Misogynistic images slap you in the face every time you turn on the television or open a magazine. Pop culture has brought the objectification of women to the mainstream, and it’s especially detrimental to communities of color, which are already so delicate. But this topic is nothing new.
Now it’s 2009, and while there is more diversity in the way black women are depicted, it seems like they’re the ones doing the dirty work.
“Everyone wants to be rich and famous, women fall victim to it as much as men,” said Asha Jennings, a former Spelmanite and one of the driving forces in 2005’s Take Back the Music campaign. “To what bounds will they go to get that has resulted in the phenomenon of exploitation, both ends are willing to go as far as it takes – men will sell out the women, and women will sell themselves out.”
Ciara lets Justin Timberlake put a dog leash around her neck in her new video, former industry girls Carmen Bryant and Karrine Steffans have published books about their sexcapades with famous rappers, and of course, there’s reality TV shows like Candy Girls, which glamorizes the video girl lifestyle.
“Candy Girls depicts a strong black woman (as the agency owner), but at the same time, look at the industry she’s in,” said Rashaun Hall, former online editor at GIANT magazine. “They’re portraying her as a business woman, but (the business) is a form of visual prostitution.”
Compare some of the images of Black women on TV to their white counterparts?
Which came first?
So what came first, the chicken or the egg? Are we as black women objectifying ourselves or being exploited?
“I think they were being exploited first, when they didn’t have control of their own images and were depicted by black and white men. But now there are women with the opportunity and power to define themselves,” Hall said.
It’s all about money, and the black female sells. Again, nothing new, but some women seem very comfortable with visual prostitution — which makes it worse for everyone. But if there wasn’t money to be made, then they’d stop doing it.
“I did a video shoot with (singer) Chrisette Michele the other day, and she was talking about all the curvier girls wearing stilettos and tights, and everyone says they’re dressing provocatively. But you take your family to see the Rockettes, and they’re wearing the same thing, kicking their legs and it’s an American pastime,” Fontaine said.
“Women of color by nature are taken to be more sexual … so there’s an inequity in terms of perception.”
Regardless of what came first, we’re all to blame. And some images can’t be written off as a double standard.
Music executives would stop producing certain types of songs and videos if we weren’t dancing to them, if there weren’t 50,000 girls auditioning to be in them, if the radio stations stopped playing them, and if artists opted for a bit more creativity than the cliche poppin’ bottles party scene.