The Pink Side of HipHop: Images of Black Women in Rap Music Videos
I finally made it to Brooklyn this past Saturday to The Reel Sisters Film Fest panel on images of Black women in film. I say "finally" because with that summery weather in effect, everyone I know including myself, was outdoors, chillin at sidewalk cafes and avoiding at all costs, long trips on the subway and even longer moments indoors in some university auditorium. Anyway by the time I arrived panelists and audience members were talking about women in music videos, which isn't film but I guess in terms of Black women and images shaping popular thought and powerful mediums than I guess BET trumps MGM, and videos hos not Regina King are the hot topics of the day. (Sidebar: The success behind Tyler Perry's films and plays were mentioned in reference to the differences in high and low Black entertainment—for the record Madea is considered low and is extremely popular and therefore should be analyzed as one way of pinpointing the social behaviors and pleasures of Black folk. I heard Halle and Monster's Ball was never even mentioned, my oh my how we've moved on!)
The panel was pretty much the usual fare served up in black feminism discourse. You know... the way in which rap music is detrimental to the psyche of sisters and is having a huge affect on young girls around issues of self-esteem and body image and how these hiphop videos define Black female idenity on a global level. It also seems like "It’s Hard Out Here for A Pimp" and specifically its Oscar honor has many a folk upset--like undies-in-a-bunch upset. (More on that later too...or this post will be of encyclopedia like proportions)
Anyway I've heard it all before so if my short-hand makes the panel discussion sound like empty blabber, scuse me, cause that’s not my intention. I've just been to too many panels about this subject and for me they just don't inspire. Instead they simultaneously infuriate and bore me (actually the fact that I'm usually bored about what should be a sizzling topic is what leads to the infuriation), which may not necessarily be a bad thing b/c it makes my wandering, incensed mind think about what I can do through my writings to be progressive, proactive and inspiring. But there were two standout memories. The first was how very few people showed up (again the beautiful weather had to be a factor), but how frickin' dynamically bright and well versed the members of the audience were (well except for 1, but that's my 2nd standout memory). In the audience: Bethann Hardison, Greg Tate, Charles Stone, Arthur Jafa, Michaela angela Davis, Shola Lynch, and Vince Morgan.
Some of the things said that I liked:
Jacquie Jones (moderator): "I don’t think it’s okay to make money at our exepense. There needs to be more critical engagement by those that consume these images. Russell Simmons has two daughters and can’t even answer questions on the topic. It's crazy."The 2nd standout moment was when this Black woman filmmaker got up and said that she didn't understand why the panel (and audience) was wasting so much time discussing the perils of how these images affected young girls and how rap music videos promoted unhealthy sexual attitudes between Black girls and boys. She basically was of the mindset that it's the parents responsibility to mold and set the bar for how Black kids behave, and that rappers and filmmakers shouldn't be burdened with the responsibility of having healthy images and portrayals of Black folk in their works. That would be fine and dandy if the Black Family was still intact and on the up and up, but I thought everyone knew that TV, movies, video games and Trina are shaping the consciousness of Black adolescents and adult males and females.
Charles Stone: "I think there's no sense of imagination-- guys aren't imagining what a woman looks like without clothes instead it's just about seeing cleavage. With technology's popularity it's just about instant gratification."
Joan Morgan: "When you talk about and critique these images, you give them power."
True I didn't grow up wanting to be a stripper or having the desire to shake my booty in some video (even though I did about 11 years ago). Me and my girls grew-up making mud pies, playing double-dutch and eating FDA approved meals every night with our folks. But then again the TV programs of choice back then were The Electric Company and Fame and later they became Video Music Box, Kojak and Dallas. A far cry from today's totally popular BET's "Uncut", Sex and The City, MTV's "Real World." By no means did I ever want to re-enact the crazy shower scenes featuring JR Ewing and his many mistresses. And Music Box was no Music Television! It was harmless hiphop profiling that featured cats around our way in videos shot in someone's basement or in the some park. There were no video vixens just girls chillin (albeit in the background) in their Le Tigre tops and Lee jeans. We knew about the prostitutes in Times Square and Hunts Point and that the strip joint over the bridge going to Pelham right before you got to IHOP hired some high school girls, so we heard. But we thought all of that was nasty and being nasty was being unladylike. We wanted to be doctors, teachers and actresses like Diana Ross in Mahoghany...we wanted to be ladies. I mean when we wore miniskirts we usually had shorts underneath cause no one was down for having their booty accidentally exposed. It just wasn't fresh back then. So times they are a changing and yeah it may be hard out here for a pimp, but it's even harder out here for 12-year old girls who give blow jobs to be popular and whose parents have no clue or worse could care less. Infuriated indeed!