A hot new kind of karaoke has been taking cities across the world by storm. Now, this isn’t your run of the mill drunk-people-destroying-good-music type of karaoke. This is hip hop karaoke, and all the cool kids are doing it.

At Hip Hop Karaoke (or HHK) Montreal, there is no screen with the little bouncy ball to help you follow along with the lyrics. In fact, there are no lyrics at all. If you want to get up on the HHK stage, you gotta have that shit MEMORIZED. Just think about that for a minute. Now try to sing even one verse of your your favorite hip hop song out loud, right this minute. It’s hard right? What I’m getting at is that this monthly event at Le Belmont on Saint Laurent attracts some serious talent and is, therefore, more than worth the measly cover charge. So far, I’ve been to the show three times and it has never disappointed. People drink, people dance and, when the performers really nail it, everyone goes wild.

Last time I went to HHK I was really impressed by how many fierce, talented ladies got up on the stage and just fucking killed it. Women folk are notoriously underrepresented in the music world in general, and in the world of hip hop in particular. Seeing that many strong ladies represent at this event made my inner feminist clapp her capable hands and click her sensible shoes with glee. Those dames really blew it up!

So, in honour of the little feminist that lives, or should live, inside us all, I proudly present to you some of the fabulous females of Hip Hop Karaoke Montreal:

HipHop Kareoke-126Nova Kayn and Cat Venture
Age: 26 and 26
Favorite Hip Hop artist: Nova: Wycef Jean and Pharoahe Monch Cat: Eve
Song they performed: It Doesn’t Matter by Wyclef Jean featuring The Rock
Number of times they’ve performed at HHK: Nova Kayn 4, Cat Venture 1

With their eclectic looks and strong, confident vibe, these Montreal natives are a treat to watch onstage. “I love performing,” says Nova Kayn. “Like they say on the HHK site, it’s about taking it from the shower to the stage and just being yourself.”

“What I like about HHK is that If you bring good energy and you give a good show, then you get the same props, the same respect, [as a guy],” says Cat. “Because I’m a woman people think they have jurisdiction to tell me how I should look, how I should act and what I should say. Hip hop is a really cool way that chicks can come up and say what they want. They can be hard with it and be respected for that. Like the Put It In Your Mouth song we heard tonight: that’s a chick talkin about some dirty shit, ya know? And she’s just being real.”

HipHop Kareoke-048MC Donatella
Age: 30
Song she performed: We Run This by Missy Elliot
Favorite Hip Hop artist: Missy Elliot
Number of times she’s performed at HHK: Many

MC Donatella has the kind of deep, husky voice I spent the better part of my youth chain smoking and drinking whiskey trying to get. She’s obviously the kind of woman who doesn’t take shit from anyone. I can tell from the confidence she exudes that she’s no stranger to the stage.

“I really love karaoke. It allows me to be a different person for a night,” she says. “Not everybody can be a professional hip hop artist. This gives us a chance to just let go, have fun and emulate our favorite rappers. And who knows? You might just find the next [big rapper] on our stage.”

HipHop Kareoke-098Baby J and O Swag
Age: 20 and 21
Song they performed: Make Me Proud by Niki Minaj featuring Drake
Favorite Hip Hop artist: O Swag: Warren G Baby J: Jean Grae
Number of times they’ve performed: 5 or 6, always together

O Swag graced the stage wearing a Lady Gaga-esque pink wig and tight little black shorts. She and Baby J (two of the six person team that organizes the events), are both gorgeous twenty somethings that you can just tell have an ear to the ground on all the hippest shit in town.

“My love of hip hop started at the tender age of ten when I heard the song I Like Big Butts,” says Baby J. “I memorized all the lyrics.”

“One of the great things about HHK is that it attracts a pretty significant female crowd and a lot of the participants are female too,” says O Swag. “Last round there were more girls that rapped than guys. That’s rare in the world of hip hop.”

Her name was Jyoti Singh Pandey.

The attack reads like a cross between a depraved nightmare and a bathsalts bad trip: Jyoti, a 23 year old physiotherapy student and her male companion  are trapped on a moving bus, repeatedly and violently violated, beaten and discarded, naked and bleeding. Then the assailants try to run Jyoti over with the bus.

Emerging details suggest premeditation and the specifics are inhumanely gruesome, my chest caving in as I read them, so I leave it to you, Dear Reader, to decide if you want to know, but I warn that they are jarring, heartbreaking and cannot be unknown.

She died in a Singapore hospital 13 days later, while the world was still catching its breath and the country was still reeling.

An Indian media ban on the publication of her name was upheld despite her family’s pleas. They want her to be remembered as a whole person and we are under no such ban.

She was real; she was concsious and fighting while she endured what is, when we are honest with ourselves, everyone’s worst nightmare. I can’t correlate that despite the touch screen trappings of our purported civility, we are still brutalizing women. In a world where feminism is considered so last century, maybe the repeated and appalling tragedies on women these past few months will bring about the show of force that collective ovaries and healthy thinking men need to bring.

Because this isn’t just about Jyoti.

not asking for itPerhaps the long list of bad news as of late has us only half listening. Jyoti’s attack came as Malala, the 15 year old girl shot by the Taliban at point blank range for advocating girls’ rights, was released from hospital in London.

Meanwhile in Ohio, an unconscious 16 year old girl was carried around to a series of parties, raped multiple times while people watched and snapped pictures. High school football players are accused, and as the conversation grew, a video went viral, landing on CNN, of teen boys discussing it, one saying that if it was his daughter, he would just let her die.

Now the Sheriff in that case is receiving emails threatening the rape and murder of his daughters. Because people there like football more than women? I don’t know what their fuckin’ excuse is. It’s beyond rationale.

Then a 19 year old in Montreal was sexually assaulted by a man who had just been released from similar charges with police being on record as saying he was likely to reoffend and then he’d be in real trouble.

But wait, as I was putting this together, a seven year old girl was raped and murdered in India. Then I woke up Sunday morning to another gang rape in India, again on a bus, again over hours, of a 29 year old woman, who thankfully survived.

I swear to all the gods and goddesses I can name that my soul is breaking. My womb is screaming. I want to know where all the brothers I’ve always believed in are. I want to know how humanity became so inherently broken that we’ve arrived here, because it catches in my throat, it blinds me with rage, I am about to drown in a sea of my own tears and I know there are more of us that feel this way than there are sick fuck perpetrators.

Despite discussion of India’s pervasive rape culture and how we’re better of here, even here we have built and continue to consent to a society which teaches rape prevention to the potential victims like telling people to avoid being the victim of a hit and run. All too many believe feminism is either a stance that rendered itself obsolete sometime after we breached the glass ceiling but decided we still liked the men folk picking up the cheque, or an extremist view opted into by angry ugly chicks, but we never embrace feminism as a humanitarian issue. We preach feminism to women and think somehow it has nothing to do with men.

Admittedly, men and boys are victims of sexual assault too, but I don’t know how many men look over their shoulders at night for fear of rape. Gender equality goes far beyond pay parity: no one tells dudes with baggy pants to pull them up because it looks like they’re asking for it and that illustrates a dangerous imbalance.

Dear Men,

10-top-tips-to-end-rapeReject the dogma that you are nothing more than instinctive beasts unable to control your urges; it demeans us both. Openly argue the implication that rape is about sex and discuss it openly as the vile, brutal assault that it is. Be the voice of civilized reason who will never hear someone say that a woman is “asking for it” without speaking up that unless you heard her specifically ask for something, she hasn’t.

Look at your tribe. They are giving you a bad name. We need hoards of brave, unapologetic women crowding the streets and the media working to bring issues to the surface to protect themselves, their daughters, your daughters, but we need the men, the right thinking, sound minded, civilized men who know rape is sick and unacceptable to stand up, embrace feminism, shout loud and proud that you will never stand idly by, because in a city as crowded as New Dehli, not one person stopped to help Jyoti.

There’s an oft cited stat about the number of college aged men who admitted that they would rape someone if they were certain that there would be no ramifications. If you are one of the men who wouldn’t, disassociate yourself from the cretins of your brthren. Be the voice for the women who have been silenced by fear, by death, by humiliation. Because the freedom to not be raped is the most basic civil right and as MLK said: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

So I am lighting candles, figurative and literal, for Jyoti Singh Pandey, for the murdered child, for the Ohio girl, for the Montreal girl, for the Indian woman and praying hard that finally, collectively, we will ignite a blaze of change.

Back in the day, when I was younger I used to wonder what the world would be like if a woman was put in charge. Men have done such a bang up job running the world for the past six thousand years or so, I figured what harm could it do? I thought having a woman in charge would mean less war, less bigotry, more love and tolerance… Then along came Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin

Until the half term governor of Alaska was tapped to be the vice-presidential candidate of John McCain in 2008, I never fully realized the potential evilness of women in office.

Halfway through her governorship she abandoned Alaska to make millions of dollars publishing a book, giving speeches and now with the help of the tea party she has been spreading her seed.

Enter the “Mama Grizzly”. Before the upcoming mid-term elections in the United States, Sarah Palin has been throwing her support behind right-wing extremist women over more moderate Republican candidates. Palin called on these “Mama Grizzlies” to do their part in taking back America and defending her like a mother would a cub. Apparently dear old Sarah wants to take America back a century or two.

Here is a sample of some of the Mama Grizzlies along with their beliefs and policies that Sarah Palin is trying to get into office:

Star Parker (California)
•      Believes that the current economic crisis is due to state funded abortions

Sharon Angle (Nevada)
•      Thinks that abortion should be illegal even for victims of rape/incest
•      Wants to abolish the Board of Education
•      Believes in the United States withdrawal from the United Nations
•      Wants to phase out social security
•      Believes job creation is not a senators job

Michelle Bachmann (Minnesota)
•      Believes climate change is “voodoo”
•      Thinks carbon dioxide is “natural” not harmful
•      Wants to abolish the minimum wage in order to wipe-out unemployment
•      Believes in McCarthyism

Christine O’Donnell (Delaware)
•      Believes masturbation is adultery
•      Believes gays can be “cured”
•      Thinks that abortion should be illegal even for victims of rape/incest

Of course these are just some of the beliefs that these exceptionally conservative women have as individuals, they share many more; none of them believe in evolution, government health insurance, gay rights, abortion and paying taxes.

All of them, like Sarah Palin are extremely religious, which leads me to believe that they are less tolerant of other religions. Remember that Islamic community center near ground zero? It never even made the news until Palin opened her mouth.

The only commonality between Mama Grizzlies and grizzly bears is their viciousness and intolerance of people who stand in their way. Sharon Angle actually said “What is a little bit disconcerting and concerning is the inability for sporting goods stores to keep ammunition in stock … That’s why I look at this as almost an imperative. If we don’t win at the ballot box, what will be the next step?” Is she advocating a revolution if they lose?

I can’t understand why the Democrats haven’t started to attack the far right policies of these Mama Grizzlies. Surely there are moderates in the United States who have yet to realize that these women are mentally defective nut jobs; then again I never claimed that politicians of any stripe were particularly smart.

I guess having a woman in office wouldn’t necessarily change the world for the better after all. Call it ignorance on my part I suppose, I should have realized that back when Margaret Thatcher was in power.