Thursday, May 03, 2007

What Does It Take? (Pt. 2)

Peace and blessings,

It appears that as a result of the
  • Christian Defense Coalition putting pressure on civil rights leaders,
  • and the controversy that has surrounded hip-hop lyrics in the midst of the Imus incident, folks are taking action. On the music side,
  • Russell Simmons is now urging companies to censor some of the artists' lyrics,
  • a bold move given the issue of free speech and expression that characterizes all forms of music and all artistic expression. On the business side,
  • Rev. Al Sharpton plans on purchasing stock in Time Warner and Universal Music Group,
  • so that he can attend the board meetings and advocate for the censorship of offensive and degrading lyrics.

    Although these moves are a long time coming, I am glad that serious, concrete steps are being taken in the right direction. While we may applaud these steps, however, we must be careful as to not become complacent such that we think that by these and similar moves, the problem will be "solved." When I look at this issue in its entirety, I see a three-pronged problem that requires and three-pronged solution. Two of the three aspects appear to be addressed in the above examples. Russell and Sharpton's moves address both the artist (via personal responsibility) and corporate (business) aspects of the problem and solution. What area these moves do not appear to address (at least explicitly), is the issue of women (and young girls') choices to be participate in these videos, recite the very lyrics that degrade them, and purchase the music. A while ago I was told that the majority of consumers of mainstream hip hop are white people and women. When I thought about it, that made sense. I know from personal experience as a hip-hop fan that if I wanted an album, I could find it somewhere (bootleggers, internet) for free and probably before the official release date. For real hip-hop heads, there really was not a need to purchase an album unless you really wanted to support them, because you could find it for free (this was until they started cracking down on bootleggers and illegal file sharing). Before moving on, let me clarify that I am not supporting bootlegging or illegal file sharing, but I am simply talking about what I used to do in the past when I really wanted an album.

    Ok, back to the topic at hand. The point I am trying to make is that unless we (males, females, old, young, as a community) address the factors that influence womens' choices to participate in these videos and allow themselves to be degraded in these videos, then our efforts to limit arists' offensive lyrics will only be partially implemented and successful. I'm not saying that women shouldn't be in any videos, because there are videos that present women in a respectable, "degrading-free" light. What I am saying, however, is that we cannot only address the corporate heads and artists without addressing, supporting, respecting, and caring our women as well. Moreover, it is difficulty for women who oppose these offensive and degrading lyrics to state a legitimate claim when their fellow sistas are willfully participating in the very videos the women are trying to denounce. A problem affecting the whole community requires a community-wide solution. Plain and simple.

    "Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall." (Luke 11:17, NKJ AMP)

    Now is the time for all of us to address this issue at many different levels. Not to point fingers, but to form a fist and knock out this problem once and for all. Check out this
  • website clearinghouse for grassroots efforts to combat misogyny in music
  • for more information and to get involved.


    coolbrz84 said...

    My dude... this is some serious ish... REAL TALK!!! I first want to tell you how excellent of a writer you are. You thoughts and ideas are well gathered and stated with such clarity(that must be that Howard up in ya) hahahaha...
    Secondly, the issue you discuss was hit right on the mark when you said that it is a 3 pronged problem that requires a 3 pronged solution. You are very good at attacking the issue at the core which is a great spot to start. Man, I'm glad your my boy family... God has blessed you and is preparing you for something HUUUUUGE, I can feel it.
    ~God Bless~

    Unknown said...

    good looking out boss, that means a lot. Your encouragement is much needed fam.

    Shanessence said...

    Thoughtz, I really liked these post. As Coolbrz84 said, it was well-written and very informative. My thoughts on the 3rd prong of the issue is that you will never get all women to stop being in videos. Granted some women might choose not to overtime as these sort of hh scandals keep surfacing, but sometimes you just have people who want to live that life. Personally, I know a few highly educated college women who could be classified as "classy video girls," participating in the whole scene and everything. But, this is their choice. We have to ask, what are the women's reasons for being in the videos? I'm sure that by now many women realize how degrading and one-dimensionalizing (new word for ya, lol), this kind of work is, but I'd suspect that many women would say that this is not who they are in totality; they like to flaunt it, shake it, bounce it, and pronounce it, but this it only one side of their personalities, and that they are having fun with it.

    In short, I think that the issue is more complex than getting women out of the videos, but I think we should understand why they are doing it and what they feel it is doing for them and the people who are watching, as many of them are not stupid girls just looking for superficial attn. from men.

    *Btw, on NPR's News and Notes recently, they interviewed a woman who was a former stripper who is now a Ph.D. student at the New School in NY writing her diss. on the politics of desire of the black body and racial hierarchies and discrimination in the sex(ual) inudustry. She did not see stripping as self-exploitation. Her case gives me pause and enables me suspect that there are different ways that these women who choose to flaunt themselves sexually make for themselves. I think it's about time that we all ask ourselves this question, because this issue is not as simple as it was once posed, and as flat as it's purported to be understood...

    My .02. Or maybe it's more like .92. ;)

    Shanessence said...

    Correction, In the 3rd to last sentence I meant to day the "different ways that these women who choose to flaunt themselves sexually make MEANING for themselves."

    Unknown said...

    I agree with you Shanessence, especially with regards to the many complex reasons women have for being in these videos, and the different ways in which they make meaning of these choices. On somewhat of a related note, I heard a while back about this woman named Harmony Dust ( Check out her story when you get a chance, it's very powerful. She was a stripper who, after finding Christ, created a ministry to reach out to women who are strippers.