I talked just a little bit yesterday about the power of visual imagery in shaping girls’ perceptions of themselves, and we did a little experiment with the t.v.. This time, we’re going to talk a bit about NON visual imagery…and being that I’m the simple minded guy that I am…I always need examples. So, we’re going to do a little experiment with music.
So, all that said, this is what I want you to do. Plug your headphones into your radio, and settle into listening to ANY popular Hip Hop/R&B radio station in your area; the more popular, the better. ( I only chose Hip Hop/R&B, because that’s primarily what I listen to…..Well, that and talk radio and stuff like that. I kinda like talk radio. Okay, so overall, I’m pretty boring….sue me.) Do this for an hour. Just listen for any references to violence against women, sexual references, “baby mamas”, gold diggers, groupies or references to women’s body parts and write them down on a notepad. (Also, keep in mind that this is PUBLIC radio…and the stuff that you DO hear has already been cleared as being “ok” by some censoring body(ies)). Just like yesterday, use your own daughter as the measuring stick. If it’s something that you wouldn’t want said about your own daughter to your face, write it down. It shouldn’t take more than thirty minutes before your hand starts to cramp up from all the writing. Wanna know how I know? I know ’cause I did it, and not because I sit at a keyboard and type all day and that my fingers get tired of doing actual WRITING.) I walked away with this inescapable fact: Even our own media ain’t necessarily our friend.
Now, I know that BET and R&B/Hip Hop stations aren’t the only media outlets that feed us negative stereotypes of females, and I don’t mean to single them out…not solely. I also know that the musical stylings of other genre’s of music probably portray women in a negative light as well. I ALSO don’t think it’s a “Black” thing…I think it’s simply a pig headed, chauvinistic, objectifying, self aggrandizing thing that spans all cultures. I think that I I could safely bet that if I was a fan of Rock music, or Heavy Metal, that I’d find the same messages in that music as well. However, I try to only speak about my personal experiences on what I know and since it just so happens that I’ve always been immersed in the Hip Hop and R&B culture, that’s what comes out.
Now before you start getting all huffy, and I start getting the hate mail about my trashing Hip Hop and R&B let me share with you a piece from one of my earliest posts…one from when I first decided to write this book about raising my girls.
“… allow me to be the first to say that I’ve watched the videos…heck, I ENJOYED the videos. I’ve uttered the “B word” and Ho out of both jest and anger. I’ve talked junk about my conquests to my boys, and overall, I’m still a work in progress, but I think that if we are truly honest with ourselves we can work towards fixing this. And since a reformed, renewed, revived, and restored former crackhead is the best to give advice about the dangers of using crack, and why one should not smoke it, I offer up my insight in regards to not promoting disgusting, destructive, disingenuous, disheartening, degrading images for our lil girls. ”
See? I pointed the finger at myself first. I noticed early in the game where my error lied…..(laid?…heck……ANYWAY) Yeah…I convicted MYSELF before I ever called anybody else out. I found the mote in my own eye, so to speak. I can’t really take any credit for the change of heart, though. It really came from my girls. True story…at first I used to doubt the whole adoption thing. I wasn’t sure if I could do it. It was tough. But night after night, I would go into their rooms as they slept. I’d kiss them on their foreheads whisper “I love you.” in their ears, and kneel at their feet to pray for them, and one night it hit me…These girls need somebody to protect them…and I that was the beginning of the change for me…I went from somebody that could call a woman a Ho, to someone who couldn’t stand the thought of it anymore. (God can make dummies into geniuses, huh?)
Anyway, let’s get back on task here. (Besides, I can’t have you guys goin’ ’round thinking I’m some kinda softy that tears up at the thought of his daughters…I got my tough guy, street cred to maintain! )
I also know that a lot of times, our music does offer positive imagery as well. Heck, our local R&B station here even plays Gospel music on Sunday mornings. However, once again, I’ll quote someone from my past, “One well planned right don’t make up for a life full of lefts.” Simply put, just because a drug dealer deals only a little bit of crack in the neighborhood, then hands out turkeys on Thanksgiving, doesn’t make him a hero…just a crack dealer with a marketing budget. The end result is still a community getting destroyed.
So, this is what’s happening thus far. Our daughters are already being told by the images that they see that they are..not skinny enough, not “elegant” enough, not pretty enough and overall just not good enough. Then, to top that off, they’re being told verbally that they are only good for the use of their bodies and how they can benefit men. I know…it was kinda eye opening for me too.
And don’t think that there’s a minimum age to start falling victim to this stuff I’ll put it in perspective for you…I have a 7 year old little niece ..She’s a very petite lil thing and is one of the lights of my world. I’m constantly affirming her and her value and her worth to the world. I try to make sure that she realizes how important she is and that her true value comes from within and not without. That said, why, in the Yosemite Sam Hill did she come to me one day and tell me that she was fat and that she needed to go on a diet? I SWEAR I can pick the little girl up with one hand and spin her above my head like a basketball without even breaking a sweat. (Trust me, that says a lot coming from a doughnut eating, remote control hogging, couch potato like myself, but that’s another story.) Then, to top that off, they’re being told verbally that they are only good for the use of their bodies and how they can benefit men.
Okay, I think I’ve held you captive long enough for today. And in the morning……we talk SOLUTIONS! (Done in my best Donkey from Shrek voice).Tomorrow, we talk SOLUTIONS!