Ice-T: The Anti-Hero Feminism Needs
A pro-woman message found in the unlikeliest place: a song called "Bitch in the Pit."
Last month, I picked a weird time to think about feminism: Right in the middle of a Body Count show.
In case you’re unfamiliar, Body Count (or as they are sometimes known, Body Motha Fuckin’ Count) is rapper-turned-crime-show-detective Ice-T’s long-running hardcore metal band. The band played songs from their new album Manslaughter, which is about “the pussification of men,” as Ice explained to the New York audience, which was predominantly male and with an average neck circumference of 50 inches. (Although, his absurdly curvaceous wife Coco was also in the house, a fact which I, for journalistic purposes of course, confirmed with my eyes approximately 250 times.) “We went from ‘Fight the power!’ to talking about what the Kardashians are doing,” he preached to a huge, deep-voiced applause.
After Body Count further celebrated the idea of manliness, they moved on to a new song called “Bitch in the Pit,” which I think I just heard my feminist-minded friends collectively cringe at the sound of—if they hadn’t already done so at the word “pussification.” “Bitch in the Pit” is a song that has caused a bit of an uproar and outcries of misogyny since it was released last month, mainly for its title, “Bitch in the Pit” and its chorus, “There’s a bitch in the pit!” (Ice-T is not one for nuance.) But despite its horribly sexist title and blunt delivery method, “Bitch in the Pit” is, at its core, a song championing the women at shows who are brave enough to step into the mosh pit and throw elbows with the mouth-breathing male troglodytes who typically frequent hardcore shows. “I don’t give a fuck/ She’s harder than a man/ In the chaos, song after song/ She’s not afraid to bleed,” the lyrics go.
“With ‘Bitch In The Pit,’ my intent was a record for that girl that’s been there the entire night, this is her fucking theme song,” Ice-T told me. “And we’re gonna play it, and make the guys respect this chick out there cause she doesn’t give a fuck, she’s harder than them. ‘She’s in the chaos song after song, she ain’t afraid to bleed she begs for more speed.’ If some other woman gets pissed, it ain’t about you, bitch. It’s about the other girl, get over yourself.”
Obviously, regardless of Ice’s blunt but well-meaning intent, with a title like “Bitch in the Pit,” the song stands a 0.0000000∞% chance of being music to the feminist community’s ears. No woman worth her weight in Jezebel comments is gonna take Ice-T seriously as a pro-woman figure with a song called “Bitch in the Pit.” But this song is not for them. It’s not for women who read xoJane. It’s a song for Body Count fans. And they don’t read thinkpieces—they listen to Murder 4 Hire and practice windmill kicks in front of their mirrors. And for the band’s fans who might be a bit more meatheaded and Neanderthalish, Ice-T, in a weird way, is speaking feminism in a language they understand. So while he probably won’t be invited to give keynote speeches at Wellesely any time soon, Ice-T could very well be considered feminism’s anti-hero.
Woah. Hold on. Let’s back up here because I think I incidentally just called Ice-T a feminist and sensed my name being added to some sort of international registry of mansplaining morons. Let me clarify...
You see, gender inequality [he started, pretending as though a straight white male’s opinion on the subject means jackshit] is like global warming, in the sense that it is a massive, worldwide problem that affects the entire population, not just those who believe in it. And to fix it [he further pointlessly continued], we need every single person on the planet moving in the same direction. So while it’s great that some people choose to drive Priuses and use energy-efficient light bulbs, it doesn’t mean shit unless everyone is doing it. Same thing with gender inequality—all people have to be on board to fix this. That includes men. That includes incredibly stupid men. That includes the fucking stupidest of stupid men [he concluded while gracelessly falling on his face while climbing down from his soapbox].
So while I like a lot of Lindy West’s writing, as clever and witty as her commentary on gender issues is, she’s not gonna get through to a 300-pound guy with a Hatebreed skull tattoo. It just ain’t gonna happen. This is likely the only time I’ll ever use this phrase: This is a job for a man. Not just a man. A “man’s man.”
“In all Ice-T music, I try to talk about things to the people that need to hear it in a way they’ll listen to it,” Ice explains of his approach to songwriting. “They say an unconventional enemy needs unconventional tactics. If I’m trying to talk to these tough kids, I can’t come in waving daisies. I gotta look like them or sound like them, and be tougher than them. And in the midst of that, I may get a message across.”
That’s probably why when No More needed a posterperson for their “Boys Will Be Boys” campaign, which seeks to “galvanize greater awareness and action to end domestic violence and sexual assault,” they didn’t go with some pretty boy actor like [Oh, I don’t know, who should I pick on today? Let’s say…] Jared Leto. They went with Ice Motha Fuckin’ T, a man who hasn’t worn sleeves in four consecutive decades. “The thing of it is, a lot of these ‘tough guys,’ they got a real fucked up understanding of what tough is,” Ice tells me. “What tough is, it’s pick on someone your own size, or bigger than you. Even in prison, people hate women beaters and child molesters.”
Now, you may look at the No More campaign and very sarcastically say, “Oh yeah, great idea. Have a man who has in the past advocated pimping and routinely objectified bikini-clad women in his videos as a spokesperson against domestic assault.” To which I will respond very unsarcastically: Yeah, that’s exactly the point—if a guy who has a history of over-the-top hyper-sexual, hyper-violent lyrics can see why violence against women is wrong, shouldn’t everyone?
“Yeah, I was on the other side for a minute,” Ice says of his pimping days. “I did that shit 40 years ago. I’m a grown ass man, I’m in a different world right now. So people won’t see the positives that will come, and will just want to hate on me forever.”
Plus, if you’re not sold on Ice-T being the right fit for No More, keep in mind that for the last FOURTEEN YEARS (yes, it’s been that long), he’s played Detective Tutuola on Law & Order: SVU, a show which is enough to open anyone’s eyes to the horrors of domestic abuse—from Body Count fans to your 60-year-old mom who lives in Iowa.
Meghan Murphy at xoJane once wrote that “feminism is for everyone” but that those who insist they are "good guys" or self-identify as feminist grate on her. Well, there’s no one who self-identifies less as a feminist or as a good guy than Ice-T. In fact, when I straight up ask him if he considers himself a feminist, Ice takes a long pause to think before saying, “Nah. I’m a manist, I’m on the man team.” He continues: “I think everything should be fair but I’m not going to say I’m a feminist. I don’t really have the time to fight for women’s rights, I have to fight for males' rights. I’d rather fight for human rights. Most feminists I’ve run into spend more time fighting other feminists than men.”
So obviously, Ice-T is not the model for modern feminism, nor is “Bitch in the Pit” a feminist anthem. But even if it can sway the minds of a few Body Count fans, if nothing else, it’s a step in the right direction for a slow-moving, traditionally stubborn male-dominated music scene.
Maybe I just naively want to believe there’s room in society for progressively-minded straight men who proudly treat women as equals while still celebrating their own God-given testosterone. For guys who consider Hillary Clinton to be a serious presidential candidate and also unironically see The Expendables 18. For dudes who have very substantive opinions about the gender wage gap while having a working knowledge of exactly how much they can bench. For men who vote in favor of same-sex marriage and who also enjoy videos of shit blowing up for no good reason.
I hope that day will come—where we tear down the wall between staunch feminism and hyper-masculinity. After all, feminism is for everyone. Even Ice Motha Fuckin’ T.
Dan Ozzi has seen every Jason Statham movie and also has a subscription to Bust. Follow him on Twitter - @danozzi
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