Lil' Kim: The hip-hop pornographer

By Michelle Goldberg

By Salon Staff
July 20, 2000 11:39PM (UTC)
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Sure, part of the rhetoric of the sex-positive feminist movement does articulate that women can find joy in sexual experimentation. But Michelle Goldberg misses the point when she says that Lil' Kim's new album, full of pain and anger, demonstrates the emptiness of that movement. Nobody in academia would argue that women are guaranteed happiness in "playing the role of a whore" any more than when they buy into male-defined roles as non-sexual. The point is that women are complete sexual beings, not Madonnas or whores. We make stupid sexual choices sometimes and deal with the consequences. The obvious analogue to Lil' Kim in the rock world is Liz Phair, whose "Exile in Guyville" contained a lot of the same themes -- sexual longing, loneliness, anger at men -- while acknowledging Phair's choice to act according to her desires, even if they're sometimes self-defeating.

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"Old-fashioned feminism," as Goldberg defines it, seems to require that every advance women make into traditionally male-dominated fields, including the world of on-demand sexual pleasure, be accompanied by ease and joy. But I'm a feminist because the ideology, old-fashioned or not, tells me that I don't have to be circumscribed by patriarchal mores, whether in the workplace or in the bedroom.

So, to me, Lil' Kim, although perhaps unhappy and frustrated, is acting according to her ideals as an independent woman. Who said liberation had to be fun?

-- Marya Janoff

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Goldberg's right to point out the ridiculousness of pro-porn feminism, but she's wrong in using Lil' Kim as her main argument, and admits it in the end of her article. Lil' Kim is not a pro-porn feminist. She makes music -- good, honest music about what it means to be a sexual, black woman in her world.

And when Goldberg says "if there's no joy in playing the whore, than there's no power in it," she's not completely right. There is power in expressing, artistically, rage, sexual anger, frustration, disgust and hatred. Ever read Philip Roth? Bukowski? Listen to PJ Harvey? Don't mix the critics and their dumb theories with the artists they choose to champion.

-- Paula Bomer

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I'd just like to point out that the quote from my review of Lil' Kim's "Notorious K.I.M." was used out of context. The Salon writer used my words to illustrate the fickle attitude of the press regarding Lil' Kim and "horny women" in general. The truth of the matter is that I've never praised or even supported Kim's raunchy presentation and that my feelings toward her have not changed, which is the general -- and therefore inaccurate -- statement that Salon attempted to make. Also, in my review I was not commenting on Kim's social relevance. I was only critiquing the music.

-- Neil Drumming

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I absolutely loved Michelle Goldberg's article on Lil' Kim. It described so well what I was feeling throughout college in the '90s, when hip-hop Jezebels were purported to be the new Gen X and Y feminist role models. I'm glad somebody finally articulated what a crock that is. Keep posting such articles; I forwarded the link to all my friends, male and female.

-- Roxane Marquez

Porn-positive ideology is pretty much same sh*t, different smell. Before, society used to tell girls and women to do whatever boys and men wanted them to in bed to "prove that you love me." Now, they do the same thing while demanding that women and girls "prove that you're empowered."

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Tradition says that sex means women embodying male fantasies, so get used to it, girls. Mainstream feminism says that sex means women embodying male fantasies, so never give in. And now the fashionable pro-porn lobby says that sex means women embodying male fantasies, and they call it empowerment. I have two questions for all of the above:

When do men start acting out women's bedtime fantasies? Or don't women's fantasies count, even in a feminist context? Let me tell you something, people: I'm empowered when the men start pulling their clothes off for ME. This isn't rocket science.

-- Janis Cortese


Salon Staff

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