The Sexualized Black Woman in the Music Industry

You gave up your entire summer in order to participate in a special summer session at the University of Michigan? You play varsity soccer, volunteer in your school and community? You participate in regular bible studies and are striving to live a righteous life? Abdul is our scholar of the month...

When a person turns on the television and watches BET, the majority of what they will see is African American female, half-naked and dancing in a way that many people would call inappropriate. We need to study and learn about what this is doing to women and society, with young kids growing up trying to dance like the girls they see in a music video; it is giving a bad example to the youth. Dance has been around forever, but it was not a way to humiliate and degrade women. It seems as though now dance is being done in a negative way, whereas in the past it was done to represent something positive and used as a method of celebration.

Some people watch BET only to see half-naked women. The people that are watching and not seeing what it does and says about black women in America should be trying to find out the effects (sp) it has on African American women. It is hard for a black woman to make the decision not to dance for a music video unless it is under the circumstances that she wants, because there are many other women in America who are willing to dance under bad circumstances. It is not hard for a video director to find another woman who is willing to dance in the way that he desires, but would they allow a woman that wants to respect herself to be in a music video? It depends on each individual director. This becomes an issue of representation of black women in America. Black women are seen as sex objects and a lot of dancers have to dance around and humiliate themselves in order to be successful and make money in their line of work. Dancing is a talent and it can take a person a long way and make them a lot of money. It Black women do not want to be portrayed in a negative way than they need to take a stand and make changes.

One might argue that a woman (sp) dancing on a music video with little clothes, is no different than the way African women used to dance, and still do, in Kenya. This is not the same type of dance and cannot be looked at as being parallels. Dancing in Africa usually celebrates ritual, rituals are good, happy and positive. The girls dancing on TV are dancing to music that calls them hoes and disrespects them, and they add to it by dancing with very little clothes on and in a sexual way. Another factor that comes into play is that in both cases there are bodies that are not fully covered. However, when the clothing being word is analyzed, it paints a different illustration. Traditional clothing such as, kongas and customary cloths, are worn because of cultural beliefs, are not the same as thongs and bathing suits.

Well, are not these women making an honest living? Yes, there are making a living and they are surviving, but that is not as important as having values. They are dehumanizing themselves and that is not worth making money. Women can make money without disrespecting themselves; there are other professions and careers in the world other than dancing -- we need more female lawyers, doctors and females with education.

In the movie Blue Eyes of Yonta there is a Black female character that is in love with an older man. However, she it not in love with the man, but with his success. He is a well-known man around their town and he owns his own business. The problem is that the man is older and the girl is about twenty years old. But he pays the girl no attention beyond looking at her as a daughter or a sister. So, in her efforts to be noticed by Viciente, Yonta wears sexy clothing and 'struts her stuff' to be seen.

Another example is a book by Dany Laferriere Why Must a Black Writer Write about Sex. There is a Black woman named Erzulia who wants to be in a book. She continues to ask and beg the narrator, who is a writer, to include her in his next book. He denies her request on several occasions and finally, as her last plea, she takes of all her clothes in front of him. She believed that by taking off her clothes and showing her body, that the narrator would have no choice but to include her in one of his books. She had the mindset that the only way she could become successful would be to show her body. These two examples backup the point that Black women feel as though they have to show their bodies in order to be successful. This same thing goes on everyday on TV and in Black communities.

Community is essential for African American women to make changes and be heard. One woman speaking up and saying she will no longer degrade herself is not going to have as big of an effect (sp) on the music and dance industries as one hundred Black women speaking out. But it starts with one Black person; it (sp) does not have to be a woman. Someone needs to step up and take a stand, and then others will follow. It is not too late for African Americans to stop the stereotype. Step up and answer the call.

{ exclusive feature}
by Abdul Omari
{The Liberator Magazine 1.2 #2, 2002}

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