Not too long ago we were irate because we thought rappers exploited women in their videos, sent the wrong message to our girls, and generally reinforced negative stereotypes towards black women.
When Nelly swiped a credit card between the cheeks of a bootylicious black woman in his video, women across the globe were outraged. Yet, videos continued to feature scanty clad women draped over cars, or portrayed as one among many in what seemed to be a harem. I pay homage to Jay-Z, who proudly provided information regarding the aspirations of rappers. From his songMoney, Cash, Hoes, I've deduced that these aspirations include currency and hoes, ideally in a ration of two to one.
Although the debate over video vixens has simmered down, women are still portrayed as property in these videos. Perhaps we've simmered down because we've grown use to the zeitgeist, or perhaps we've thrown our hands up in despair, tired of fighting what appears to be a losing battle. I demand that we take down those white flags of surrender and be enraged once more. There is another form of degradation that plagues black women in the 21st century. It is reality television. I'm shocked that we are not as outraged over black women packing a lot of drama and attitude, onThe Real Housewives of Atlanta, Basketball Wives, and, yes, Basketball Wives LA, which seems to be in a category of its own. For those of you who tune in week after drama filled week, shame on you. I scold, as I hang my head in hypocrisy and shame, for I also partake of this foolishness from time to time.
These shows are not very different from the videos that were once at the heart of our outrage. Bad representation is bad representation regardless of the form. They send the same negative messages that black women come bearing much attitude, are controlling bullies, are loud and inarticulate, and with all the neck rolling, that the head of a black woman sits on a 360-degree rotating device. In addition to reinforcing these negative stereotypes, they also reinforce negative behaviour among members in society, and depict a distorted, dysfunctional view of reality. I can't imagine that anything positive would be produced when people have sex on the first date, when women call each other all types of derogatory names, when wives have divorce parties before the actual divorce, and when everyone rummage through their dirty laundry for the world to see. Why do some of us tune in every week to watch the yelling, the screaming, the fighting, and the immorality? Is it because the drama is addictive, or is there something going on at a much deeper level?
Research performed by Ohio State University psychologist, Steven Reiss revealed that, the largest significant motive for watching reality television was social status, which leads to the joy of self-importance. Only slightly less strong was the need for vengeance, which leads to vindication (Jaffe). According to Reiss, for some, the desire to feel superior, and for others, the joy that comes with watching others in humiliation, are the driving forces behind our desire to watch such shows. Reiss might be right, maybe these shows are filling a void on some subconscious level. According to the Cultivation Theory, the symbolic environment of television directly affects morals, values and perceptions of reality. Perhaps this explains why we are less disturbed over nearly naked women in music videos, compared to the past. Perhaps being continually bombarded with these images somehow made this acceptable over time. After all, this is the 21st Century, right? Professor George Gerbner made it very clear when he stated that, television is a mythology - highly organically connected, repeated every day so that the themes that run through all programming and news have the effect of cultivating conceptions of reality (Gerbner). Cultivating, forming, and producing how we view the world around us, how we handle situations, and how we treat others.
Television has a desensitizing effect, and is instrumental in the moral breakdown of society. We need to be aware of what we tune into, the information we absorb, and what we allow to be the major influencing force in our environment. If we don't control and filter the information that's coming in, that information will ultimately control our behavior. This major source of influence will eventually dictate our reality.
Photo Credit To Urban Dailey
Editor-in-Chief's Note: Ebonie Jones is a freelance writer with MNI Alive