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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Take Back the Music

Explicit and degrading images of women are still a common trope in hip hop music videos, despite the efforts of many activists.

Explicit and degrading images of women are still a common trope in hip hop music videos, despite the efforts of many activists.

The following article was submitted by a student in “Women and Society,” a freshman class in women’s studies taught by department chair Christina Bobel. Students in Bobel’s class were required to submit their papers for publication in a local newspaper.

Eight years ago, CNN writer Rose Arce helped publish an article that showed that black women don’t want to be objectified or sexualized for the sake of making money. The article focused on the work of a young activist named Asha Jennings, who teaches teenagers that what rappers portray in their music is not a representation of the black women in our society. Jennings’ efforts to change the image of American black women were aided by Take Back the Music, a national campaign owned by Time Warner.

The image of the black woman has been tainted by hip hop videos; however, even in the 1630s, before hip hop existed, black women were objectified and referred to as “jezebels.” Historically, American media has portrayed black women as whores, sluts, or even bitches, and these images affect the psyches of young black women.

In Byron Hurt’s award-winning 2006 documentary, “Beyond Beats and Rhymes,” Hurts discusses the portrayal of black women as “hoes.” The image of promiscuous black women exists because managers in the music industry wanted to attract more people to watch their music videos; black women were used as a means to an end: making more money.

Music industry executives pushed rappers to be a little more edgy in their material, so rappers responded with misogyny and the commodification of women’s bodies. For decades, the body parts of black women have been sold to the public, to the point where now, the sale of black women’s body parts is the current definition of black women in our society.

Many rappers find no fault with the image perpetuated in their videos. The rapper Nelly, portrayed biting into a woman’s thong above, did not return CNN’s phone calls regarding Ms. Arce’s article about Take Back the Music, but he’s commented about the movement in the past to to Essence. He said, “I respect women, and I’m not a misogynist. I’m an artist. Hip hop videos are art and entertainment. Videos tell stories; some are violent, some are sexy, some are fun, some are serious. As for how women are shown in the videos, I don’t have a problem with it, because it is entertainment.”

Many men like Nelly fail to realize that their actions have a ripple effect in the lives of black women. Nelly has helped contribute to the oppression of black women, especially in his video for the song “Tip Drill,” which depicts women dressed like strippers being used as sexual play toys. In the video, the buttocks of one woman are used as a credit card slide.

This kind of entertainment that Nelly refers to as art is oppressive because it helps widen the gap between how men and women are treated. And Nelly, whose work promotes the oppression of women, doesn’t want to be labelled misogynist or even sexist. He’s very concerned for his public appeal, and yet he doesn’t feel the same concern for the image of black women.

The reason why he fails to recognize his error is because he has profited from misogynist videos. People issue a vote when they buy music by artists like Nelly, and that vote is for the objectification of black women, and women in general, to continue.

Hip hop impacts all persons living in our society. It also impacts the way that boys and girls think about each other. Boys are taught to be players, willing to spend their money on women in order to get laid. Girls are taught to act and dress like hoes and sluts, and that they should feel insecure about failing to look like the women in the video.

We’re supposed to respect black women. The hip hop music industry that we use as a means of entertainment is no longer fulfilling its job. The music that we listen to teaches us to objectify the black women in our lives, and these women’s self-esteem is just as valuable as that of men.

Our society has failed many generations of black women, but there is always room for change. It’s better late than never. We need to set an example; we need to alter the way that black women are portrayed in videos, and hopefully, other societies will follow suit.



Email David Johnson.