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Sunday, 28 June 2009

Empowerment vs Exploitation: Are Video Vixens ruining the perception of women?


A few weeks ago, I watched a Dispatches documentary on Channel 4 called Rape in the City. You can still catch it here on 4OD but you only have 12 days left, so hurry. Basically, journalist Sorious Samura was investigating the horrific 'trend' of teenage girls being gang raped by groups of young men and he specifically highlighted that it is becoming more and more common within the black community.

There were many interesting insights revealed by the documentary but what I picked up on was the lack of respect that the young black boys interviewed had for females. Yes, there is the argument that a girl should respect herself first before she expects respect elsewhere - this argument was attributed to the instances where girls initially agree to link a group of guys but then try to back out when they arrive and see 25 guys waiting for them! But there were also instances where rape was used as a form of punishment for snitching or simply because the guys deemed a girl unattractive and wanted to humiliate her. So my question here is when did these young guys lose respect from the female species.

Naturally, Samura brought up the excuse that is used time and time again - music and hip hop's negative portrayal of women is polluting the minds of our youngsters. I am usually one to stand up and argue against this theory - I watch violent films, I listen to hip-hop but I have my own mind and have never acted in a way because a rapper told me to... but is that true? Beyonce had me shaking my booty in the clubs doing the uh-oh dance and Flo-Rida has me dancing provocatively while getting low low low. So can you really say, the things you watch, the music you listen to and the media you expose yourself to doesn't affect your actions and your thoughts, even subconsciously.

What is the feeling about video vixens, glamour models and even the entertainment industry in general where for females especially, sex is how you get ahead. In Hollywood, as an actress your career has a direct correlation to your ranking on Maxim's top 100 Sexiest Women list. Even Beyonce, with her booty shaking and 'make sex with the camera' videos is contributing to the 'male gaze' ideal where women act in a way that makes men want to get physical with them and females want to be the girl that men want to get physical with. Is this culture ruining the way that men see women and therefore the way they respond to them? As previously mentioned, in the words of one of the teens interviewed in the documentary, a guy isn't going to respect a women if she doesn't respect herself. Over the years, females in the entertainment industry who have been described as using their sexuality to promote their career have argued that they are not being exploited at all. That it is a form of empowerment, being sexy is natural and they relish the feeling of making guys succumb to them. But isn't this slightly delusional. Are these women still not submitting themselves to the sexual fantasies of men and therefore not in as much control as they convince themselves to be? With these ideals, then can you blame young men seeing girls as sexual objects first before anything else?

I am not judging here, but putting the thought out there that there is a correlation and that our present culture is to blame for some of the negative things within the community. Some may argue that, its not just the black community, that it's the way the world is, sex sells and even in the days of Marylin Monroe, it was the same. Some females may argue that well if they are getting paid and no-one is forcing them to do anything then what is wrong with that. But clearly something needs to change because I think as the years go by, values that some people may call old fashioned but which I consider to hold together the moral fabric of society, are slowly being unwoven.

And as if it was meant to be, FantasyRide has been invited to 'You're Beautiful, Woman', an event put together by some fabulous ladies including Ronke Adeyemi over at The Musings of Ondo Lady blog. This annual event celebrates black female beauty inside and out and aims to motivate and inspire women to recognise their own self worth in every avenue of their lives. There will be seminars and workshops covering topics such as styling, fashion, natural hair and beauty, relationships, fitness, financial advice and inner beauty. It takes place on Saturday 15 August at Highgate Newton Community Centre. Tickets are only £5 so see the website for more information: Hope to see you there!



  1. My quick thoughts.

    I think women have lost alot of their identity, since the begining of feminism. All though there is talk of a 'crisis of masculinity', for my mind women are going through an identity crisis aswell. Shall i be a mum? A sex symbol? Enterprenuer? I know, I can be all three! "Girl Power"

    One of the options promoted by hip hop is objetification. It looks glamorous and sexy and doesn't require a huge amount of talent. These women command a lot of power, and make alot of money - surely the respect will follow.

    But these women dance at the whim of a man, and all for a couple dollars - where is the power there? Who is going to respect that?! Not even the poorest man alive will respect that - understand yeah, but never respect.

    We have seen what happens when people have a lack of respect for people - slavery, murder and sadly, rape is another by product. Of course these actions cannot be excused, but maybe you understand the pattern. People need to respect people point blank. This also includes self respect!

    (Inner beauty, that term makes me laugh. It is like some poor substitute for beauty, the outer kind.)

  2. Fabulous post! Keep up the great work :)

  3. i do think that these video chicks r ruining the perception of women, however, i can't place the blame solely on them.

    We live in a society where many young women only have that single mother of 5 or whatever to look up to and she doesn't look happy with her life. Then you see these video chicks on TV and though their modesty is basically exposed, they still look in control and they actually look happy. They get all the attention from guys and though it's for the wrong reasons, it doesn't stop the average girl on road wanting some of that 'empowerment'. That's why the way girls dress these days is appalling (i feel like a granny saying that but it's true! lol) We are always told 'sex sells' but it's not just Hip Hop and RnB telling us this, it's all over the media and so women feel the need to be sex symbols.

    It's all about self-respect and respect for others but unfortunately in the world we live in...that is easier said than done.

    nice blog post btw;-)

  4. Thanks for your comments guys, always interesting to hear different points of view. Anon makes a good point about identity. I think it has been confused over the years or never really set; feminism mistaken with lesbianism and male hate, are traditional values of being a wife and mother now redundant in the 21st century of female independence and careerism and what is female power exactly? This ties into the comment by SnS - women aspire to what society deems as powerful even if it means making money by being objectified. Maybe female power needs to be re-defined and that will only come with other females setting examples of how to be successful and respect yourself at the same time. I know the Obama's are becoming the over-used example of black power and achievement but it's true, Michelle Obama is now considered a role model for young women. Debra Lee - president of BET, Jessica Huie - journalist and CEO of Colourblind cards, journalist and PR specialist, Baroness Scotland - attorney general for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, just a few examples of powerful black women in the spotlight. While their names may not be as well known as the Melissa Ford's and 'Buffy the Body's of this world, it is important that women like these have space in our column inches, television screens and online pages if we are going to change the perception of women in society for the better.

    P.S. Do I sound like Miss World?



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