A welcomed war for respect

Essence, the leading magazine for black women, has launched an aggressive and welcomed attack on the way the hip‐hop industry depicts black women. I think this is something every media writer should be examining, for it’s a story of niche media people using their muscle to speak on behalf of their audience. The program is called “Take Back The Music,” and the editors wrote:

In videos we see bikini‐clad sisters gyrating around fully clothed grinning brothers like Vegas strippers on meth. When we search for ourselves in music lyrics, mix tapes, and DVDs and on the pages of hip‐hop magazines, we only seem to find our bare breasts and butts.

The damage of this imbalanced portrayal of Black women is impossible to measure. An entire generation of Black girls are being raised on these narrow images. And as the messages and images are broadcast globally, they have become the lens through which the world now sees us. This cannot continue.

The magazine’s project includes interviews with people at all levels of the music business, many of whom agree with the mission. Of the 25‐hundred responses to an ongoing poll of readers on the Essence Website, 72 percent said that “What I hear about women in most songs played on urban radio makes me cringe.”

I’m going to be rooting for Editor in Chief Diane Weathers and her whole team on this worthwhile project. She wrote of the project in her January letter to readers:

“We want to provoke honest discussion and raise consciousness without finger‐pointing, preaching, censoring or excessive moralizing. We’re not demanding that edgy young artists deny their creative voice. But we do want to let them know when it hurts.”
This isn’t about being a prude. It’s about the line we all know is there, the one that hip‐hop crossed a long time ago.

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