Rush To Judgment: Rush Limbaugh's Use Of Hip Hop In The War On Women

Should rappers and political pundits be treated equally? Slava Kuperstein looks at Rush Limbaugh's latest attack on Hip Hop for answers.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a shock jock uses incredibly offensive words to describe women, and justifies it by using Hip Hop as a scapegoat. No, we’re not talking about Don Imus and his “nappy-headed hoes.” Not this time. Instead, conservative talk-show host (and longtime Hip Hop-detractor) has been thrust into the limelight.

Goody.

On February 29, Rush Limbaugh used the words “slut” and “prostitute” to describe Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student who testified in front of the Steering and Policy Committee Democratic members regarding private health coverage for contraceptives. The gist of Fluke’s argument: a lack of free contraception from private insurance plans would force many low-income students to be without contraceptives, and creates a demand that could not be met by already overburdened free health clinics. It should be noted that Fluke’s testimony came after she was denied the opportunity to testify in front of Congress about the very same issue, leaving no women witnesses to speak on the panel.

After a public outcry, Limbaugh offered a stock apology to Fluke. Later, after taking one step forward, he took two steps back, offering a foolish excuse for his diction. “Talk about a double standard,” stated Limbaugh. “Rappers can say anything they want about women. It’s called art. And they win awards.”

This isn’t the first time Rush has put Hip Hop on blast. In response to the infamous fight between NBA teams the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, Limbaugh made his take clear: “[T]hat comes right out of the Hip Hop culture... This is the Hip Hop culture on parade. This is gang behavior on parade minus the guns.” Limbaugh went on to predict he would be pegged as a racist, and at least regarding this matter, he’s right. Much like news stations and talk radio now use the word “urban” as a politically correct euphemism for “black,” Limbaugh uses “Hip Hop.” Never mind that all Hip Hop isn’t violent, or that all Hip Hop culture isn’t all black culture, or that NBA teams aren’t at all representative of Hip Hop culture or black culture. Those are conversations for another day.

Poltical Discussion Versus Entertainment

There’s a point here that Limbaugh is purposefully missing: while he claims to be a source of serious political discourse, rappers–from Boosie to Chuck D–are entertainers. Sure, a Hip Hop record may serve to generate sociopolitical discussions, but any emcee that has ever existed is a music artist. As listeners, we can impute whatever meaning we want to art – that’s the very nature of art. If I throw on a Public Enemy record, it can be because I want to rage against the machine, or because I simply want to get down to some Bomb Squad production. Limbaugh’s role is unmistakable: it’s political discussion from a right-wing perspective. As such, their responsibilities aren’t remotely comparable.

Perhaps the most troubling thing here is that Limbaugh believes that his rhetoric is no more damaging than that of your typical sexist rapper, an assertion that is as absurd as it is shortsighted. Yes, misogyny anywhere (in Hip Hop, politics, or otherwise) is indicative of institutionalized sexism that has been a pillar of every society in recorded history. But the problem is this: Diddy, try as he might, doesn’t have sway over voters. Rush Limbaugh, the most powerful man on talk radio, does. And what Limbaugh is trying to do is codify stripping women of the right to have access to essential healthcare, of the right to free speech, and of the right to be represented in a matter that predominantly affects women.

Limbaugh’s hope is that by using words like “slut,” he can shame brave women like Fluke into either (1) thinking that there’s actually something wrong with enjoying the same sexual carte blanche afforded to their male counterparts; or (2) forcing women to fear for their reputations, careers, and in some cases, safety, just for trying to claim their natural and constitutional rights. While 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.” may be narrow-minded and harmful, it can hardly be said to have such calculated and sinister designs.

The Real Double Standard

Limbaugh is right about one thing: there is a double standard operating here. Namely, the one Limbaugh has developed for Hip Hop music as opposed to any other genre. Rush points to unnamed rappers who “can say anything they want about women.” Sure, Snoop Dogg and Eminem are just as guilty as anyone, but is there a more notorious misogynist in music than Frank Sinatra? Sure, Ol’ Blue Eyes made it sound classy in “Lady is a Tramp,” but let’s call a spade a spade: the reason Limbaugh doesn’t cite the Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan is because his ultra-conservative base would never allow it. Why, the Stones and Dylan are American institutions! In other words, it’s easier for Rush to cry foul at “Bitches Ain’t Shit” rather than at “Just Like a Woman.”

It’s ironic, really. Hip Hop has long been criticized, and rightfully so, for being a source of much negativity in the ever-present struggle for women’s rights. But it seems that, at least in this instance, the battle for women’s rights and Hip Hop’s efforts to become a respected musical art form are in alignment. Hopefully, this unified front will result in more progressive thinking – both about women and Hip Hop’s place amongst more highly-regarded art forms.

Slava Kuperstein is an Ellicott City, Maryland native by way of Odessa, Ukraine who has been writing for HipHopDX since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @SlavaHHDX.

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44 Comments

  • M

    One of the reasons I love hip hop is because of all the F-ed up things said about women, fags, rednecks, politicians, etc. Who cares if they are anti-woman as long as it's a good song.

  • Anonymous

    where was the upset people when Bill Maher called Sarah Palin a cunt? WHen he said the only thing she is good for is having retarded babies falling out of her twat? When Ed Schultz called Lara Ingrham a slut on national TV? When Ed Schultz called Joe Lieberman's wife a whore? When Bill Maher and even people on MSNBC make blantantly racist remarks directed at southerners? Before people go and say its a stereo type of white yokels... where do the majority of afircan american's live? the south... so I dont understand how no one else sees that as an obvious racist statement... oh they would if Bill O Reily said it. Bill Maher constantly makes gay refrences and gay inuendoes towards rick santorum. Robert Kennedy Jr. calls an opposing female repubilcan senator a prostitute and call girl, why wasnt that made a big deal by the media? Where was the call for civility from Obama then? just admit you're a bunch of hypicrits thats all.

  • Ron Grant

    It's really interesting how folks like Limbaugh have so much sway when it comes to politics and votes without being elected officials and continued to spew such idiocy. The bottom line is that Rush is and always has been an extremist that plays to the interests of other extremists that listen to his radio show, but he's done an awesome job of remaining relevant all these years and having such prominence, especially at election time. He's an attention seeker and one that says things like this to rile up his base. And no, we can't say that there are some emcees that are not to blame because much of Hip Hop has a history of being very sexist. But my view is that Rush doesn't get a pass for using this language if he says that rappers are in the wrong, too. That's just lame and lazy on his part.

  • kennyken

    as much as i don't like this dude and would like to argue with him about damn near everything he says, he has a point about certain rappers saying whatever they want about women and winning awards. I have to be gruelingly honest to say that.

  • nuc

    people who listen to rush shouldnt have shit to say on a hiphop website..or have a say in the hiphop community.. rush limbaugh= white supremacist, hiding behind politics

  • J.T.

    We shouldnt really care if Fox has bad things to say. They arent even a news channel. They make up Bullshit and some idiots just so happen to believe it. Let Limbaugh talk his shit. hip hop isnt going anywhere.

  • Anonymous

    Fox hates rap but they love Limbaugh. DOUBLE STANDARD!!!! Bill O got Pepsi to drop Luda so Bill O and FOX should do the same to Rush!!!

  • Gregg A.

    How THE fuck Dies This Dude Slava Rep Hip hop? He Writes lame acticles promoting rap beef, and now he wants to stand up and proclaim their is a double standard in hip hop?? Dude, you are part of the problem. fall back and stickk to tryna be a lawyer, you have no say when it comes to hip hop. ur ego is inflated right now sun, I honestly feel like slapping dude for this bullshit. SMH

  • RonPaul2012

    Pundits up...hoes down.

  • Anonymous

    i guess if thats whats its about which i dont think so but eneway there are places that give away free condoms every day this is just all about money

  • Anonymous

    The reason Hip-hop is so successful is because it never use to sensor itself. It was potent. Rush can say whatever his fat ass wants to say, I could give a fuck. But the people who pay his bills can also drop Rush if he fucks up their business and HE should know better. It's business dumb, dumbs. Nobody cares about your little feelings.

  • Anonymous

    You cats in here are fucking STUPID. Do you really think she's trying to get people to pay for condoms or BC? Is that really how she got this far?

    • Real Talk 100

      Yes, thats what she's trying to do, if you think otherwise, you didnt listen to her testimony. She told fake sob stories of rich white girls at her ivy league college getting law degrees, struggling to afford contraception... I want to cry just thinkin about it... if only we had more government laws helping rich white people!!!!

  • georgel

    Anyone sticking up for this guy is a complete moron. He sits behind his desk criticizing people when he turns around and does the same shit. They should have a picture of him in the dictionary next to the word hypocrite. your worried about tax payers paying for birth control, would you rather pay for welfare to support a child she didnt plan or cant afford. and you dumb shits should want birth control for women so you dont need a condom if your in a serious relationship, condoms suck and all guys know it.

  • Micah

    i'm glad reading all the comments we realize that slava is a full retard lol listening to that right now. anyways do you even know the issue? she's trying to get the fed gov't to overlook the fact that they already have a separation of church and state and go ahead and pay for her own shit. you stupid. she wanted her catholic employer to pay for her bc to continue to have sex outside of marriage... do you see the conundrum there homie? if not, you'll get! and to everyone here that posted thank you for not being ignorant, i can't tell you how many times someone thinks i'm ignorant cuz i listen to rap and hip hop and rock and anything not pop. @real talk that is real talk and comedy thanks

  • Anonymous

    This article is retarded

  • Real Talk 100

    Rush is the FUCKIN MAN, that shit was HILARIOUS, bitch if you want us to pay for your damn condoms and birth control, let us see the VIDEO shit is fuckin ON POINT! Fuck the media, fuck the government, and fuck Sandra Fluke and her fake ass SOB story, no one wants to hear a rich white girl goin to an ivy league school bitch about how women at her school cant afford to have sex. Go get a JOB, get your hands out my pockets.

    • Real Talk 100

      Slava Kuperstein, u are fuckin hilarious, u just said she is a "brave" woman LMAO, WOW, ya because American women are so OPPRESSED, they cant even go to the store an buy condoms or birth control... Oh wait, THEY ALREADY CAN, its just the RICH WHITE Ivy League women and Georgetown University want to force other people to chip in. INCLUDING churches like the Catholic Church. What ever happened to FREEDOM OF RELIGION? How about we live in a world where BOTH: WOMEN have the CHOICE to go buy birth control, and CHURCHES have the CHOICE to EXERCISE their BELIEFS, instead of being FORCED by the government to VIOLATE their CHOICES and BELIEFS.

  • is this fox.com?

    Is this fox.com? You guys have misunderstood the argument just like Rush did. Taxpayers have nothing to do with the coverage for contraception Sandra Flake was testifying about, nor did she ask for more contraception for herself so she could have more sex. her testimony actually was about insurance companies paying for contraception as part of their health coverage, the way they pay for any other medication, such as Viagra. Morevoer, Flukes testimony was not about herself, but about a friend who needed contraception to fight cancer and other fellow law students.

  • Anonymous

    Wanna date CEOs, pro athletes, doctors, lawyers, investors, entrepreneurs, beauty queens, fitness models and Hollywood celebrities? just join ----R ichM in gle,,C0'M--- _, the best online rich dating club for you.

  • THeINternEtSuCKs

    The woman was not asking taxpayers to pay for birth control... she was asking that birth control be made available to any woman who needs it via private insurance. Regardless of what she said, calling her a slut and saying women should post videos of themselves fucking online isn't a valid argument. It's just a feeble attempt to shock and evoke emotion because he is pandering to an audience of like-minded (i.e. retarded) "conservatives" who eat that shit up and think it is funny. Before you all cry about how taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for birth control, think about what your taxes are actually used for. Useless studies, programs run by corrupt people, the worst transportation infrastructure in the First World, and mostly to the military which is a useless money pit. Free, widely available birth control would actually be a useful thing to spend tax money on... even if women were the only benefactors (which isn't even close to true).

    • burr

      real talk 100 eat dick u stupid brainwashed uncle tom..any idiot promoting right wing views is a stupid idiot who falls for the propaganda pushed by the corporations...please stfu and pull your head out ur moms ass

    • Real Talk 9000

      Ok, so let's do away with the individual mandate so you aren't forced to pay anything. Oh wait, suppose I get hit by a car and have to go to the emergency room, but I don't have insurance. Who's going to pay for that?

    • Real Talk 100

      @InternetSucks Your argument is that this only affects "private insurance". Okay, well ObamaCare has something called an "individual mandate". That means as a living breathing human being, you are required by law to go get health insurance, or pay a fine. So it is money WE ARE forced to pay, it is a TAX, it just goes to a big huge corrupt insurance corporation instead of the big huge corrupt Federal government. Im not even going to get into concepts of limited government and economics, you are way too far gone and brainwashed. What I will ask you to do is to research the history of this health care system and how we got to this point. Ask yourself these two questions: We need food. We need health care. So than why don't we pay for our food, through an insurance policy? If you bought food through Grocery Insurance, through an overpaid, over-educated grocery store clerk, in a grocery store with no prices on anything, and FREE ice cream included, how EXPENSIVE do you think the cost of food would get? Especially the cost of ice cream? Simple economics.

  • dsfsdfd

    what kind of a man is anti-birth control??? your taxes dont pay for private insurance plans btw steve

  • wille coyote

    damn... i think you have a point there

  • steve

    IF YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE THE CHOICE TO BE FUCKING, PAY FOR YOUR OWN BIRTH CONTROL. IF YOU WANT TO HAVE SEX SO BADLY THAT YOU HAVE TO FIGHT FOR FREE BIRTH CONTROL THE PEOPLE THAT ACTUALLY PAY TAXES, YOU COULD LOOSELY CONSIDER THAT SLUTTY. YOU PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE THAT? THE BITCH WAS BEGGING TAX PAYERS TO PAY FOR HER TO FUCK PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • PLEASE READ

      You guys have misunderstood the argument just like Rush did. Taxpayers have nothing to do with the coverage for contraception Sandra Flake was testifying about, nor did she ask for more contraception for herself so she could have more sex. her testimony actually was about insurance companies paying for contraception as part of their health coverage, the way they pay for any other medication, such as Viagra. Morevoer, Flukes testimony was not about herself, but about a friend who needed contraception to fight cancer and other fellow law students.

    • steve

      WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA... i DID NOT KNOW UNTIL NOW THAT SHE WAS ASKING FOR INSURERS TO PROVIDE THE CONTRACEPTIVE... I THOUGHT SHE WAS LOOKING FOR HANDOUTS LIKE WIC CHECKS AND EBT CARDS. I TOTALLY RETRACT MY EARLIER COMMENT AND ACCEPT FULL RESPONSIBILITY OF MY INCORRECTNESS. I'M JUST SO SICK OF ALL THE BOTTOM FEEDERS AND LEECHES IN THIS COUNTRY THAT I GOT A LITTLE AHEAD OF MYSELF. SHE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN CALLED A SLUT/PROSTITUTE. BUT I'M NOT GONNA STOP LISTENING TO RUSH BECAUSE OF IT. I DON'T HAVE A PUSSY. PEACE!

    • BradZuk

      If that how you feel then fine. Its a gross interpretation of a serious issue, but it's sort of a valid point. I wont argue with you about the fact that she was advocating for a body of people, and that she made strong legitimate points about the need for contraception. Or that most plans already cover viagra... for rush. All I'm going to say is this. People are pissed here, not because Rush made a strong, logical point that tax payers shouldn't have to contribute to a health care program which is required to cover contraceptives, but because he simply spewed disgusting vitriol at a person advocating fairly, within her rights, in our political system. I dont fucking care if you disagree with contraceptives. But calling a woman a "slut" and a "prostitute" and telling her to put videos of her sex online is simply not ok. Its disgusting, misogynistic and truly embarrassing for him. Then for him to not only fail to apologize appropriately, but throw everyone he could find under the bus is just pathetic. Grow up Rush.

    • Anonymous

      i guess you niggas would enjoy a boom in the population then huh? Not to mention that you already pay taxes on shit you dont want to so why even complain shit start passin out condoms and stop cryin

    • Anonymous

      most women need bc pills to regulate their hormones, i guess you have never had a girlfriend and this shit has nothing to do with taxpayers money not like your broke ass makes enough for any liability in the first place... shit we cant go to war where waiting on that check from steve

    • Anonymous

      exactly... everybody too pussy whipped to actually say this shit though... tax payers are gonna end up having to pay for free FEMALE contraception sooner or later

    • Anonymous

      realest shit iv ever heard. No editing needed either. So true

  • ShystyOne

    Why do the far left and far right IDIOTS get all the air time......Shock factor. Good article though, common sense approach.

  • irked

    Fuck Rush and Glenn Beck. FOX Radio can suck a massive dick. He's a slut, how 'bout that?

    • datNIGGAJ

      ^^ a yo anonymous...as a former journalist and just overall curious person, i can say WITHOUT QUESTION that ALL of these news and media outlets are POLITICALLY affiliated. e'body knows the republikkkans have fox on their payroll/interests. so yes, FUCK limbaw and bekkk - they can burn in hellfire eternally.

    • Bradzuk

      You didnt wait for him to respond. I'm in his camp, hating fox news. cause its a joke, propaganda machine. And before you assume you know me, i actually do regularly check up on fox to get the other side, and i rarely feel like i got the other side. it actually disgusts me, a fiscal conservative, to feel like i dont have a body advocating for what I think. Occasionally, I'll read lit from the cato institute, or WSJ to get a fair conservative perspective, but they simply no longer have the sway of a gross body like fox

    • Anonymous

      you ever watch Fox or listen to what they have to say? didnt think so. have an open mind before you critize Fox News.

  • Hiphop

    Limbaugh looks like a creepy high school basketball coach. narrow minded fuck