Angel Haze speaks up about being sexually abused on her powerful new track, and her testimony couldn't have come at a more urgent time.
Recently on the Tonight Show, President Obama had to point out that "rape is rape" for the second time in three months. This time, Obama was stating the seemingly obvious in response to Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who said he opposed abortions for rape victims because "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen." Last time, the impetus was Republican Senate hopeful Todd Akin's proclamation that, "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
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We cannot reduce the ignorance of people like Mourdock and Akin to sound bites or place it in the category of election-season inanity. Their statements are the toxic runoff of our culture's failure to prevent and address sexual violence in all its forms. The statistics stun: The high estimate of the number of women raped each year in the United States is 1.3 million, 54 percent of rapes are unreported, and a woman's chance of being raped is one in five. The president's elementary stance is nice but won't fix anything on its own; what must change is the culture itself.
Given its well-documented and inexcusable problems with sexism, hip-hop might not seem a wise place to look to start making that change. But that fact actually makes the medium more ripe for reformers. Moreover, as one of the dominant, storytelling-driven art forms consumed and made by young people, rap provides a way for survivors and allies to testify, argue, and change hearts and minds. And as a song released this past week by the promising young rapper Angel Haze proves, rap's potential as a weapon against rape culture isn't merely academic.