Contextualizing The Coldest Winter Ever

Posted on October 27, 2011

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  In the world of the hip hop community, the roles of men and women are established and restricted into confined spaces. These spaces are not open to the idea of any divergence in this particular society, Sister Souljah reiterates these same stereotypical characteristics in her book The Coldest Winter Ever. Displaying extreme masculinity in the role of the inner-city thug/drug dealer, and the submissive femininity to the oblivious naïve woman; she strongly suggest that the hip hop culture establishes the criteria for what it means to be authentically black in the hood. This is problematic to the gender roles of the black community because this enhances a rise in only these two roles limiting the allowance of black males and females to be seen in any other light.

The book challenges the idea of masculinity with the Father, Mr. Santiaga and Midnight, his right hand man. These two individuals exert uber masculinity by constantly being domineering and by striking fear in other individuals throughout the community. Mr. Santiaga was the Drug lord ofBrooklyn. He had everything he wanted in arms reach, he made women throw themselves at him and men be ashamed to look him in the eye while he passed. Any man that attempted to look at his daughter Winter Santiaga the wrong way would disappear indefinitely. The fears of him throughout the book heighten his masculinity beyond measure; Sister Souljah sets the tone for his masculinity in the beginning of the book; “ Now bubbles was a walking billboard that no one is allowed to f*** with Santiaga’s daughter” (Sister Souljah pg. 8). This established fear of the male role emphasizes that in the black community if you are not considered a threat or feared that you will not be respected.  The hip hop culture of today also highlights this notion of the ‘GOON’. He is a menace who displays complete nihilism and will do what he has to do to survive.  With that, Sister Souljah also suggests throughout the text that being feared can be a coping mechanism to survival in the hood. Ones reputation is really all they have when living in the black community and if it is not up to par or legit one can consider themselves a victim of their environment.

Also in the book it correlates femininity within the structures of the black community as being materialistic and unaware of circumstances. Winter Santiaga epitomized this notion of the naïve hood female that lived her life through the eyes of others. Not once in the book did she ever establish who she was without it being through another character. Not realizing that the lack of self identity would cause her to lose respect than gain it.  Materialism was an underlying theme in the book, “My Nicole miller dress was not that expensive. It was the shoes and the bag that sent the bill soaring…I fit right in with the well-paid executive lunch crowd sporting my diamond necklace, bracelet and earrings” (Sister Souljah p.124-125), here the author illustrates how materialism coincides with the hierarchy of social class. Having expensive taste; from a   female’s perspective means to  socialize with the elite. Winter puts herself on a pedestal only by the things she owns and not for what she knows. This depiction of the material girl encompasses an immense variety of challenging personas in the hip hop culture. The video vixen/ gold-digger embody this personification in its entirety. She is one who bases her life and social class on what she has and what she can get from someone who is considered the elite in hip hop society… the celebrity.  This scheme of only characterizing females in this light; allows no entry of the business woman who can think for herself, the college scholar with two degrees, or the holy-ghost filled church lady that lives by the motto prayer changes things into the black community.

Sister Souljah brings prevalent concerns to the hip hop community. The inevitability that Hip Hop Culture is a mimesis to the black community suggests that the gender roles seen on a daily basis are more likely to be imitated than those secretly displayed.  The thug mentality and the gold-digger state of mind seem to be the only avenues that categorize masculinity and femininity in the black society. These two characteristics can also come from a broken home.  In the case of the black family, Jerold Heiss discusses how the absence of a parent predominantly father figure influences a life in the streets,

It is characteristic of many ghetto dwellers, in particular of that segment of the community where matrifocality occurs most frequently, that they participate intensively in the social life of the street, and they start to do so at an early age. And when young boys start taking part in street life they are exposed to a great number of males even if there is little by way of an adult male presence at home (Heiss pg. 101).

This can connect with the character Midnight, who was fatherless and started drug trafficking at a very young age. While out there in the streets he adopted Mr. Santiaga as his father figure. The female also missing a father figure will never understand how she is to be treated if her father was not in the home to display this. This was illustrates Sister Souljah’s approach on Masculinity, femininity, and the absence of a male figure allows access of adoption to another males persona. This ties in with hip hop culture because every day as more and more men disappear from the household; the rappers displaying this thug mentality are adopted by young men who believe that this is what it means to be a man and illustrates what females can expect from them.

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