Sunday, April 24, 2005

most rap videos are tired and full of bullshit images

here are members of femtech, the program I coordinate for girls from underserved communities. here we're having a discussion of rap lyrics and their affect on the black community. nikki did an experiment where she turned on a rap video and put it on mute, so the girls could focus their attention on how women were being portrayed in the video. it's amazing what you notice when you're not distracted by the beat or lyrics. when we asked the girls how the women were being depicted in the video, they all said they looked like prostitutes. meanwhile, these are the same videos they watch day after day. did they even notice this before we did the experiment?

the message here wasn't to bash the rap artists. in fact, it's the fault of both the artist and the women who made the choice to be in those videos. i could expound all day long on how our patriarchial society has created an environment where many women feel powerless to say no when faced with the choice of being negatively depicted in videos. however, that wouldn't be totally accurate. while it goes without saying that women by and large are objectified in the media, ultimately the power to choose or not to choose to do those things does lie within us.

when i see those videos, i see how folks have made the choice to believe in their own powerlessness. those particular rap artists say they're doing it because that's what the fanbase wants. the fanbase wants it because those rap artists make it seem like it's an appealing lifestyle. maybe i give those rap artists too much credit when i assume they're in the music biz because they want to express themselves creatively, regardless of who buys it. they DO care, and i think they care too fucking much. maybe money has been their motivation all along and the image of black folks means little in that scenario.

then there are the women in those videos who believe that kind of exposure is the only way they can "make it" in show biz. or maybe they want to be objectified. i don't think it's as simple as labeling those women as victims of a patriarchial society. i mean, women shouldn't be punished because they're sexual beings. they shouldn't be seen as victims simply because they've made the choice to use their sexuality in such a way. but is it really their choice? did they walk into the office of the casting director and tell the person they want to show as much t and a as possible? did they tell the cd they wanted to shake their asses and pour themselves over the guys in the videos? did the directors of these videos initially have the idea of having all of the women wearing nun habits and stand in back of the rap artists like frozen popsicle sticks?

i seriously doubt it.

i think there is a fine line between the empowerment of expressing one's sexuality and allowing others to exploit that sexuality and unfortunately, i think the rap industry has done a poor job of being respectful about it. the fact that the majority of its fans are young and vulnerable to the messages put forth by those images makes the responsibility of adequately depicting women in all of our facets doubly important.

as a consumer, what i can do is continue to support those artists who do a good job of it and boycotting those who don't.