Feminism and Racism Meet Again

Not long ago, the Boston Globe featured an article, Step off, about “the objectification of black women — both visually and lyrically –” in contemporary rap music and videos. Old news, right? Not so fast. Apparently, “as this years-old aesthetic reaches a crescendo, a rumble of complaint is emerging from black men and women.”
As the article reports, students at Spelman College in Atlanta organized a protest of a campus fund-raiser by Nelly after getting a look at his ”Tip Drill” video, which shows the rapper sweeping a credit card down a black woman’s buttocks. In January, Essence began a “Take Back the Music” campaign that was initially scheduled to last a year, but it will now ”go on until we see change.” The magazine featured stories on the subject in its January and March issues, spearheaded a national weeklong campaign to write letters of complaint to programming directors at BET, MTV, and Fuse, and, last month, held a packed town hall meeting at Spelman to discuss the subject with six panelists, including representatives of BET and of TVT Records, the Atlanta-based home of hit crunk acts the Ying Yang Twins and Lil Jon. Next month the issue takes on a scholarly tone when the University of Chicago brings in more than 1,000 people to a three-day conference where professors, artists, and activists will talk about feminism’s place in hip-hop.
And (though not mentioned in the article), let’s not forget Sarah Jones.
The author of the article was careful to point out that these campaigns are not about indecency, but are a legitimate fight against (and examination of) the intersection of racism and sexism in our culture.
”While there’s sexism out there in society,” says Cathy J. Cohen, director of the University of Chicago’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, “we have to be especially concerned with media images [of black women] because, in fact, that’s how most people understand and interact with black communities. We live in a segregated society. People generally don’t interact.” And, the potential political implications are huge. ”Hypersexual deviance,” says Tricia Rose, author of the seminal 2003 book on black women’s sexuality Longing to Tell “has been associated with black women historically for a very long time. It’s tied to the logic that cuts welfare policies for black women, right? The idea that they’re promiscuous, they’re irresponsible, or they’re emasculating — all of those kinds of representations impact policies.”
Thank god people are rallying around these issues. Anyone still want to claim that “feminism is only for white women” or that “feminism is dead”?

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