It's not every day that Miami Law students, faculty, staff and visitors see flyers around the law school featuring pictures of the ultimate gangsta rapper stereotype: a half-dressed man flaunting washboard abs, large gold jewelry, and two equally attractive, scantily-dressed women on either side of him. But the flyer seemed to work as over 100 members of the student body, faculty, staff and administration attended the event co-sponsored by the Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ) and the Black Law Students Association (BLSA).
The lunchtime panel titled "Life Imitating Art: Gender Roles and Sex Stereotypes in Hip-Hop" featured popular Miami Law and Frost School of Music professors in an intellectual discussion on the history and stereotypes surrounding the impact of hip-hop music on gender roles and people of diverse backgrounds.
From the law school, Professor Donald Jones, Professor Mary Anne Franks, Professor Osamudia James and Professor Zanita Fenton participated on the panel. Dr. Willa Collins, a musicologist from the Frost School of Music, provided valuable insight about the history of hip hop and rap music.
"As law students and aspiring attorneys, it is so important for us to take the pulse of pop culture and to be aware of our surroundings. We were extremely fortunate to have professors from UM Law and the Frost School of Music facilitate this fascinating dialogue, which covered everything from the commodification of stereotypes to the MTV VMAs and 'twerking,'" said Jamie Vanaria, President of Miami Law's chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice.
The panelists focused on a range of topics such as the origin of hip hop and rap, the evolution of such music forms as a response to social and political conditions, the commoditization and sexualization of women and the multiple ways to interpret hip hop and rap lyrics.
Nejla Calvo, 2L, enjoyed the lecture, commenting, "the expert panelists offered thought-provoking insights on hip-hop stereotypes and a broad history of racial and misogynistic subversion in American culture--going as far back as male/female, black/white roles on a plantation. The discussion raised my awareness of the complicated socio-political elements underlying hip-hop's commoditization of women."
The panelists also expressed satisfaction with the direction of the conversation and stressed the importance of the topic. Professor Franks explained how the lecture provided "a terrific opportunity to examine the popularity and influence of hip hop culture and the complex questions it raises about gender, race, and class."
Given the complexity of and interest in the topic, a one-hour lunch period may arguably be only the beginning of the dialogue.
"The lecture was enlightening and entertaining. The complexity of the conversation only scratched the surface, but it was a great beginning nonetheless," stated Professor Fenton.