July 30, 2007

I Ain't Sayin' She a Gold Digger.

And now for an excerpt from a song by Kanye West:

Now I aint sayin she a gold digger
But she aint messin wit no broke niggaz

Other excerpts reveal that "she" has four children by another man or men. The narrator lampoons men who love women in spite of public opinion and advises them to insist on prenuptial agreements. Then he advises women to 'stick by the side' of hard working men with "ambition," and "stay right" even though inevitably:

when you get on he leave yo ass for a white girl.


Popular radio bleeps out the word "nigger" when this song is on the air.* Because of this the internet is of course wild with copious commentary on the nature of language and the evils of censorship, including this wonderfully obtuse little footnote:

"deductive arguments are only valid if they are tautologies - useful for eliminating obfuscation or 'unpacking' meanings in complex symbology." Richard Noggin, "the Explainer," at http://fray.slate.com/discuss/forums/thread/14575.aspx (June 2007, Fray.Slate.com).
In my view what's missing from the online dialogue is gender politics. Within the song's rhetoric a single mother who does not "mess with broke niggers" is by definition a 'gold digger' and on the other hand a man who works hard and has ambition deserves the commodity of womanly support until he can trade up for "a white girl." I interpret these lyrics as farcical. An attempt to make human tragedies seem comic. If so, the real target of the lampoon is not the gold-digging woman but the hapless man who falls in love with her.

One response to the gendered warfare described in the lyrics might be that mutual objectification is deserved. (Never mind that a custodial parent has virtually no bargaining power to make a fair contract with the absent parent or potential step-parent.)

Another response might be compassion towards those who are (unfortunately) more comfortable with mutual objectification as a basis for relationships, rather than the partnership model. In that perspective 'gold digger' might be seen as a term of affection, mirroring the recent transformation of the word "nigger" in Caucasian consciousness from taboo to endearing (much to the delight, horror, and fascination of Caucasian America).

Just what is Mr. West attempting to do with this farce? Does he mean to call our attention to the inequities of single parenting? Is he asking us to broaden our minds to encompass nigger/gold digger partnerships as a loving and supportive alternative to traditional marriage? Rubbish. Rather, he is resigned and cynical, urging a continuation of (and winking at) what he thinks are the eternal, never evolving consequences of human sexuality, chanting "get down girl, go 'head get down." Mr. West understands that the listening public is also resigned and cynical, ready to step up and hand over money for confirmation that its feelings of cynicism and victimization are justified.

Do these lyrics make people angry? They do because they use the word "nigger," but so far I haven't seen much debate over Mr. West's less than generous treatment of families and human sexuality. Is that because we're more resigned and cynical about gender issues than we are about race?

* Americans know how to spell "nigger."'Soulful' or trendy pronunciation and spelling merely supply nuance to the meaning of the word, nothing more.

1 comment:

Woman with a Hatchet said...

In a word? Yes. Gender issues don't even make it onto the mental radar of most people. Why should they worry about the women and men being told how ridiculous they are at every turn?

For instance, to take an item from recent headlines, there are those boys in Oregon that are potentially being sent up the river for 10 years for slapping the butts of the girls in their school. There is tremendous discussion over the fact that the sentence is OUTRAGEOUS! but no discussion, other than at feminist boards, that the BEHAVIOR is outrageous and that maybe, just maybe they should be focusing on that.

But then, feminist issues are usually the first ones to be sacrificed, or threatened with sacrifice as soon as the boat looks a little wobbly. Just check out discussion threads over at DailyKos to see what I mean. Whee!