Lecture: "At One Point We All Rebelled": Hip Hop Graffiti Grrlz and the Performance of Feminist Masculinity
Hip Hop masculinity has been theorized almost exclusively in relation to cisgendered men and shaped by the question: what does the performance of mainstream Hip Hop masculinity do to girls and women? Frequently focused on toxic hypermasculinities, the question predetermines the answer: girls and women in Hip Hop experience low self-esteem, low social status, and exploitation (in terms of sex and labor). In short, they are always already victims. Instead of asking what Hip Hop masculinity does to them, Dr. Jessica Pabón asks what graffiti grrlz do with masculine gender performance. In this talk, Pabón offers a critical re-imagining of gender performance in Hip Hop culture by examining the aesthetics, politics, and embodiment of graffiti grrlz from the USA, South Africa, Canada, and Australia. Analyzing masculinity with graffiti grrlz at the center reveals a gender performance that empowers rather than subjugates, one that allows for and values a complex enactment of gender within Hip Hop culture; this is what Pabón calls a “feminist masculinity.” Feminist masculinity attends to graffiti grrlz’ everyday experiences as cisgendered women who came into adulthood as part of the Hip Hop generation, an era increasingly marked by the neoliberal promise of “girl power” fueled by postfeminism. Rather than reproducing oppressive masculinity, hegemonic feminism, or a politically sterilized postfeminism, graffiti grrlz rebel—they take risks, deviate from norms, and play with the bold, brash, and brazen traits of masculinity to demand their visibility and belonging.