Doesn’t mean the implications of what she said shouldn’t be challenged. I’m all about thinking through the nuances of folks arguments, rather than personally attacking them. This was my/our intention with Ashley Judd and certainly my intention in thinking through your original comment at the level of the argument you made rather than simply the politics you espouse, because I’m sure on that point that we are generally in solidarity.

        I think that’s what the original piece that CF Moya wrote was attempting to do; rather than merely calling out Ashley Judd, the piece was also calling out all the supposedly Black progressive folks who were quick to jump on her bandwagon, folks who themselves, particularly the professors and semi-academics who wrote pieces on other blogs, could be expected to know better.

        So even though I believe Ashley Judd is sincere, particularly her apology, the responses from other folks were themselves problematic, because you had Black men co-signing her critique and coming out to show how progressive they were, in ways that they rarely do for other Black women when we make the same critiques. And that impulse, to defend a white woman even when these same men wouldn’t think twice about doing it for a sister is steeped in very particular notions about the vulnerability of white womanhood. And that brings up the history of white women being always ready to vilify Black men’s cultural practices, even when they aren’t prepared to offer that critique at the same level of their own men. And it also brings up the point that Hip Hop’s misogyny is largely targeted at Black women, not all women, and if white feminists are gonna offer this critique then they need to do it in a way that specifically supports Black women. Too many Black feminist foremothers have talked about the ways that white women’s invocation of the category of “womanhood” denies the particular realities of Black women in the exact same moment that they claim to be speaking for us. I think this is absolutely at play in Judd’s sentiments, which are all about white female indignation with misogyny in general but not about white feminist solidarity with Black women against the clear racial encoding of bitch and ho that is clearly targeted at us, in particular.

        So this gets back to the point about the fact that while what she said was true, her particular positionality as a white woman coupled with her failure to bring a nuanced critique makes the point problematic. So challenging the rightness or the preciseness of what she said is not the same as challenging her right to say it, although I think if she’s gonna invoke her “right” to say it, she needs to say it all the way right.

  16. Maureen O'Danu April 15, 2011 at 10:31 AM #

    Good on you for holding her feet to the fire, and good on her for apologizing. I think her apology was pretty on target, and I think that she’s one of those rare people who learns from criticism, even if she gets defensive initially. It shows in her apology.

    I’ve spent a little time wandering in here today, and wow. (Adds to RSS feed)

  17. filmfemme April 20, 2011 at 1:24 PM #

    @Crunktastic: I get you as well. Your last post illuminated the micro on top of the macro of this controversy, in particular the Black men who defended Judd, and the still frayed dynamics & politics between Black & white feminists. I still stand by my original comments, but with an asterisk. Thanks to you & CFC for the engagement.

  18. coloredhoney or honey for short May 3, 2011 at 1:52 PM #

    i like the thoughtful resistance of corporate arts culture on this site as well as the more intimate commentary on life for women of color. i wonder how much ashley judd’s book and kindle sales spiked after the uproar over her excerpted statements about hip hop? i would hope that an intellectual community of music lovers are not so sensitive and fragile that a woman who writes a book that includes her brief opinions on that same music has to recant, apologize and explain herself. i’m not saying cfc shouldn’t have spoken up. i am saying that what she wrote was not so huge. if it were me, i wish i would apologize. her opinions don’t negate the wonderful work and discussion, black feminists, parents, and children have contributed to hip hop philosophy. agreeing with what she said also, to me, doesn’t negate that work either or render one’s cultural purview one dimensional. one can write an autobiography without a. having to make everybody happy b. having to follow rules or guidelines.

    the article above makes reference to “the ten crunk commandments…”. i read them and felt ambivalent. i’m not particularly motivated by a sketch of biggie’s ten crack commandments to push effective leadership/scholarship. i don’t care how dope he rhymed. what comes to mind is not a reinvigorating of hip hop feminism (which to me has not revealed itself, yet, to be more than an adversarial family reunion against the obvious woman hater filled tracks that keep folks on the dance floor), but what does pop in my brain is the refrain: kick in the door wavin the 44/ all you heard was poppa don’t hit me no more; lyrics from a different song but largely representative of his overall perspective (at least in his music). i know as descendants of oppressed peoples and legacies, black people have righteously attempted to reclaim & reshape derogatory language to make it powerful in our free hands but it still feels veiled with a lingering oppressive tinge. i think we are powerful enough to stir up something new and trust that it would still be hot.

    • crunktastic May 3, 2011 at 2:55 PM #

      Thank you for your thoughtful reflection on this post. I’ll leave it to the author to respond to your thoughts on Judd.

      But as one of the CFs who composed the Ten Crunk Commandments piece, I must say that I’m unsure from your comments what exactly you disagree with about the commandments. From what I understand you to be saying, you primarily disagree with them because of the name, which it seems you take as our collective endorsement of Biggie’s problematic social politics. Clearly, Biggie obviously wasn’t the first to do any kind of 10 Commandments. Based on the reasoning you offered here, Biggie’s Crack Commandments would have to be paying homage to the original Decalogue based upon name alone, which clearly isn’t the case. And so it is for us: while the piece alludes to him, he did not inspire the sentiment behind the specific crunk commandments themselves.

      Do you disagree with the substance of what we wrote? And in what ways has Hip Hop feminism limited itself to the merely familial? And if HHF can be characterized as you do here, don’t the commandments themselves work to rectify these limitations by pushing for more criticality?

      The commandments call for scholars who plan to do work in the field to take it seriously, to pursue the ideas and implications of those ideas with a certain kind of rigor and creativity. We can agree to disagree about whether Hip Hop Feminism is effective, but if so, I prefer that we disagree at the level of substantive ideas rather than wholesale dismissals and mischaracterizations that do not attend to specific critiques.

      • coloredhoney or honey for short May 3, 2011 at 11:03 PM #

        thank you for responding. i responded late to the post so i appreciate your willingness to still address my comment. the commandments are cool. names have a tremendous power to raise emotion and incite action. i specifically critiqued the name and posed a general challenge for those of us who get riled up and swoon over hip hop’s poetics yet abhor its gender politics, to innovate starting with naming. i hear you. biggie didn’t create his commandments out of unheard of genius. biggie also was not interested in taking a feminist standpoint with his music. you are making a clear feminist statement and calling for action to renew an attractive magic that requires historical inquiry. many contemporary female and male scholars who follow hip hop on any level will think biggie not bible or feminist religious studies, when reading the name “10 crunk commandments.”

        i said i was ambivalent based on the name. i didn’t dismiss the commandments wholesale. something about the song or biggie inspired you if not your sentiments. otherwise why allude to him at the onset of outlining potential contemporary paths of building scholarly hip hop feminist work? i want to take hip hop feminism seriously. i take what you wrote seriously which is why i am writing. however, here is how women and sexuality appear in the biggie song you allude to: mama will set that behind up in a drug sting. money and blood don’t mix like two you know whats and no- the other you know what, thus he degrades homosexuality and women yet again. he proffers slight praise to the enemy’s girlfriend who is a culinary wiz and fellatio impresario providing a smidgen of stress relief from the hard life of a hustler.

        the name to me implies a cute and clever gateway, not a gateway that works towards thinking creatively. i know that you are placing a call for intelligent research, reflection and reference for sister priestesses around the globe to envision ourselves central to hip hop and to re-imagine our everyday lived feminism. why allude to biggie and not your homegirl, elle vie or someone with maybe less public exposure yet makes up for that in expressing lyrical female power? by the way, thank you for posting her video. i had not heard of her and she is indeed speaking something worthy and new. she could also fit into feminist religious studies from a hip hop perspective.

  19. Tisha May 3, 2011 at 11:38 PM #

    I for one have never been one to excuses the garbage that spills out of the mouths of White America, especially when it pertains to anything to do or about Black America. They do not know us, they are cultural tourists in our world and I for one am tired of giving them a free tour.

    Yes Judd has the right to say and think what she wants I am not arguing that, but I will not just stand by and let White America comment on our culture without speaking my mind.

    Yeah she might have a point, but like the post suggest, she is not the first person to do. Black women have been saying it for years and what do we hear in response? “You’re bitter, just support the movement, stop you’re bitching…” and everything else under the sun.

    Our concerns and cares are cast aside as nagging or bitching. But when White America stands up and says the same thing, well then “they have a point.” And then does the world run back to Black women to see what we were talking about this entire time? Nope, we are called haters for not supporting and backing up the assessment made by White America.

    Its a catch 22 being a black woman. Damned if we do and damnit if we don’t.

    I say call out White America each and every time. Thank you for this and keep up the good work.


  1. The Week As We Read It « Canonball - April 14, 2011

    […] On Ashley Judd and the Politics of Citation by moyazb, Crunk Feminist Collective. Actress Judd recently called rap music the “contemporary soundtrack of misogyny” – a lot of people agreed but failed to acknowledge the black women who made the same point before Judd: If we can all turn to the Ten Crunk Commandments for Re-Invigorating Hip Hop Feminist Studies, we’ll see that the first commandment reminds us to “know and cite” authors who have shaped the field of hip-hop feminism. This commandment doesn’t just apply to Judd but also to some of her defenders. If you are going to defend her position, can you cite the black women who have actually done work on the issue in scholarship, film, and action? The “she has a point” camp feels dismissive of decades of resistance and carefully crafted projects by hip-hop feminists and activists. […]

  2. Ashley Judd vs. Hip-Hop (This Is The Remix) « The Rambling Feminist - April 14, 2011

    […] Crunk Feminist Collective On Ashley Judd and the Politics of Citation; they note that WOC have been calling out hip-hop for ages and no one notices until the white women’s tears start. […]

  3. Some Bittersweet Truths About Ashley Judd : Ms Magazine Blog - April 17, 2011

    […] defenders argue that, privilege aside, Judd has a point. Of course she does. As the Crunk Feminist Collective points out, women of color have been critiquing rap’s most virulent and offensive lyrics for […]

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