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Reggaeton In The Age of #MeToo

Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, performing with female dancers during this year's Grammy telecast, is a topic on this week's show.
Kevin Winter
Getty Images for NARAS
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, performing with female dancers during this year's Grammy telecast, is a topic on this week's show.

We are living through an amazing moment — a cultural shift spurred by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement that is bringing with it a rising awareness among men (some, at least) of the abuse of, or blindness to, the power imbalance at the bedrock of our culture, and of the abuse and misconduct that imbalance breeds toward the women in our lives, at work or otherwise.

It is particularly significant that the incidents that helped launch this national conversation occurred within the artistic community, following revelations that Harvey Weinstein abused his position of power over decades as a leader in the film industry.

It was the Puerto Rican, urban, working-class neighborhoods that reggaeton was associated with in its beginnings on the island.

One of the ripple effects of all this is a critical reexamination of artistic expression within distinct cultural groups. Today, we add to that national conversation by taking a look at women and their representation in reggaeton alongside some special guests:

  • Petra Rivera Rideau is assistant professor of American Studies at Wellesley College. Her area of expertise is the examination of race in Latin American and Latinx communities here in the U.S. She is also the author of: Remixing Reggaeton, The cultural Politics of Race in Puerto Rico. She joins us from the campus of Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
  • Also with us is Omaris Zamora, a transnational Black Dominican scholar and research expert whose areas of expertise include Black and Latinx studies, encompassing issues of race, gender and sexuality as they relate to Hispanic Carribean cultures. She is also an accomplished spoken word artist and poet and is based on the campus of University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.
  • Our conversation is wide-ranging and does not shy away from the controversial aspects of the music. But there is also the opportunity for a deep understanding of why the music sounds the way it does, and why some of the lyrics could be interpreted as offensive.

    [A classist perspective of reggaeton] does not allow women to be sexual beings and they don't have sexual desires that they can voice ... and be part of a popular scene.

    We find out that perspective matters. We also find out that there is lots more to know about the genre than what we already think we know. There may not be a lot of music this week, but there is lots of thought-provoking conversation. Let us know what you think.

    Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.